Why is Testosterone important?
Testosterone is commonly thought of as the man hormone and is important for many processes in your body. These include your libido, ability to burn fat and build muscle, your brain health and your potential to avoid injury. Having low testosterone means you can’t do these things as well as someone with normal T levels.
Unfortunately, your testosterone levels begin to slowly decline after age 30, about 1% per year. This slow decline happens to all men but some men are more sensitive than others and can develop some pretty intense symptoms.
How is Testosterone linked to sleep?
Testosterone levels naturally change during the day: your testosterone levels increase while you sleep. When you’re awake, testosterone levels decrease. It makes sense that less sleep = less testosterone. Studies have shown that low testosterone levels are linked to less sleep.
Keep in mind that sleep happens in five main stages: testosterone levels are highest during REM sleep.
REM stands for rapid eye movement and is the stage where dreaming occurs, about 90 minutes into the sleep cycle.
Your first REM period is the shortest, lasting only 10 minutes. As you sleep through the night your REM periods increase in length. Getting a longer sleep will have more REM sleep and thus more testosterone production.
Are Canadian men having trouble sleeping?
Yes! If you feel like you’re having trouble sleeping, you are not alone. A quarter of Canadians are not getting the right amount of sleep (7-9 hours). And men might have it worse than women: the ladies get about 3% longer each night. It may not seem like much but it does make a difference! Sleep problems are very common in men. 43% of Canadian men have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Does less sleep impact my testosterone levels?
Yes. There have been several studies that prove that not getting enough sleep can hurt your testosterone levels. We outline a few specific studies below.
A 2011 study on the effects of sleep restriction on testosterone levels found meaningful results. The study looked at men with an average age of 24 and average BMI of 24. These men were otherwise healthy with no sleep disorders. Prior to the study period the men got 8 hours of sleep. After just 1 week of restricting sleep to 5 hours each night, the healthy men produced 10-15% less testosterone! If this decrease can happen after only 1 week, imagine what can happen with long term short sleep duration. This study highlights why it’s so important to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Another study that was done in 2015 looked at what happens if you catch-up on sleep on weekends. The study looked at men who had about 5 years experience of shorter sleep during the week and longer sleep during the weekend. Does catching up on sleep on the weekends make a difference in testosterone levels? Yes: the study found that testosterone levels did increase with the extra sleep. This is good news for men who can’t get enough sleep due to work, kids or the general state of the world. However, the general consensus is that it’s better to get a consistent amount of appropriate sleep.
Any other reasons why less sleep bad for me?
Yes, so many 😖 Insufficient sleep in Canadians results in many negative effects including more sedentary time, more stress, worse mental health and higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
For those Canadians who don’t get enough sleep, they have about 4.0 hours of sedentary time each day compared to the 3.5 hours that are average for the well rested Canadians. Less sleep also represents more stress: a third of adults who don’t get appropriate sleep report being stressed, higher than the 1 in 5 adults who get enough sleep but state that they’re stressed. Mental health also declines with declining hours of sleep. 10% of Canadian adults who aren’t getting enough sleep report mental health problems compared to the 5% of Canadian adults who are getting enough sleep.
In North America, under 6 hours of sleep has been linked to potentially fatal consequences: you are at a 48% higher risk for coronary heart disease. On top of that you are at a 15% increased risk of stroke! Very serious and very scary.
How can I increase my testosterone levels naturally?
Getting more sleep is one way to increase your testosterone levels. While it can be hard to make changes to your sleeping habits, it is clearly important. There are a few ways you can increase how easy it is to fall asleep and stay asleep.
1. Set a consistent schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday (even on weekends!) is our number one tip. Your body will learn how much sleep it will get every night and when you will be falling asleep. This makes it easier for your body to get sleepy at the appropriate time. Staying up late once or twice a week makes it hard for your body to regulate sleep.
2. Avoid afternoon naps. You may find you get tired in the afternoon and be tempted to nap. Don’t do this! If you are able to hold off sleeping until it’s time to go to bed your body will thank you. Plus, naps are shorter and don’t give you enough (or any) REM sleep. REM is the sleep stage where your testosterone levels increase. Your first sleep cycle will have a shorter REM period. However, as you have more sleep cycles your REM period will increase. Longer REM periods = more testosterone production.
3. Make your bedroom comfortable. Doctors recommend sleeping at a temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 to 19.5 degrees Celsius). Your body actually decreases its temperature while you sleep. Setting the thermostat lower when you’re going to bed can help with this process. Other ways to make your bedroom more comfortable include making it dark. Have you tried blackout curtains or a sleep mask yet? You also want to make sure your bedroom is peaceful and stress free: don’t bring work into your bedroom and keep stress-inducing conversations away from the bed.
4. Remove distractions. Have you ever been kept up with a blinking clock? Or flashing TV? Or the buzz of your cell phone? If yes, take these things out of the bedroom! You can charge your phone somewhere else in your home or set it on do not disturb. If you read before bed, try reading somewhere else like a chair or maybe your living room. This helps ensure that your bed is just for sleeping and spicy fun and put your mind at ease.
5. Limit caffeine. 71% of Canadians drink coffee everyday. Did you know that after 5 hours, only half of that caffeine will be out of your system? You should try not to consume caffeine within 6 hours of going to bed. If you go to bed at 10 pm, your last cup of coffee should be at 4 pm. Caffeine can be found in more than just coffee like black and green tea, espresso drinks, chocolate, energy drinks and sodas. Decaffeinated coffee has less caffeine in it but if you are sensitive to caffeine you may want to avoid it.
6. Avoid blue light before bed. Your body follows a 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. When you see blue light it signals to your body that it’s day and it should be awake. While getting blue light in the morning can make you more awake but the same effect is disruptive to your ability to fall asleep at night. To get a good sleep you want to expose yourself to bright light during the day. But avoid looking at blue light (any screens!) two to three hours before bed. If you hate the thought of not using your cell phone or computer you can install an app to filter out the blue wavelengths at night. Or you can consider investing in a pair of blue light blocking glasses.
7. Be active during the day. Not only is it good for your cardiovascular health but also for your sleep! Being active and using your muscles tires out your body. When it is finally time to go to bed, your body will be tired and ready to sleep. There is one caveat: you should try to avoid exercising three hours before going to bed. Because exercise increases your heart rate, body temperature and adrenaline it can make it tough to fall asleep. However, some people find that exercising before bed tires them out and they are able to fall asleep quickly. Try working out at a time that’s convenient for you and then adjust to working out earlier if it negatively affects your sleep.
Further reading on sleep cycles, sleep disorders and testosterone: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955336/