Sleep Loss Reduces Testosterone Levels
There's no doubt that not getting a good night's sleep can affect how well you function the next day. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that losing sleep can have further-reaching consequences for otherwise healthy young men. Sleep loss can actually be an endocrine disruptor, significantly reducing men's levels of testosterone. Testosterone is beneficial not only for male fertility, but also for building muscle and bone strength, keeping up energy levels, physical vigor, and general sense of well-being.
Although blood testosterone levels in men decline naturally as they age, at a rate of 1-2% a year, getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night can reduce testosterone levels by 10-15%, the equivalent of aging 10-15 years.
For the study, 10 healthy young male university students were recruited and vigorously screened for any sleep disorders, endocrine problems, and other health issues. The men spent 3 nights sleeping up to 10 hours, and then 8 nights sleeping less than 5 hours. The subjects' blood testosterone levels were shown to have dramatically decreased, by 10-15%, on their sleep-deprived days. The effects were especially pronounced during the afternoons on the sleep-deprived days.
The young men reported a decline in their mood and vigor during their sleep-deprived days, which got progressively worse as the sleep-deprived portion of the study continued. While these can be attributable to the simple fatigue of not getting enough sleep, they are also symptoms of testosterone deficiency, which can cause loss of libido, poor concentration, fatigue, and low energy.
Other studies have linked testosterone deficiency to a number of health problems, including men's overall long-term risk of death from all causes. Low testosterone may also make you more prone to cognitive problems, such as an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. A deficiency in the hormone may also affect your muscle mass and bone density, important factors in your physical well-being, especially as you age.
In our increasingly busy modern world, losing sleep is not uncommon — in fact, the study estimates that at least 15% of the working adult population in the US gets less than 5 hours of sleep a night. You should be aiming for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. To achieve that, you may have to cut down on the caffeine or make other changes, such as replacing a sagging mattress or getting blackout curtains. If you suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, or other disruptions that prevent you from sleeping well, you may be compromising your testosterone levels as well as your body's daily function. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to get a good night's sleep.