Growing older comes with a few challenges. Beyond having your hair turn grey — if you’re lucky enough to keep it — your body also starts to decline. This includes a drop in testosterone production, a critical hormone for both men and women.
The relationship between aging and testosterone is evident to anyone that’s watched late night TV or a football game in the last 6 months. Frankly, it’s hard not to catch a commercial marketing some wonder pill that promises to help guys fight off “low T” and have them feeling like they’re back to being 25.
But the fact is, by 30, testosterone levels start dropping about 1% per year on average. By the time many men and women reach their 40s and 50s, they experience many of the common symptoms of low testosterone production, including a diminished sex drive and everyday sluggishness.
It’s no wonder, then, that the market for testosterone replacement therapy is booming, with Marketwatch estimating it’ll hit $1.4 billion in the U.S. by 2024.
But one thing seems to be going overlooked: the connection between sleep and testosterone production.
Before trying some medication pitched on TV or an expensive treatment you’ve researched online, let’s look at how sleep and testosterone are linked — and how this relationship affects impacts your body.
How Sleep Affects Testosterone Production
Sleep and testosterone are interconnected.
Your testosterone levels increase as you sleep and decrease the longer you’re awake. The highest levels of testosterone production occur during REM sleep, the period late in the sleep cycle that helps replenish the body and mind.
That’s why it doesn’t take long for poor sleep to derail your testosterone production. One study found that after 8 eight days of 5.5 hours of sleep or less each night, participants showed a 10-15% decrease in testosterone production on average. Their testosterone levels suffered because they were unable to stay in deep sleep long enough to receive the natural benefits that come with it.
With that in mind, I want to quickly point out Cool Jams.
Your pajamas should help facilitate a good night’s sleep, and keeping your body from overheating is a big part of that. Cool Jams are moisture-wicking pajamas that live up to their name by helping regulate your body temperature during the night. To fall asleep as quickly as possible and reach REM sleep — and receive the testosterone boost that comes with it — managing your body temperature is vital. That’s where Cool Jams can really help. Sleep Doctor PM, the all-natural nighttime spray I developed, is another great option for improving sleep duration.
Why Testosterone Production Is Important
Alright, at this point you’re probably thinking, “I see how better sleep leads to better testosterone production, but why does that matter?”
There are actually several reasons testosterone is important, including:
- Maintaining a Healthy Libido: Perhaps what testosterone is best known — it’s directly tied to your sex drive. Men with “low T” suffer from a diminished libido, and a fraction of men suffering from erectile dysfunction can trace it back to poor testosterone levels.
- Burning Fat: Testosterone helps the body burn fat quicker. Less sleep inhibits the body’s ability to burn fat because lower testosterone levels have been connected to an increase in body fat.
- Building Muscle: Testosterone is a factor in building muscle and developing strength. It assists protein synthesis and increases neurotransmitters, which help with muscle tissue growth.
- Avoiding Injury: An increasing amount of research has connected healthy testosterone levels to the body’s ability to avoid injury. A multi-year study of NBA players, recently covered by ESPN, showed a “statistically significant increase in [injury] risk” for players who had experienced drops in their testosterone levels. The findings highlight why more players, including LeBron James, have made sleep a high-priority. This applies to all ages and body types: testosterone is tied to increased bone density and the red blood cell production, which leads to less bone breaks as you age.
- Brain Health: Testosterone doesn’t just help your body. Several studies have indicated strong testosterone levels help preserve brain tissue as people grow older, and has also been linked to better memory retention in older men. Another study, from 2014, found increased testosterone had a “profound effect” on the brain’s ability to quickly identify and react to threats.
The benefits that come from healthy testosterone levels makes it clear getting a good night’s sleep is important for your body’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Does Testosterone Help Women?
Testosterone is often exclusively associated with men. It’s a hormone that’s become synonymous with pumping iron at the gym and having a high sex drive. But low testosterone isn’t just a male problem. It’s important to remember women also suffer from lower testosterone levels.
Symptoms that women suffer from low testosterone mirror the same signs found in men: a diminished sex drive, lethargy, and a tougher time maintaining muscle mass.
Some of this is tied to menopause. Testosterone is produced by the ovaries, and this is something that can decrease for women both pre and post-menopause. Women, especially as they approach middle age, should be cognizant of how sleep can help mitigate the anticipated decline in testosterone and other hormone production.
Hopefully by this point you’ve come away with another reason why getting a full night’s sleep is important. For both men and women, poor sleep habits can lead to sharp declines in testosterone production in a matter of days. The negative effects — both in the bedroom and on your body — aren’t worth it.
Be sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to allow your body to work through its sleep cycles and complete deep sleep. If you’re suffering from low testosterone, getting more sleep could be a simple way to jumpstart your body.
Remember, falling asleep as quickly as possible and entering REM sleep is critical. To help with this, check out Luminere Glasses. I designed these glasses specifically to block out blue light, which stifles the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm.
Low testosterone is a concern. But don’t be persuaded by some TV advertisement selling a quick fix. By finding time for more sleep, you can naturally foster better testosterone production and offset the inevitable decline brought on by old age.
Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!