The Link Between Low Testosterone and Sleep Deprivation



If someone were to ask you about the best ways to boost testosterone levels, what comes to your mind? Maybe you’ll recommend weightlifting, a healthy diet, and testosterone-boosting supplements. But one of the best and most effective ways to increase testosterone is also the easiest: sleep more.

Countless studies have revealed the connection between testosterone and sleep. Let’s review the stages of sleep, how a lack of sleep and low testosterone levels are connected, and ways you can improve your sleeping habits starting today.

Man holding face with palm isolated on black background

Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Low Testosterone Levels

Do you know when testosterone levels are at their highest? It’s while you’re in your deepest level of sleep!

It’s easy to think that testosterone levels peak during the day when you’re working out or eating foods that support your testosterone levels.

To be clear, studies show that your testosterone and growth hormone levels DO increase after resistance training.

When it comes to testosterone-boosting foods, the effect isn’t immediate. Testosterone levels actually plateau or decrease after a heavy meal. But once the nutrients have been digested, this will support testosterone production.

Still, your testosterone levels during the day are low compared to how they spike while getting plenty of sleep. Studies show that testosterone levels hit their highest levels during rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep.

There are two types of sleep, non-REM and REM, which we’ll describe below.

Man sleeping comfortably

Non-REM Sleep

Non-REM sleep takes place as you are falling asleep and immediately afterward. Your body can still move and twitch. There are three stages of Non-REM sleep, and the deeper the stage, the less movement is likely to occur and the greater the difficulty you have waking.

REM Sleep

REM sleep is when your brain is extremely active, and you enter a dream state. Your body is paralyzed so that you can’t act out the motions in your dream.

Five Stages of Sleep

Non-REM and REM sleep can be divided into five stages, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This is the cycle that you’ll go through each night:
Stage 1: Wakefulness
This is when you are alert and going about your day. The evening is approaching and you are considering your nightly patterns of winding down.

This is neither a Non-REM or REM stage of sleep because you are still awake and active. But you are making your way to bed. Example of winding down:

  • Taking a warm shower
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Reading a book
  • Watching television on the couch
  • Slipping into bed

Man brushing teeth happily

Stage 2 (Non-REM Stage 1): Relaxed Wakefulness
This is when you are in bed with your eyes closed and trying to get to sleep. Think of this as the launch point into deeper levels of sleep. Your breathing will begin to slow, you’ll feel very relaxed, and you might even experience odd or illogical thoughts.

You are still aware of your surroundings, but increasingly less. You might even twitch or jerk, but movements become less and eventually stop as you drift off.

Stage 3 (Non-REM Stage 2): Light Sleep
Believe it or not, although it’s not the most beneficial, light sleep makes the bulk of the sleep we get each night (up to half).

If you take a brief nap, this is the stage you’ll be able to achieve and successfully wake from without feeling groggy. You’re still able to easily wake from light sleep, but it’s not as easy as the prior stage. Your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and your eyes stop moving.

Stage 4 (Non-REM Stage 3): Deep Sleep, or Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS)
This is where the most bang for your buck lies when it comes to healthy sleep. It’s during this stage of sleep that the brain removes potentially harmful compounds that have built up during the day including neurotoxins and beta-amyloids.

This is also when growth hormone and testosterone levels are at their highest. Growth hormones are vital for cellular repair and overall body maintenance.

Stage 5: (REM Sleep): Dreaming
Perhaps the strangest stage of sleep, REM sleep is when your body is completely paralyzed, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your brain goes into overdrive as it enters the dream state.

Your eyes regain movement and many experts agree that your eyes will follow the movements in your dreams. Studies show that entering REM sleep cycles are beneficial for your mental health, memory consolidation, problem solving, and overall cognitive function.

No Sleep? Less Testosterone

If you are someone who believes they can function effectively and maintain high testosterone levels on a few hours of sleep each night, think again.

When it comes to sleep and testosterone, studies show that insomnia is one of the biggest predictors of low testosterone levels. When you skip out on those nightly sleep cycles, you miss crucial opportunities to boost growth hormone and testosterone levels.

Other Negative Impacts of Sleep Deprivation

If you consistently get less than five hours each night, you dramatically increase your risk for a number of health complications including low testosterone. Here are additional issues that you’re likely to experience when you aren’t spending enough time in bed.

Low Energy

When you don’t sleep, you don’t feel energetic. Even caffeine becomes useless at some point. But a lack of sleep isn’t the only reason you feel tired all the time.

One of the most reported symptoms of low testosterone is fatigue. Unfortunately, a vicious cycle of low energy levels is created with insomnia and low testosterone. Insomnia triggers low testosterone and both will rob you of energy, alertness, and cognitive function.

Tired man sat desk looking tired

Low Libido

Testosterone is a major player in your sex drive, sexual desire, and overall libido. Not surprisingly, guys who suffer from low testosterone levels also report a lack of interest in sex.

Increased Cortisol

While testosterone is an anabolic or growth-focused hormone, cortisol is just the opposite; it is catabolic. In small doses throughout the day, cortisol is normal and healthy, but excessive levels of cortisol lead to tissue breakdown. What triggers an increase in cortisol levels? A lack of sleep.

What’s more, increased levels of cortisol promote the decrease in testosterone that is caused by skipping on sleep. In other words, once your testosterone begins to plummet, cortisol helps to keep those t-levels down.

Weight Gain

There are two types of hunger satiety hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling that you are hungry and it’s time to eat. Leptin lets your body know that you are full and you don’t need to eat anymore.
Studies show that when you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels significantly increase, and this can lead to weight gain.

Person on weighing scales next to measuring tape

Muscle Loss

Continuing with the point above, while you might be gaining fat weight, you could also be losing muscle mass.

Studies show that low levels of testosterone caused by sleep deprivation can trigger a loss in muscle mass as cortisol breaks down the lean tissue mass.

What’s more, your body relies on the anabolic (growth) nature of testosterone and growth hormone to maintain its size and strength. If you’re not sleeping enough, your muscle tissue isn’t able to repair itself.

Erectile Dysfunction

Some studies suggest that larger issues tend to be at the center of erectile dysfunction, but low testosterone levels certainly play a part. In fact, low testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, and sleep apnea make up a trifecta of complications as each one promotes the other.

We’ll dive more into sleep apnea below, but studies are clear that men who have sleep apnea tend to also have complications with erectile dysfunction AND low testosterone levels.

Man in blue jeans and shirt holding groin area

Connection Between Low Testosterone and Sleep Apnea

As we mentioned above, if you have sleep apnea, you’re more than likely going to have issues with your testosterone levels and your sexual performance.

Sleep apnea is when you have trouble breathing during sleep and, in response, you wake yourself up. This happens repeatedly throughout the night.

The issue here is that when you have sleep apnea, you’re not only limiting the hours you spend asleep, but you’re not able to reach those restorative and deeper levels of sleep (stages 3, 4, and 5).

Testosterone and sleep apnea are directly linked, but one surprising symptom of both is erectile dysfunction. Studies show that men with sleep apnea tend to have low testosterone levels and trouble with getting and maintaining an erection.

When researchers gave the subjects testosterone replacement therapy and improved their airways through CPAP therapy, issues with erectile dysfunction disappeared.

Man stressed sat on edge of bed

How to Improve Your Sleep Quality

Now that you’re more aware of the negative effects of skipping on sleep, you might feel overwhelmed by the idea of how to get better sleep. Don’t worry; here are the best ways to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.

Shut Off Electronics

Those electronic devices that follow us all day can zap our ability to fall asleep. Phones and laptops emit blue light, which is akin to sunlight. Your body cannot create melatonin, the sleep hormone, if you are surrounding yourself with blue light.

Power down your electronic devices no less than an hour before bed. This includes television and tablets.

If you must use your phone before bed, consider downloading a red light app, which cancels out the blue light.

Take a Warm Shower

A warm shower or bath has been shown to promote relaxation. The last thing you want is to get excited or agitated before bed. A warm shower or bath with Epsom salts can help to move you into stage 1 and prepare you for stage 2.

Man stood under shower looking down

Make the Room Cool / Cold

Before getting into bed, turn the thermostat down. You don’t want it to feel like the Arctic Circle, but studies show that we tend to sleep better in a cooler or cold room.

Before you throw on a few layers of pyjamas, some experts believe that we regulate our body temperature the best when we sleep naked.

Either way, if you can help it, try not to sleep in a room that is hot because this will result in you tossing and turning.

Essential Oils

If you tend to be an anxious person, there are some essential oils that you can rub into your skin to promote relaxation before bed. Some of the best options are chamomile, lavender, and rose.

You can purchase essential oils in their purest form as a tincture then mix it with a carrier oil like coconut to make it safe to rub on your skin. If that’s too much work, you can easily find lotions and creams infused with these oils. Inhale deeply when the lotion is in your hands then rub it into your wrists, temples, and neck.

Essential oil bottle with flowers in front

Meditate

Meditation has a laundry list of benefits, one of which is to help with relaxation before bed. Take a few minutes before sleep to lie down with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. Take deep belly breaths then breathe out from the mouth.

If you have trouble concentrating, there are apps and online videos that offer guided meditation for sleep.

Natural Supplements

We believe that prescriptions should be a worst-case scenario, especially when promoting healthy sleep. While a proper diet and exercise program should make up the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, natural supplements can also help.

Individual ingredients such as zinc, magnesium, l-theanine, and GABA have all been found to promote relaxation, help you get to sleep, and stay asleep longer.

Testosterone and Sleep: More Sleep, More Testosterone

Proper sleep is essential for maintaining high levels of testosterone.

If you don’t allow your body to enter the deepest stages of sleep, completing a full sleep cycle, you skip out on the release of testosterone and growth hormone. As a result, you could wind up with low testosterone levels and a number of health issues.

Treat sleep as you do an exercise program; be dedicated and committed to getting no less than seven hours each night.

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