Putting on muscle takes dedication, heavy lifting, and proper nutrition.
But is this all that is required for bigger muscles?
Not quite. While these aspects are crucial for making gains, most people tend to forget rest is also an important factor for making improvements.
But how exactly does sleep affect muscle development?
The Importance of Sleep
Those seeking muscle gains need sleep because sufficient shut eye creates an anabolic environment in which muscles regenerate and grow.
However, the imbalance of training and sleep is becoming more prevalent in gym culture. For some reason, “the more training, the better,” and the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” adages have become a personal mantra for bodybuilding success. Research shows this does more harm than good.
This is because foregoing sleep places unnecessary amounts of stress on the body, interferes with hormonal secretion, and affects emotional and behavioral balance.
Two hormones secreted during sleep that benefit muscle growth are human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. The male sex hormone accelerates muscle mass and development by enhancing muscle protein synthesis, and HGH influences muscle growth through its mediator insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1). Research shows improper sleep habits dramatically decreases secretion of both hormones.
Sleep and HGH
In one study, plasma HGH was measured in 8 individuals over a 38-night sleep test. During the testing, researchers noticed the onset of sleep resulted in a growth hormone peak in 7 of the test subjects. This peak lasted 1.5-3.4 hours. However, when the onset of sleep was delayed, peak GH secretion was also delayed.
Interestingly, when test subjects were awakened for 2-3 hours and then returned to sleep, they experienced another peak in GH secretion.
Additional research shows “70% of the GH pulses during sleep coincide with SWS (slow-wave sleep).”
Sleep and Testosterone
In a sleep study analyzing testosterone production, several young, healthy men were recruited.
Test subjects underwent a week of 8-hour bedtimes at home before entering a laboratory where they would spend 11 days: 3 nights with 10-hour bedtimes and 8 nights with 5-hour bedtimes.
Sleep was recorded and scored each night, and blood samples were taken every 15 to 30 minutes for 24 hours after the second 10-hour night bedtime and the seventh 5-hour bedtime.
Results show during waking hours, “testosterone levels were lower after sleep restriction than in the rested condition.”
How to Optimize Sleep for Muscle Gain
According to medical authorities, adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. For those that have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, this may seem like a chore.
Fortunately, the sleeping pills like those found here are a great way to ameliorate quality and length of sleep. These non-habit forming supplements are formulated with safe ingredients, so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.
Here are some additional tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Avoid drinking lots of fluids a couple hours before bed. A full bladder interrupts adequate rest.
- Dim the lights around bedtime to establish a darker ambience; this induces feelings of sleepiness.
- Put away electronics; the glow of a cell phone may be enough to interrupt sleep.
- Establish a regular bedtime and be consistent.
- Don’t nap close to bedtime as this may interfere with your internal clock and circadian rhythm.
- Exercise to stay healthy and combat stress.
As you can see, it only takes a few small changes in your sleeping habits to have a dramatic impact on your muscle gains.
-  Mark Jenkins, MD . “Overtraining Syndrome.”
-  Griggs RC, et al. “Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis.” J Appl Physiol (1985). 1989 Jan;66(1):498-503.
-  Velloso CP et al. “Regulation of muscle mass by growth hormone and IGF-1.” Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Jun;154(3):557-68.
-  Takahashi Y, Kipnis DM, Daughaday WH. “Growth hormone secretion during sleep.” J Clin Invest. 1968 Sep; 47(9):2079-90.
-  Van Cauter E, Plat L. “Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep.” J Pediatr. 1996 May;128(5 Pt 2):S32-7.
-  Leproult R, Van Cauter E. “Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men.” JAMA.2011;305(21):2173-2174.
-  Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D. “How many hours of sleep are enough for good health?” Mayo Clinic.