You’re having some sleep problems. Maybe you’ve gotten so used to them that you believe it’s inevitable that you’ll get less sleep than you need, that you’ll spend hours trying to get to sleep, or trying to get back to sleep after waking up at 2:00 a.m. It’s just stress, you figure. Or maybe it’s just part of getting older.
Did you know that your poor sleep might actually result from low testosterone levels? When you have a testosterone deficiency, you’re likely to suffer from poor-quality sleep. And it’s a vicious circle: when your sleep is poor, your testosterone levels can drop as a result. Sleep and testosterone are, it turns out, inexorably linked to each other. Fortunately, you don’t have to accept your lack of sleep as the status quo — there are actions you can take to raise your testosterone levels and improve your sleep.
The Link Between Testosterone and Sleep
It may seem odd to link testosterone and sleep, but your body can’t produce testosterone effectively if you don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. Your body produces testosterone all night long, as you sleep. Testosterone reaches its peak production during your REM sleep, the deepest sleep of the night, which occurs late in your sleep cycle. Once you’re up and into the next day, your testosterone production slows down.
That means that if your sleep is interrupted, your testosterone production suffers. If your REM sleep is lacking, your testosterone production suffers. Your body can’t produce testosterone if you don’t get enough sleep, and you’ll feel it every minute of every day when it happens.
The fact that testosterone production is keyed in to your sleep cycle means that it’s not surprising that testosterone and your circadian rhythms are also related. Your circadian rhythms are essentially an internal clock that tells you when it’s time to sleep or eat (and they’re what get disturbed by jet lag). When the circadian rhythm that governs sleeping and waking gets thrown out of whack, your testosterone production is affected.
It doesn’t take long for poor sleep quality to affect your testosterone production. One study showed that testosterone production decreases by 10% to 15% after just eight nights of poor sleep. That’s a significant drop, especially when you add it to the natural annual decrease in testosterone levels that men experience, beginning in their 30s. Another study corroborates those findings, showing that getting five hours of sleep per night for just a week results in a significant decrease in testosterone production. The men in that study reported concomitant decreases in their mood, energy levels, and well-being, all signs that go with testosterone deficiency.
Low levels of testosterone are correlated to increased levels of cortisol, which some people call the “stress hormone” because of the effect it has on the brain. Cortisol is linked to insomnia, with excess levels of cortisol resulting in shallow sleep and wakefulness. It’s also linked to low levels of testosterone.
Sleep Apnea and Testosterone
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing while they sleep. When this occurs, people with sleep apnea experience hypoxia, a dangerous lack of oxygen. People with obstructive sleep apnea may not even sense the problems they’re having with breathing and sleeping at night, which can include lack of REM sleep, fragmented sleep, and less time spent sleeping with more time awake during the night.
If you have sleep apnea, whether diagnosed or not, you’re likely to experience a drop in your testosterone levels — which only makes sense, since you’re not getting the REM sleep needed for testosterone production to reach its nightly peak. You can treat obstructive sleep apnea with use of a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, which delivers the air pressure needed to keep you breathing healthily during sleep. However, while use of a CPAP machine helps with sleep apnea, it doesn’t improve your testosterone levels.
Help for Sleep Problems and Testosterone Deficiency
How can you tell if your sleep issues are related to low testosterone levels? Fortunately, you can find out the answer to that question with a simple blood test. If your testosterone levels are below normal, your doctor can help you find the right treatment. Once you’ve corrected your testosterone deficiency, you’re likely to find that your sleep problems work themselves out.
Of course, if you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you should continue to work with your sleep specialist to make sure you’re getting enough oxygen at night. Your doctor will probably commission a sleep study, if you haven’t undergone one already, and they may prescribe a CPAP machine to keep your oxygen levels healthy while you sleep.
Watching your sleep hygiene can also help improve your sleep at night. Because testosterone production is inextricably linked to sleep, that means it can encourage your testosterone levels as well. Follow these basic tips to get a better night’s sleep:
- Sleep in a dark room. Those circadian rhythms get triggered when light starts to seep through your windows, so hang some blackout curtains or shades to sleep a little later.
- Shut off your screens early in the evening. The light emanating from your computer or phone (yes, the one you’re reading this article on) mimics the blue light of daytime, once again triggering those circadian rhythms to keep you awake. Apple users can switch to Night Shift to turn that blue light yellow late in the evening, or just shut off all screens entirely to allow your mind to prepare for sleep. And that especially means shutting down your gaming screens early, since studies show that gaming has a negative effect on nighttime sleep.
- Stay out of bed. Unless you’re sleeping or having sex, that is. The more time you spend in bed doing other things, like catching up on work, scrolling through your phone, or even reading, the less your body is prepared to sleep.
- Use earplugs. Some people have insomnia because their ears don’t shut off when the rest of their body does. Earplugs can make a big difference.
- Lower the thermostat. Cool rooms maximize restful sleep. Keep your thermostat around 60° at night. You can still wrap yourself up in a thick blanket to stay warm.
- Stop caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol early in the evening. All these substances can keep you awake. Alcohol disrupts quality of sleep, and caffeine and nicotine are well-known as stimulants. The earlier you stop all three, the more your body can work them out of your system so you can sleep.
- Avoid naps. If you sleep for more than 15 minutes during the day, your body may protest when you ask it to sleep at night. And if you don’t get enough sleep, you may never get to the REM stage of sleep when testosterone production peaks. Keep your circadian rhythms healthy by saying no to naps.
- Go to bed when it’s time for bed. Going to bed at a regular time isn’t just for kids in school. Your body needs a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Plan ahead to get that sleep, figuring in the time it takes for you to settle down and fall asleep.
Increasing Your Testosterone Levels
If your sleep problems are caused, even in part, by low testosterone levels, it only makes sense to try and deal with your testosterone deficiency. You can learn whether testosterone deficiency is behind your sleep issues by getting a simple blood test at your doctor’s office or local men’s health clinic here in Dallas, TX.
If those blood tests reveal a testosterone deficiency, your doctor will speak to you about testosterone replacement therapy. This simple therapy helps restore your body’s testosterone levels to normal — and it may surprise you to notice all the positive changes as a result (think weight loss, improved muscle mass, improved ability to concentrate, and, not surprisingly, a better sex life).
You have a lot of choices available to you in terms of how you want to add to your testosterone levels. Your doctor will help you choose between methods that include inserting slow-release pellets below your skin, applying testosterone topically via a gel or patch on your arm, and giving yourself injections. Whichever is best for your lifestyle and preferences is the right choice.
Help for Sleep and Testosterone Levels in Dallas, TX
If you’ve experienced other side effects of low testosterone levels, they may stem from the same root issue as your sleep problems. These other effects can include mood swings, a drop in your sex drive, erectile dysfunction, weight gain, depression, an inability to concentrate, memory problems, and more. They can also include symptoms that are typically associated with lack of sufficient sleep, including fatigue and low energy levels.
The best way to find out what’s really going with your body is to visit a men’s health clinic that specializes in the issues surrounding low testosterone, which include sleep problems. At Texas Men’s Health Group, our experts are ready to look for the patterns in all your health concerns and provide the testing you need to get the answers you’re seeking. We’ll help you get the treatment your body needs so you can once again get the sleep you’re craving. Contact us today to start your journey back to health and a good night’s sleep.