It’s often pointed out that male testosterone levels drop as we age, starting as early as our mid 20’s.
As the primary hormonal driver of all things muscle and sex related in men, lower testosterone levels can reduce results in the gym and negatively affect quality of life.
However, the relationship between testosterone levels and age may not be as cut and dry as once thought.
New research suggests that sleep quality (and quantity) may be the real culprit behind falling testosterone levels.
While time passes for us all, there are other factors at play – life events that commonly occur, like marriage, careers, and children. Studies show that as our responsibilities increase, stress can rise, and sleep quality often suffers.
This probably isn't a surprise to anyone who's ever been woken up by a crying baby at 4am.
With this in mind, researchers investigated the possibility that sleep, rather than solely aging, could be a driving force in dropping testosterone levels.
Endocrinologists at the National University of Singapore studied 531 men aged between 29 and 72.
Their data showed a strong relationship between sleep and testosterone.
They found that adult men often cut back on sleep in an effort to add an extra hour or two to their busy days, and that this reduction had serious implications for their testosterone levels.
The study determined that, on average, men gained back 12% of their testosterone levels after adding just one extra hour of sleep.
If you commonly get 5 hours of sleep, and you add an hour, your testosterone levels will likely improve along the lines the Singapore study explored.
However, even at 6 hours per night you're still under-sleeping pretty significantly.
What if, armed with newfound knowledge of how important sleep is, you really went for it and shot for a regular 8, 9, or 10 hours? It may seem far-fetched, but let's dream a little (pardon the sleep pun).
Researchers at the University of the Chicago investigated exactly that, looking at the impact of adding multiple hours of sleep rather than just one extra hour.
What they found is staggering. The Chicago study found that men in their 40's were able to DOUBLE their testosterone levels simply by increasing total time slept.
Just by sleeping more.
Look at their data below. Note how incredibly clear the relationship is between time slept and testosterone (both Total Testosterone and Free Testosterone).
It doesn't get much more obvious than that.
More sleep = more testosterone. Period.
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While biological aging does decrease testosterone a bit, it's looking increasingly likely that it's own, direct effect is much less than previously thought, and can be largely offset with tweaks to lifestyle, supplementation, and nutrition.
Instead, it's other factors that correlate with aging (like sleep quality and stress) that are actually causing the lion's share of the drop in testosterone.
Get your sleep and recovery game up to snuff, and age ain't nothing but a number. 💪