At some point, we’ve all missed a good night’s sleep and some of us do it a lot more frequently than others. However, those on a solid workout routine know that a lack of sleep means a lack of muscle growth.
The recommended amount of sleep a healthy adult should get every night is 8 hours but some multi-job working, college courses taking, busy folks do not always have that luxury.
Is 6 hours of sleep enough to build muscle? The answer is a bit tough to say for certain and it varies from person to person. Some experts argue that it’s absolutely not, while some experts claim it is fine. Either way, 6 hours is about the bare minimum you would need to see some form of muscle growth.
Throughout this article, you will find out why exactly sleeping properly is so important to muscle growth and how a lack of sleep can completely sabotage your workout routine.
Sleep Study Results on Sleep and Muscle
In 2010, there was an experiment that took a group of participants and divided them into two subgroups. One was allowed only 5.5 hours of sleep, the other was allowed 8.5 hours. Their diets and workout routines were regulated and the results showed a stark difference.
Those that had only 5.5 hours of sleep per day lost 60% more muscle and 55% less fat once the experiment concluded compared to the ones who had 8.5 hours of sleep per day.
Another study in 2018 also had similar results when they studied the effects on muscle growth in fifteen young men after one night of no sleep.
The results showed that their muscles showed heightened protein breakdown and the young men’s fat tissue also showed increased levels of metabolites and proteins that promote fat storage.
All in all, these scientific sleep studies showed that not enough sleep can have a dramatic effect on your muscle growth and can cause them to deteriorate quickly.
Some sleep scientists theorize that people need sleep because it allows your body to revitalize and repair itself after using it all day.
It is a pretty well respected theory in the sleep science community, being that many hormones that help your immune system and muscle growth are secreted sometimes exclusively during sleep. We will get more into that in the section below, however.
Another reason many believe in restorative theory has to with the brain’s ability to produce something called adenosine. When people are awake during the day, their brain’s neurons produce adenosine as a by-product of its cells’ activity.
Adenosine build-up is thought to be a leading factor which leads to people feeling like they are becoming tired. Caffeine actually blocks adenosine in your brain, which is why it is well known as a tried and true way to keep you awake if you are feeling drowsy.
So long as a person is awake, adenosine will pile up in their brain. However, when you go to sleep, your body gets the chance to rid your brain of its excess adenosine. This is possibly why you feel more alert once you have finally woken up after a long night’s rest.
Hormone Secretion and Muscle Building
When you reach stage 3 sleep, which is the deepest sleep you can reach besides the R.E.M. stage, your body will release a growth hormone which helps your body build muscle while they become relaxed.
When people do not get enough time in this stage of sleep or do not reach this stage of sleep at all, it negatively affects this release of growth hormones.
Sleeping for five hours every day might be okay for you in terms of how awake you are throughout the next day, but you will not get enough of these growth hormones doing this.
This deficiency in growth hormone will result in lost muscle mass and also will negatively impact your ability to exercise. Even if you do not feel exhausted, your muscles will get exhausted quickly and you will not be able to work out as well as you normally do.
Another thing your body does when it is experiencing sleep deprivation is it begins to overproduce another hormone called ghrelin. This hormone is produced by enteroendocrine cells inside your gastrointestinal tract and are known for increasing hunger.
This extra feeling of hunger can cause you to overeat (particularly filling and fatty foods) and increase fat while your muscles continue to deteriorate as well.
Plus, sleep deprivation can result in lowered testosterone levels and highly increased levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is created in your kidneys and is mostly responsible for your levels of stress.
Testosterone is very important to muscle growth while high cortisol levels can promote weight gain and fat storage. So, all in all, a lack of sleep will send you in the complete opposite direction of muscle growth no matter what you do to compensate for it.
Napping to Make Up for a Lack of Sleep
Napping can help with your energy levels, mood, and is certainly a good idea if you have not been getting enough sleep overnight.
However, napping will not make up for the growth hormones that are lost from a long nighttime sleep. In fact, napping may actually throw off your sleep schedule further and cause an even further decline in muscle growth.
Usually, when you nap you do not reach stage 3 in the sleep cycle and, even if you do, it is not for very long. Again, stage 3 of the sleep cycle is where you will secrete the growth hormone necessary to promote muscle growth.
Ways to Improve Quality of Sleep
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night there are a few ways that you can help yourself get into a good routine that allows you to both get more sleep and deeper sleep as well. Here is a list of a few methods you can try:
More Bright Light Exposure During Daytime
It is important to expose yourself to some sunlight or bright lights in general when you are awake during the day. Some studies have shown that this can improve your sleep efficiency and make it less likely that you wake up in the middle of the night.
Less Bright Light Exposure During Nighttime
Using an electronic device like your phone, laptop, or TV late into the night can trick your brain into believing it is still daytime and keep you up longer.
Not only that but this will delay your brain’s melatonin release as well, which reduces your chance of getting deep sleep for long enough. Many people sleep with their TV or laptop on however, so if it is a problem for you try and find a setting that reduces the screen’s brightness as much as possible.
Limit Caffeine Intake to Only the Mornings
This seems like a fairly obvious way to improve your sleep but many people run on many cups of coffee to get through the day, especially the ones that work an extra job at night.
Of course, caffeine will keep you up no matter how much of a tolerance you’ve built up over the years. Try to keep your soda, coffee, or energy drinks in the morning if you need them to stay peppy throughout the day so you will not struggle to sleep later on.
Check Your Mattress
If your mattress sags or is becoming a bit uncomfortable to sleep on it may be time to flip it around or possibly get a new one.
Being able to sleep comfortably will reduce the possibility of you waking up at night and will give you a much better environment to fall into a deep sleep quickly. Also, make sure your bedroom is cold enough, it is much more difficult to fall asleep under toasty conditions.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Muscle Growth and Sleep
Can too much sleep hinder muscle growth?
It has not been scientifically proven, but getting too much sleep can lead to grogginess which can make your workouts tougher on you.
Can you supplement growth hormones?
Yes, but it is not recommended you do this. Using supplements like HGH can lead to other parts of your body suffering, especially if you are still not getting enough sleep.
How long should I nap to build muscle?
Ideally, you should only nap 30 minutes to one hour so you won’t alter your sleep schedule too much. Long naps can easily mess up your circadian rhythm and make sleeping during the night much harder.
So is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough to Build Muscle?
Most would say no it is not enough sleep to build muscle but for some, it might be barely enough. Either way, you are riding a fine line between getting enough and not getting enough sleep.
For those that are deep sleeper and can fall into stage 3 sleep pretty quickly, 6 hours may just be enough though. Essentially the answer to this question greatly depends on the person.