Who needs sleep? It seems like more and more athletes are pushing the limits of the 24 hour day to try to fit in as many tasks as possible. But with what consequences? Endurance athletes are known for waking up at "O-dark-thirty", with compromising sleep for early morning training sessions. While this may or may not be the best thing for each individual athlete, what affect may it have on the body?
This brings me to topic of my blog in relation to the research article that I read last week (I read a bunch but this one stood out based on its timing). It looked at sleep deprivation and the effects on testosterone. First a quick review about testosterone. This steroid hormone is produced in larger amounts in males and smaller amounts in females. It increases during puberty and begins to decline after the age of 30. This is important because it acts in the promotion of the growth hormone response which can affect muscle protein synthesis. Aging athletes with decreased testosterone production usually see a decrease in performance. Testosterone boosters and supplements have been all the rage in the past (and present) but I'm not here to discuss that controversial topic.
Back to the research study I read. While it only looked at a small sample size of 10 healthy, young (24 years old) males, what I found interesting (and worth writing about) was the sleep deprivation aspect of this study.
After a normal week of getting 8 hours of sleep per night, the subjects visited the lab where they spend the first three days getting 10 hours of sleep per night then were restricted to 5 hours of sleep per night for the next 8 nights. Most athletes wouldn't bat an eye at this change. In fact, it may be the norm for most working athletes who have families and may travel for work. However, if we fast forward to the results, what is really interesting is that daytime testosterone levels decreased by 10-15%.
Many questions always come out of reading research studies. Probably the most important is one that I receive on frequent occasions from athletes who either have low testosterone levels or are trying to naturally boost their levels is, "what can I do to increase my testosterone levels?". While blood work analysis should first be encouraged for each athlete regarding their hormone levels in response to age and training status, perhaps the pertinent answer right now is simply to try to stay consistent with sleep patterns and try not to deprive yourself of sleep if at all possible.
I know it may be difficult for some but if you are an athlete, sleep should be planned in your day just like your training and nutrition. There is no excuse for missing out on one of the best times of the day that you can use to repair your body and improve its physiological adaptation to training stimuli.
Off to bed now...