Low Testosterone and Sleep
- Reviewed by Judy Mouchawar, MD, MSPH
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you could be lowering your testosterone. Learn how to get more and better sleep to improve testosterone levels.
Sleep problems and testosterone levels might seem like an odd coupling, but the two health issues just may be related. And working on one might help the other.
Sleep deprivation has been linked by researchers to lower testosterone levels, says endocrinologist Michael Irwig, MD, an associate professor of medicine and director of the Andrology Center at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Peak testosterone production occurs during your sleep hours, according to a review of testosterone and sleep research published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Sleep. So if you’re losing sleep, you’re also depriving yourself of testosterone production time.
And while sleep deprivation lowers your testosterone, it also appears that low testosterone — also called hypogonadism — can contribute to insomnia, according to researchers who looked at hypogonadism symptoms in a group of male cancer patients and published their conclusions in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.
Low testosterone also appears to be linked to lower quality sleep and fewer deep sleep cycles. Researchers have observed that as testosterone goes down, the hormone cortisol increases. Cortisol contributes to wakefulness, resulting in shallower and shorter sleep, noted the February 2012 review in the journal Sleep. Feeling tired and fatigued is also a symptom of low testosterone, according to the American Urological Association.
About Low Testosterone and Poor Sleep
There may be ways to interrupt this cycle of poor sleep and low testosterone. “Improving sleep generally will improve testosterone levels,” Dr. Irwig says. Testosterone levels increase soon after you start to get more sleep, according to a study of the effects of “catch-up” sleep on the body published in February 2015 in the journal Clinical Endocrinology. The benefit comes from adding hours of deep sleep.
However, for men with obstructive sleep apnea, treating the condition with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine doesn’t appear to improve testosterone, according to a review of the effect of sleep interventions on 232 men involved in seven studies. The findings were published in December 2014 in the journal PLoS One. Treating low testosterone with hormone replacement therapy also doesn’t directly lead to better sleep, Irwig says.
Instead, try treating the underlying causes of low testosterone and poor sleep, such as obesity. That’s a more effective way to improve sleep than just treating low testosterone, according to a review of research published in June 2014 in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep With Low Testosterone
To improve your sleep, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that you:
- Get consistent sleep. “Make sure you’re sleeping at least seven hours a night,” Irwig says. One way to do this is to stick to the same bedtime and wakeup time every day, weekdays and weekends alike.
- Avoid afternoon naps. This can interrupt your nighttime sleep schedule.
- Keep your bedroom cool. In general, your bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees when you’re trying to sleep.
- Remove distractions. Get rid of excess noise and light so that your room is quiet, calm, and dark for sleep.
- Limit nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and although alcohol may feel sedating, it ultimately interferes with sleep quality, according to the NSF.
- Avoid electronic screens for an hour before going to bed. Take a break from your phone, laptop, tablet, and television.
- Cut back on video games. The more you game, the lower quality of sleep you get, according to research published in the Journal of Sleep Research in April 2015. The researchers determined that each hour of gaming during the day pushes bedtime back by 6.9 minutes.
- See a doctor about sleep problems. Sleep apnea is among the treatable conditions that could be interrupting your sleep. Talk with your doctor about whether you should be tested for this condition.
- Lose weight. Losing just 5 percent of your starting weight can result in improved length of sleep and sleep quality, according to a study in the March 2015 issue of the journal Obesity.
- Be active. The NSF emphasizes daily physical activity for better sleep. Try to spend some of your active time outdoors, in a natural green space. Spending time outside seems to help protect against sleep problems,