How Much Sleep Do You Need To Build Muscle? (9 Studies)

sleep and muscle growth thumbnail

If you want to learn how to optimize your sleep to build muscle and lose fat as fast as possible… Then you need to read this article.

If there’s one aspect of building muscle and losing fat that’s most underrated, it’s definitely sleep.

sleep and muscle growth

According to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, roughly 63% of Americans say they aren’t getting sufficient sleep during the week.

…but the impact this has on your gains is likely much worse than you might think.

Sleep And Muscle Growth: What Does Science Say

Believe it or not, sleep may be the exact reason why others seem to progress much faster than you are. Or why you just aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for despite putting in the work.

The findings of a 2010 study by the American College of Physicians for example helps put this into perspective.

Researchers split subjects into two groups:

  • one that slept 8.5 hours per night (which is within the range of what most experts recommend)
  • another group that slept only 5.5 hours per night (which as noted earlier is pretty standard for many Americans nowadays)

Both groups were then put on a regulated calorie deficit for two weeks.

The result?

Well, as expected, both groups lost the same amount of weight given that their calorie deficit was equated for.

But what’s interesting is when you look at the composition of the weight they lost…

sleep and bodybuilding

…the sleep deprived group lost 60% more muscle mass and 55% less fat than the group that got adequate sleep.

Therefore indicating that sleep seems to have a powerful effect on not only muscle recovery, growth, and retention but also fat loss.

Now although the researchers didn’t test why exactly this was the case, other research does provide some insight.

The Effect of Sleep On Gains

1. Sleep helps prevents muscle breakdown and promotes fat loss.

As shown earlier, sleep seems to have a prominent affect in preventing muscle breakdown and promoting fat loss.

Although the mechanisms behind this is relatively unclear, a recent 2018 paper helps shed some light on the topic. Researchers analyzed the effects of one night of no sleep on 15 young men.

Here’s what their bodies experienced after that one night:

  • their muscles already showed signs of increased protein breakdown
  • their fat tissue had elevated levels of proteins and metabolites that are involved in promoting fat storage

bodybuilding sleep

After just one night! Which may help explain the findings of the study shown earlier.

2. Sleep impacts your testosterone levels.

To make matters worse, it’s also well known that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in anabolic hormones like testosterone.

In fact, a 2015 paper found that:

Day-to-day testosterone levels were significantly decreased by 10 to 15% in young men who underwent just 1 week of sleep restriction to 5 hours per night.

The results can be seen in the graph below:

…given that testosterone is an anabolic hormone that plays a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, we can see this becomes a problem.

3. Sleep affects your workout performance.

Not only does sleep affect your body on a cellular/hormonal level, but also significantly affects your workout performance.

In fact, research has shown that when sleep deprived the body tends to give up when it would otherwise normally be physically capable of pushing further.

Thus, you can see just how much of an impact sleep has on your gains.

…but just how much should you sleep in order to best support your muscle growth and fat loss efforts?

How Much Sleep Do You Need To Build Muscle?

Although this will vary individually, I’d suggest sticking with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendation. They suggest that you aim to get roughly 7 to 9 hours of sleep. With more active individuals requiring closer to the higher end or even slightly above this range.

So if you haven’t been sleeping enough according to this, I’d highly suggest you make an effort to do so for the reasons previously discussed.

What About Naps?

Although research does suggest that daytime naps may be beneficial to increase total sleep duration during periods where inadequate sleep is unavoidable…

…they should not be used as a regular substitute for nighttime sleep since it just doesn’t provide quite the same effects.

The next best thing you can do though is to improve the quality of your sleep and decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. This is beneficial regardless of if you can get enough sleep or not.

And in order to best do this, there’s a couple things that research suggests is optimal:

Improving Sleep Quality & Total Sleep Duration

1. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Coming in on top is improving your sleep hygiene. Quite a few studies (one, two, three ) have shown this to be effective at reducing the time required to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.

Some recommended strategies include:

  • avoiding any electronic use for at least 30 minutes before bed
  • using your bedroom strictly for sleep (and where the magic happens)
  • sticking to a consistent sleep/wake schedule everyday.

2. Avoid Caffeine Within 6 Hours Before Bed

Next, you’ll want to avoid ingesting caffeine shortly before bed.

One 2013 paper from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine actually found that:

Moderate caffeine ingestion 6 hours before sleep reduced total sleep time by 41 minutes. And moderate caffeine ingestion just 3 hours before sleep reduced total sleep time by 63 minutes.

…meaning that for those working out later in the evening, you’ll probably want to avoid taking pre-workout or anything with a relatively high amount of caffeine.

But all in all, the biggest takeaway from all of these studies is that nothing beats making sure your head is on your pillow for enough hours each night.

sleep and gains

So although you may get by just fine on less-than-optimal sleep, you’re likely doing a disservice to your hard earned gains in the gym.

Summary

To sum everything up for you, here are the main points to keep in mind:

how much sleep do you need summary

Now, sleep is just one of many factors (let alone your training and nutrition) that you’ll want to optimize if you’re seeking to build muscle and lose fat as quickly as possible.

And if you’re looking for a workout and nutrition plan that does this for you by combining all the research I do into a step-by-step program catered to your body type…

…such that you can transform your body as efficiently as possible AND maximize your efforts in the gym…

Then join the thousands of other members today by taking my body type quiz I have up in order to discover which program and which approach is best for you.

 

Anyways, that’s a wrap for this article – I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful! Don’t forget to give me a follow and connect with me on InstagramFacebook, and Youtube as well for more informative content. Cheers!

3 thoughts on “How Much Sleep Do You Need To Build Muscle? (9 Studies)”

  1. Hi Jeremy
    I have been training my 15 year old son, Benoit, throughout the winter, using your training programs and tips to develop him in preparation for the up coming flat water sprint kayak competition season. I wanted him to develop more muscle mass, develop goes lifting techniques and appreciate the benefits of training well, hard and intelligently. We have used your programs to improve and increase his strength and now we are changing over some of his weights program to work on more aspects of endurance, but retaining one strength training or heavy weights session per week in parallel to the endurance aspect.
    Benoit has improved his strength and size very noticeably throughout his training, and he enjoys the great gains that he has made. I share your videos and PDF`s with him and when he follows your advice his training is very positive and obviously beneficial to him. In school he is now known as ” muscles” , his clothes are now tight fitting and he is often complimented on his development when he trains at our local YMCA.
    Having just read your article about sleep this will give me more valid information to show him how he has to properly manage his sleep and develop a healthy sleep pattern, foregoing using his XBox, as we have been saying for months. Added to the sleep information I will also mention that it comes from Jeremy Ethier ,who, in my son’s eyes, is held in high esteem for his knowledge and training programs.

    Many thanks for all the great information you put out, you are my go to guy and I mention your site to people who ask my advice about their training methods and results. After all, my son’s physical development and visible gains are a live advertisement for your teachings.

    Regards

    Paul

  2. Michael Francis

    Strategies for shift workers? I’ve been a shift worker for more than 30 years and while I’ve trained throughout my life, working out on night shift sucks. Energy levels, motivation, and motor skills are always at rock bottom. My personal strategy is to sleep first, workout second. I have no big goals for my night shift workouts. I just need to put in some work. My job is not physical, so I need some low level activity just to feel better and sleep better.

  3. Do you think that you should increase sleep to 9 or 10 hours if you are having intense workouts? I often sleep 8.5 but still feel tired if I am having tough workouts.

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