How do sleep and stress affect testosterone levels in military personnel?

How do sleep and stress affect testosterone levels in military personnel?

6 min

written by Cat James

published on 26. 5. 22

You might assume that men in the military have higher testosterone levels than average, given their high levels of physical activity and overall fitness. 

But you’d be wrong: soldiers typically have lower testosterone than their civilian counterparts. That’s mainly down to two things: high levels of stress and lack of sleep.

How does sleep affect testosterone levels?

Even in young and otherwise healthy men, lack of sleep leads to a significant drop in testosterone. Poor sleep quality can also disrupt your testosterone production even if you’re sleeping enough hours overall. 

After just a week of less than 5 hours per night of sleep, testosterone levels can drop 10-15% compared to sleeping for up to 10 hours. (1)

Army rangers need to stay rested to be able to perform at their peak, but unfortunately many of their missions leave them sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation during military training has been shown to drop testosterone levels by up to 28%. (2) 

When their testosterone levels drop, so does the efficiency of protein synthesis in their bodies. In fact any young healthy man will likely notice higher levels of body fat, lower muscle mass and decreased stress if their testosterone levels get low. (3) 

But it’s not just the military who are sleep deprived. Around 15% of the American workforce are surviving on less than 5 hours sleep per night. (4) This can leave us with low mood, low motivation and low productivity at work and in our home life. 

If you’re not sleeping enough and your testosterone levels are low, you’ll likely notice your energy is at its lowest between 2pm until 10pm. The cortisol released when you wake up might be enough to keep you going in the morning but you’re hitting an afternoon slump after lunch. When you get home, you’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to hit the gym or even spend quality time with your family. Unfortunately when bedtime rolls around, you get that “tired but wired” feeling and can’t sleep, so the cycle starts over again. Sound familiar?

How can I improve my sleep? 

Military or not, be strategic about this. When you look to improve your sleep, there are two aspects to focus on: sleep time and sleep quality. 

Sleeping for more hours to improve testosterone levels

We all know that getting into bed earlier doesn’t always result in more hours slept. If you’re watching TV in bed, or using your phone, or just laying in bed overthinking then getting into bed earlier could be doing you more harm than good.

Start by creating a “power down” routine that starts a few hours before bed. 

  • Turn off the TV and put your phone on silent - resist spending endless hours scrolling on social media. 
  • Try not to eat anything too heavy that could leave you with indigestion, and don’t drink any more coffee after you leave work for the day. 
  • Instead of consuming entertainment on a device, spend some quality time with your family, spouse or whoever you live with.
  • Drink a cup of calming chamomile tea before bed.
  • Take a warm bath or shower - your body needs to cool down to go to sleep, so heating up before bed can be a great hack to start the cooling off process.

Improving sleep quality to increase testosterone production

Ideally, you want a great night's sleep that leaves you feeling well rested and refreshed: that means not waking up throughout the night, and being able to fall back asleep quickly if you do.  

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark - try charging your phone in another room so that it doesn’t wake you, and get blackout blinds to keep your room dark
  • Limit noise in your room from the street by keeping your windows closed or wearing earplugs
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bed on a regular basis: a nightcap can help you nod off, but it can also disrupt your sleep cycles and wake you up
  • Don’t drink too much water before bed either if you find yourself waking up to go to the bathroom often in the night
  • See your doctor if you think you might have a sleep disorder that’s causing you to keep waking back up 

How does stress affect testosterone levels?

Military personnel tend to have up to 65% lower levels of serum testosterone than average men due the physical and mental stress of their career. (5) This stress can be caused by the high demands of their job, the risks of losing their lives or losing their comrades, and extreme physical exertion - not to mention the loneliness that can occur from leaving family back home when they are deployed. 

Now, it’s important to remember that some stress can actually be good for testosterone levels. A little bit of stress is actually healthy - it keeps us fired up and ready for competition! But, there comes a point where the benefits of stress level off. High levels of psychological stress for long periods of time can lead to low levels of testosterone production. (6) 

 

Reducing your mental stress levels to increase testosterone output

Even if you aren’t in the military, times will come up in life when you are faced with stressful situations. This could be problems at home or with your relationships, money worries or even just your manager at work making your life hell. 

Unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid situations like this completely. What matters is how you handle it. 

Can you do anything about the thing that’s stressing you out?

Begin by taking the logical point of view: is there anything you can do that will cut this problem short or help to solve it? The solution might not be easy, in fact it might be really tough, but knowing you are actively working to get this problem out of your life will help bring your stress levels down. 

If there isn’t anything you can do, then you need to work on your worrying and overthinking. 

Look to your diet and supplementation regime

One of the most underrated things you can do to help your mind cope with stress is by using adaptogens: natural herbs that help your body adapt to stress. One of the most powerful adaptogens is Ashwaghanda. This herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to help relieve stress and anxiety. This herb has been studied in depth and is proven to work. (7) You’ll get a 668mg daily dose of KSM66 Ashwaghanda when you take TestoPrime. 

Move your body and let off steam

You can also relieve stress by working your body. Physical activity reduces the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your body (these are stress hormones) and increases your production of endorphins (your happy hormones). 

Spend quality time with the people who mean the most to you

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is have a strong support system and great people around you. Military personnel have a real sense of comradery and lots of people around them who have similar shared experiences. Whether you feel comfortable talking about stress or not, it can be very comforting to have people around you who care. 

Try your best to surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you with healthy habits. Look for a mentor, or even just spend more time participating in fun hobbies with your friends. Remember that no man is an island, so work towards being there for the people you love too.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531162142.htm#:~:text=The%20effects%20of%20sleep%20loss,2%20pm%20and%2010%20pm
  2. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijsem/international-journal-of-sports-and-exercise-medicine-ijsem-6-169.php 
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9626114/ 
  4. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/news/sleep-loss-lowers-testosterone-in-healthy-young-men 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796586/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5128352/#:~:text=Based%20on%20the%20pattern%2C%20lower,with%20a%20subsequent%20leveling%20off
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/#:~:text=Ashwagandha%2C%20an%20adaptogenic%20Ayurvedic%20herb,and%20thereby%20enhance%20general%20wellbeing.

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