One vital ingredient in a comprehensive muscle building process (that’s often tragically overlooked) is sleep. Studies show, that more than half of adults worldwide report getting less sleep than they need on an average night. The effect this can have on your musculature as a man is even worse than what you’d expect… So is 6.5 hours really enough to build muscle, in a restorative, healthy way, or not?
We think NOT. Here’s why – The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get 7+ hours of sleep every night for optimum muscle growth. And the more active you are, the more hours you need! Cutting corners on sleep is cutting corners on your entire gym, fitness, or muscle-building routine!
Like it or not, sleep could be the very reason why your fitness progress seems much slower compared to others! Or, why you just aren’t getting the gains you were hoping for (despite working your body to death in the gym – or out of it!)
Truth is, many people are caught up in busy schedules. They see sleep as “dispensable”.
And over time, they build what’s been termed “sleep debt”…
It leads guys to wonder if they can get maximum muscle gains with a minimal amount of sleep. Well, the short answer to that is sometimes, yes; but most times, no.
So, Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough to Build Muscle?
Well first, let’s discuss where this “6.5 hours” query came from…
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said he only needed six and a half hours of sleep, to recover and rebuild his muscle mass. However, unlike him, we’re mere mortals…
Further, it’s unlikely you’re on the levels of exogenous Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Testosterone and other steroid stacks he was on.
As a rule of thumb, more sleep equals more muscle growth – and less sleep… well, you get the gist. And if you really want to stimulate your muscle growth while sleeping, you can consider muscle relaxer supplements, to help optimize your gains and restoration!
But consider this…
It usually takes the human body a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep.
So, your actual sleeping hours are even shorter than you’d think! Add to that, factors like sleeping environment and “rituals” before going to bed (good or bad) may also reduce deep sleep (REM) time even more.
So, No… Physiologically Speaking:
… 6.5 hours per night is not enough for your muscles to grow and recover maximally! Muscles need to be given a lot of time to rest and recover from muscle building, or endurance-pushing workouts.
Other studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to losing 60% muscle mass, compared to people who can fit in at least eight hours! Losing fat also happens at a slower rate when you’re sleep deprived.
Factors like lifestyle also influence bedtime requirements.
For instance, a college student looking to start bodybuilding will probably find himself studying into the wee hours of the night – for a presentation to be done the following day.
However (this is the ‘Yes’ part), it’d help to remember that your body is unique.
We aren’t robots – there’s no universal instruction manual or how-to guide. Just because ol’ Arnold is okay sleeping for only six hours (maybe he really IS part-robot)…
… it doesn’t mean sleeping for nine hours makes you weak in any way.
Getting nine hours a night is quite commendable, and does wonders for your body – even beyond your muscle building goals!
What About Naps?
Research shows that napping during the day may help increase the total amount of sleep you’re able to get. Nevertheless, it’s best if you didn’t rely on them as a substitute for regular sleep in the night – they’re not quite the same.
However, what you can do is work on increasing your sleep quality. You can even reduce how long it takes for you to fall asleep, using some of the following methods:
How to Sleep Better & Aid Muscle Growth
Sleeping better is about habits – getting to bed earlier, focusing your energy during the day on important work to move the needle, and exhausting the body each day, so rest is natural at bedtime.
Here are some of our most relevant sleep-improvement tips if you’re short on time:
1. Work On Your ‘Sleep Hygiene’
Yep, that’s a thing…
Just like brushing your teeth, or having good personal hygiene affects every other area of your success…
… research has shown that “sleep hygiene” can help decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep (and give you better sleep quality!).
A night of good, long sleep is necessary for muscle building. You can try this by:
- restricting the use of your bedroom to sleeping purposes only (and maybe a few other fun activities…)
- not using devices like phones, tablets, or laptops (they emit a melatonin-blocking blue light) a minimum of 60 minutes before sleeping, and
- having something you do consistently every night, like read a book, stretch or do yoga, or otherwise calm your body down for the night
2. New Mattress, New Me
One study showed that a newer mattress would actually help you sleep better. As a result, your energy gets a strong boost from resting properly. This energy boost is useful both for your upcoming workout sessions, and in recovery.
In this study, people who slept for seven to eight hours per night on newer mattresses were more enthusiastic about taking part in physical activity. Why?
Because newer mattresses usually leave you feeling more comfortable, rested and motivated to workout. This motivation carries over to challenging yourself in those intense muscle building workouts.
This doesn’t even require upgrading yearly! Oftentimes, quality new mattresses can last for five years or more, and repay you heavily with those dreamy REM cycles.
3. Steer Clear Of Caffeine At Least 6 Hours Before Bed!
A paper showed that ingesting (even moderate amounts of) caffeine six hours before bed decreased sleep time by 41 minutes in total. But ingestion three hours before bed did so by 63 minutes!
Do you want to be losing an hour of quality sleep because of an afternoon espresso habit?
A lot of young guys, new to building muscle, have read somewhere that caffeine aids muscle building. They assume this, since it’s an ingredient found in many bodybuilding supplements like pre-workout.
However, caffeine doesn’t “build muscle”, but instead helps prepare you for intense training sessions, reduces your pain tolerance, and helps you push just a bit harder.
Rest and rejuvenation gives your muscles the chance to restore, and stock up on nutrients from your food. Just don’t strain or overtrain them past their regular use!
4. Don’t Engage In Intense Activity Right Before You Sleep
This one might seem counterintuitive…
… but if you want to sleep better, reach deeper sleep cycles, stimulate restful brain waves, and get caught up – shouldn’t you be tiring yourself out first?
Well, the answer is YES! Except not right before bed.
Obviously, engaging in intense activity fills your body with energy, endorphins, and adrenaline.
So it’s necessary that activities like these are avoided, at least three hours before heading to bed (barring those *other* intense bedtime activities…)
Otherwise, this resulting burst of energy will actually work against the average guy, in resting, recovering, and sleeping soundly.
5. Maintain Your Sleep/Wake Routine At All Times (Even On Weekends!)
Many men think that when you sleep late, allowing for waking up later than usual, you get the same sleep quality. This is not so.
Patterns like these may mess with your body’s normal 24-hour sleep cycle (circadian rhythm).
Your current sleeping pattern may not even be the healthiest for your muscle-building plans, or in general! Strive to find a solid pattern you can maintain by studying your body, and listening to the messages it sends you.
It’s best when you can go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day! This creates routine, consistency, and keeps your body’s circadian rhythm in the groove. As a side benefit, if you’re also working on building your business – you will get value from Ben Franklin’s old adage:
Early to bed, and early to rise… makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
6. Shake It ‘Til You Make It!
When you’re sleeping, your body finds it more difficult to break down proteins.
This poses problems for muscle building, as the body can only retrieve the amino acids (used to build new muscle tissue) after breaking down proteins. This is because proteins are made up of amino acids (nine, to be exact) and without breakdown, there’s no buildup.
However, protein shakes are broken down quickly and easily, (some even better at nighttime – like casein whey). Taking a shake before you sleep will definitely make the process a lot smoother.
The Positive Effects of Sleep
On Muscle Building
1. Sleep Prevents Muscle Breakdown & Encourages Fat Loss
By now, you’re seeing that sleep is a ridiculously important factor here….
In another study, the effects of not sleeping for an entire night were analyzed by researchers. Results showed that their muscles were already beginning to experience atrophy, and a higher rate of protein breakdown.
This was in addition to their fat tissue increasing the level of metabolites that encourage fat storage! Worst yet, this was only after a single night.
Imagine what a nasty habit of sleep debt does to your physique, strength, and goals!
2. Quality Sleep May Improve Your Testosterone Levels
Not sleeping well enough could cause a reduction in anabolic hormones, such as testosterone.
This is the single most important hormone for men.
A study found that daily ‘free testosterone’ levels were reduced markedly (by 10 to 15%).
The young men in the study (presumably with naturally high T levels) experienced this precipitous drop in just a week of limiting sleep hours to five per night!
As testosterone is crucial in muscle building and fat loss, we can see how important good sleep hours are. Not just getting seven to nine hours, but sleeping as early as possible, too.
It’s been said that every hour of sleep caught before midnight is worth two hours after it!
3. Sleep Impacts The Intensity Of Your Workouts
Sleep is a big lever, affecting your workouts and levels of performance.
When your body suffers from sleep deprivation, your endurance levels are greatly reduced, and you get tired faster.
So now, you probably have a clear idea of the HUGE impact sleep has on your muscle building process…
Poor Sleep, Poor Gainz
So, is 6.5 hours of sleep good for muscle building? No, at least not at the optimal level.
When you don’t sleep well enough, it’ll affect your workout performance as well as your muscle gains.
Sure, you might see some gains, especially as a beginner. Or, if you’re a young guy with soaring natural T levels…
… but someone putting in as much effort as you (or even less) with the right sleeping habits and hygiene will build muscle faster, better, and more sustainably.
“How Many Quality Sleep Hours Does The Average Guy Need?”
For a start, we suggest you aim to get at least seven hours of proper sleep per night.
Consider going to bed earlier. Have a sleep routine. Invest in sleep upgrades.
You’ll need less sleep if you go to bed earlier (say 9 or 10 P.M.) reiterating the “quality” hours before midnight idea. Addressing factors like lifestyle is also important, and so is reliable time management.
But for now, manage your sleep; don’t let it manage you.