Shift Work, Poor Sleep, and Low Testosterone—Research Supports Men’s Health Risks
The demands of modern American life—erratic working hours, unreasonable deadlines, and technology that keeps us constantly plugged in—take a toll on the amount of quality sleep that a person gets.
This is especially true for those who must work irregular hours to make ends meet. Shift work, schedules outside of the regular 7 AM to 6 PM work hours, may provide advantages like better pay or a reduced need for child care, but medical research is indicating that serious health risks exist for men who regularly work late or overnight schedules.
Those risks include developing hypogonadism (the medical term for low testosterone) and its associated symptoms.
Shift Work and Low T—Examining the Research
Research indicating a likely relationship between shift work, sleep disorders, and negative effects on men’s urologic health was presented at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) in May 2017.
In one of the three studies presented, researchers examined data collected between July 2014 and September 2016 from nearly 2,500 male patients at an andrology clinic to determine if non-standard shift work that caused shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is connected to the symptoms of low testosterone.
766 men worked shifts outside the common 7 AM to 6 PM window, and 282 of those were diagnosed with SWSD. These individuals filled out questionnaires regarding their:
- Shift work schedule
- SWSD risk
- Experience with hypogonadal symptoms (utilizing the Androgen Deficiency in the Aging Male (qADAM) questionnaire)
A statistical analysis was then performed to determine the impact of non-standard shift work and SWSD on their responses to qADAM.
It was found that:
- Shift workers with SWSD have lower testosterone levels and experience more severe hypogonadal symptoms compared to daytime workers
- The poor sleep habits resulting from SWSD may cause more severe Low T symptoms in non-standard shift workers
- SWSD was independently associated with lower testosterone levels, even when controlled for age, comorbidities, and previous treatment with TRT
Other research presented showed altered semen parameters (poor sperm counts and motility) and increased frequency of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) associated among male shift workers—the full American Urological Association press release can be read here.
How Fragmented Sleep Affects Your Testosterone
In healthy adult men, testosterone production increases and levels rise during deep sleep, a function of the body’s circadian rhythm (the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth, or roughly every 24 hours). Levels peak just before awakening, and levels fall as testosterone is used by the body to fuel critical systems during waking hours.
The growing body of research shows that disturbed sleep hinders production and depletes testosterone levels. In the case of shift work, the body seems to fall into a state of general instability, never having enough time or knowing when to repair itself and restore hormone levels.
The result is insufficient or inconsistent production of testosterone—Low T.
Over any significant period of time, your body is likely to develop chronically low levels, and you may begin to experience the symptoms of low testosterone.
When Symptoms Become Severe
If your testosterone levels chronically fall below the optimum range and you’re experiencing symptoms on a regular basis, or your symptoms are often severe enough to hinder your ability to enjoy life, it may be time to consider Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
For facts and answers to the most common questions regarding TRT, read our comprehensive guide.