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What's the deal with sleep and testosterone? A deep dive into this surprising connection

Maximise your sleep quality in order to reap the hormonal benefits.

Written by
Rebecca Mitchell
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 22, 2024
min read
What's the deal with sleep and testosterone? A deep dive into this surprising connection
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You may not realise that while you're sleeping, your body is producing more testosterone than it will for the rest of the day. Testosterone levels in men peak while they're asleep and decrease gradually over their waking hours.

Therefore, a restful night is key to maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and helps regulate a variety of bodily functions, from energy levels to sexual desire.

A poor night's sleep may not just make you drowsy, but affect other testosterone-dependent functions. Understanding how sleep affects testosterone levels and how, in turn, this can impact your daily functions can help you maximise your sleep quality in order to reap the hormonal benefits.

Here's what you need to know.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone produced by both men and women. However, it is the primary sex hormone in men. It plays a key part in development during puberty and aids in the growth and function of the penis and testicles. It also impacts other aspects of the body, including weight, muscle mass and hair growth.

Beyond the outwardly physical, testosterone plays a role in regulating libido and sperm production. It can impact energy levels, mood, concentration, memory and other mental and emotional capacities [1].

What are 'normal' testosterone levels?

Normal testosterone levels in young, healthy men (aged 21-35) are around 10.4–30.1 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). After the age of 30, the amount of testosterone produced by a man decreases by 0.5%-2% every year [2].

While all people produce testosterone, men can produce 10-20 times more than women [1].

What's the connection between testosterone and sleep?

Typically, testosterone levels in healthy men peak during sleep and decrease throughout the day. They may be highest in the morning and lowest in the evening.

A variety of studies confirm long (around eight hours), uninterrupted sleep is vital for the healthy production of testosterone. Therefore, sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea or sleep-disordered breathing can result in lower testosterone levels [3].

This can result in a range of challenges for men. For example, researchers have linked sleep deprivation with erectile dysfunction [4].

How does sleep affect testosterone levels?

One key study found testosterone levels decreased by 10 to 15 per cent in healthy young men whose sleep was restricted to five hours per night [5]. This University of Chicago study tested the effects of sleep deprivation on testosterone production and compared testosterone levels in 10 healthy young men (average age 24) after a regular night's sleep of around eight to nine hours, versus a sleep period of fewer than five hours.

The effects of sleep deprivation on testosterone could be seen after just one week of restricted sleep. The biggest difference in the testosterone levels was noticed between the times of 2pm and 10pm, where the levels were much lower following a night of short sleep.

In the study, the men also self-reported a drop in their sense of wellbeing, mood and vigour, which declined daily over the restricted sleep period.

Some studies confirm at least three hours of slow wave sleep (SWS) are required for ideal testosterone production [3].

SWS is a type of Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep. Poor sleep quality, sleeping for a shorter duration, circadian rhythm disruption, and sleep-disordered breathing may result in a reduction in testosterone levels.

Do sleep disorders affect testosterone levels?

Some studies have noted the difficulty in linking the direct effects of disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea on testosterone levels once factoring in other variables, like age and weight [3]. Obesity and advancing age can affect testosterone levels independently, and can also cause sleep apnoea, so which symptom begets the other can be hard to confirm.

However, other studies confirm a definite relationship between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and lower levels of testosterone [6][7]. If you're struggling with sleep, you might want to consider an effective sleep treatment that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Pilot's clinical sleep support works to regulate sleep and help you drift to sleep easier. Our practitioners will create a treatment plan based on your individual sleep circumstances.

A better night of sleep is just around the corner!

How much does testosterone increase when sleeping?

Testosterone is typically distributed in 'bursts' or pulses every 90 minutes [3]. According to the University of Chicago study, the trough of testosterone production typically occurs in the afternoon to evening, where testosterone levels in well-rested, healthy young men might sit around 15-20 nmol/L.

This can rise to 25-30 nmol/L at the peak during sleep, which occurred around 6am, prior to waking. Shorter sleep duration (less than five hours) can result in a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in testosterone compared to a full night's sleep of eight or nine hours [5].

Does waking up early increase testosterone?

No. Waking up early will not increase testosterone, especially if waking up early interrupts a solid period of rest — which is vital for testosterone production.

In fact, testosterone levels decrease more across prolonged periods of wakefulness [3]. However, considering testosterone levels peak in the morning, you may feel the greater effects of this during those early stages of the day.

The period after you wake up could offer greater energy levels and enhanced mood and libido, for example.

Relationships between testosterone, sleep and age

Testosterone levels decline as you age. After the age of 30, a man's testosterone production decreases by up to two per cent every year.

When it comes to testosterone and sleep, men of all ages are affected. However, generally speaking, it has been found that middle-aged men secrete less testosterone in their sleep than young healthy men. The aforementioned study of men with an average age of 24 found that sleep of only 5.5 hours duration was enough to affect testosterone levels [5].

A different study of 12 men between the ages of 64 and 74, found the number of hours slept could actually predict their morning testosterone level [8].

A further study of men over the age of 65 found that shorter sleep was associated with lower testosterone levels [9].

Alongside a good night's sleep, a natural supplement that is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals to support the production of testosterone could prove helpful.

Pilot's Testosterone Support aids in testosterone synthesis, supports your immune system and helps maintains skin health. Low testosterone levels can lead to reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, depressive moods and low energy, which is why it's important to engage in healthy behaviours that positively impact your hormone levels.

What are the effects of lower testosterone?

A range of factors can affect testosterone levels, from age to weight to various ailments. Sleep is not the only influential factor, with the following also playing a role in low testosterone:

  • Medical problems, such as severe liver disease
  • Damage to the testicles or the pituitary gland
  • Obesity
  • Genetic disorders, such as Klinefelter syndrome
  • Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes
  • Ageing [1].

Lower levels of testosterone aren't always cause for concern. However, a testosterone deficiency can result in a lower level of wellbeing in men.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone?

There are many common symptoms of lower testosterone, and many aren't cause for concern. These can include hair loss, weight gain, poor concentration and lower energy levels.

Your doctor may recommend testing your testosterone levels if you demonstrate:

The only reliable way to test testosterone levels is to have two blood tests [1]. If you are worried about your testosterone levels, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional.

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