Ever wonder whether not getting enough sleep can affect your testosterone levels? If you’re not sleeping well, you’re bound to notice changes in your energy levels and mood. Your cognitive functions will most likely be affected, so you won’t be able to concentrate well or remember things correctly.
You could say that’s just because you lack sleep. Or it could be your testosterone levels. Find out how your testosterone levels are affected by the amount of sleep you’re getting.
Responsible for the normal development of adult male physical characteristics, testosterone plays a crucial role not only in the appearance of boys and men but also in reproduction, as well as in the maintenance of lean muscle mass and bone mass.
An androgen, testosterone stimulates the development of the male reproductive system during fetal development. In adolescent boys, the hormone is needed for the growth and development of the reproductive organs, and for other male characteristics such as body hair, deep voice, and bigger muscles.
In adult men, testosterone is necessary for sperm production, libido regulation, and for normal erectile function. Not only is testosterone important for male sexual health, but the hormone is also needed for red blood cell production, normal fat distribution, and even for mood regulation.
How Is Testosterone Produced?
In men, most of the production of testosterone happens in the testicles, although the adrenal glands also synthesize a small amount of testosterone. Your adrenal glands also produce dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, which is the precursor hormone to testosterone.
Testosterone synthesis is actually a tightly controlled process, with other hormones playing a regulatory effect on the production of testosterone. When your body’s hormone feedback mechanism senses that you need to create more testosterone, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by the hypothalamus.
The release of GnRH triggers your pituitary gland to secrete luteinizing hormone (LH), which then travels through your bloodstream to reach your gonads. Inside your testicles, LH stimulates your Leydig cells which, in turn, start to produce testosterone.
Sleep and Testosterone
Testosterone synthesis actually follows a diurnal cycle. This means that every day, you experience peaks and valleys in your testosterone levels. You produce the most amount of testosterone when you’re deep in sleep. Research indicates that testosterone synthesis typically peaks when you’re into your third hour of deep sleep.
This is why it’s during the early mornings that your testosterone levels are the highest. As the day progresses, your testosterone levels decline, along with your testosterone production, which is at its lowest at night.
In short, the amount and quality of sleep that you’re getting actually affects how much testosterone your body produces. Even if you’re able to sleep long hours but your sleep is always interrupted, such as if you have sleep apnea, your testosterone production could still suffer.
In fact, there have been numerous studies on the relationship between testosterone levels and sleep apnea, a sleep disorder wherein your breathing actually stops and restarts while your sleeping. This condition prevents you from sleeping deeply because you have to wake up to catch your breath.
Just like sleep apnea, sleep restriction and sleep deprivation can also have negative effects on your testosterone levels. One study showed that when healthy young men are restricted to only five hours of sleep, their testosterone levels actually fell by 10%-15% in just a week’s time.
Another study showed that sleep loss during the second half of the night resulted in a significant drop in testosterone levels. Sleep deprivation, such as when you don’t sleep at all, may even have worse effects on your testosterone production.
What Happens If Your Testosterone Levels are Too Low?
You definitely wouldn’t want your testosterone levels to drop below normal. If you’re low on testosterone, it can result in various problematic symptoms. Testosterone-deficiency is often linked to sexual performance issues such as a low drive for sex and erection problems.
Men with low testosterone also typically suffer from impaired fertility. Since the sperm cells growing inside your testicles need testosterone in order for them to mature, not having enough testosterone can cause many of your sperm cells to die even before they fully develop. That can lead to a low sperm count and a low semen volume.
Aside from the negative effects on your fertility and sexual performance, low testosterone levels can also impact your body composition. As an androgen with anabolic properties, testosterone is very essential for the growth and development of your muscles. Without enough testosterone, you could lose muscle mass.
Not only that, but you could also gain weight as your body fat increases. But what’s really problematic is that low testosterone can cause you to lose bone mass. This means that you could develop osteoporosis as your bones weaken.
Restoring Your Testosterone Levels Back to Normal
Since your body produces testosterone while you’re asleep, it stands to reason that the best way to bring your testosterone levels back to normal is by getting enough hours of deep sleep. And if you can only sleep for a few hours, it’s best to time sleep during the second half of the night, as this can limit the decrease in your testosterone production.
However, if your body is short on certain nutrients that are needed for testosterone production, you may still not be able to reach normal testosterone levels even if you sleep for eight hours every day.
Thus, you’ll need to ensure that you’re taking enough vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can also take DHEA supplements to help increase your testosterone levels. There are also many herbal supplements that are proven to help raise testosterone production.
Tongkat Ali and Ashwagandha, for example, are very useful when it comes to raising your levels of testosterone. Not only does Tongkat Ali stimulate your testicular cells to synthesize more of your primary androgen, but the herb is also known to help reduce cortisol levels.
Ashwagandha also has the same effects on cortisol levels, which is why it’s considered an effective stress-reducer, just like Tongkat Ali. The stress-reducing effect of Tongkat Ali and Ashwagandha is important for maintaining high testosterone levels because stress and cortisol can cause your body to produce less testosterone.