Can Sleep Affect Testosterone Levels?
In my book, The Male Biological Clock, there’s a whole chapter about testosterone, which is the hormone that stimulates sexual development in men. Testosterone has a big effect on a man’s body, including bone density, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, sex drive, and sperm production.
If you’re like most men, testosterone levels generally peak during your teens and 20s, and then gradually decline starting in your 30s. Testosterone levels can also fall for men of all ages, and for reasons that are unrelated to aging.
I often tell my patients that their testosterone levels are a dipstick of their health. Whether related to aging or other causes, low testosterone can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- low sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- sleep disturbances
- increased body fat
- reduced muscle bulk and strength
- decreased bone density
- lower energy levels
- loss of motivation or self-confidence
Causes of Low Testosterone
Besides aging, low testosterone levels can be caused by a variety of lifestyle factors, including obesity, stress, and a lack of sleep.
Why is sleep a big deal for testosterone? It’s because your body produces testosterone when you’re sleeping. Less sleep means less testosterone.
How to Handle Low Testosterone
A lot of men come to me looking for testosterone replacement therapy such as gels, patches, injections or tablets. These were originally developed for a small percentage of men with conditions like undescended testicles or a pituitary gland tumor. These are not common conditions.
While testosterone treatments work for some men, they also have associated risks, including sleep apnea, congestive heart failure and low sperm counts. And those are just the risks that we know about. No over-the-counter testosterone supplements have been approved by the FDA.
Lifestyle Changes, Specifically Sleep
While it’s tempting to look for a chemical treatment, low testosterone might be an indication that you need to make some lifestyle changes. You might need to change your diet or your exercise schedule. Or you might need to get more sleep.
The average U.S. adult gets less than seven hours of sleep every night. And more than a third of U.S. adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work or social functioning for at least a few days each month. If you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, you might want to take a close look at your schedule and your priorities.
While you’re at it, keep in mind that there are lots of good reasons to get a good night’s sleep. Healthy sleep patterns can improve your alertness, memory, mood, and immune system.
If you’re not sleeping well or if you’re not sleeping enough, talk to a health-care provider or see if you can make some changes. You may find that getting more exercise or cutting back on caffeine or late-night TV will help you avoid low testosterone levels and enjoy the other benefits of a good night’s sleep.
To find out more about testosterone levels or sleep hygiene, contact Dr. Harry Fisch in New York for a consultation.