I’d like to talk about two things that aren’t really discussed often together, but it’s something that science actually supports quite clearly: the effect that meditation has on sex drive and testosterone.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the testes in men, and by the ovaries in women. It’s fundamental for things like strength, muscle growth, and even your mood, and various other important physiological functions. Therefore, maintaining healthy testosterone levels is quite important.
The modern man has much less testosterone than men did in the past, and there’s a lot of controversy about what that reason is. But for the focus of this article I’m going to be looking at the link between meditation and testosterone, as well as with the steroid hormone cortisol, and how meditation’s effect on cortisol may in fact improve testosterone and more.
There was a four-month study involving people who were meditating compared to a control group of those who were not. What they found is that the people who are meditating for the four months in the study had a remarkably lower stress level. That’s not too much of a surprise since meditation is synonymous with lowering stress, which is exactly what they found.
However, when stress is lowered, cortisol (which is the steroid hormone in response to stress) is also lowered, and cortisol has an inverse relationship with testosterone. When cortisol decreases, testosterone and other hormones, like growth hormone, also increase. That’s why it’s really important for men to control their cortisol levels in order to keep their testosterone production at an optimal level.
It makes sense that in a stressful situation where cortisol is released, such as being chased by a tiger in Paleolithic times, that’s not going to be the optimal time to be concerned about procreating. Testosterone increases when cortisol decreases, which is when you’re relaxed. Many of us seem to be in this fight-or-flight mode of stress throughout the day, not because we’re being chased by tigers, but because we’re being bombarded by emails and messages and the work-related stress, which kind of mimics that relationship in nature.
Now, most people would think that a guy who’s in his mid-twenties would qualify as being at a pretty young age, but it’s at this age that testosterone levels actually begin to naturally decline over time. That’s not to say that some people won’t peak with their testosterone levels at 28 or 29, but around this age is when it starts to fall, gradually accumulating over time until you’re an old man. This is why it’s important to become slightly more self aware about your environment, your habits, and how that may be affecting your hormones.
So at around this age (24, 25, 26), DHEA, which is a precursor for both testosterone and estrogen in men and women, begins to decline. Studies have shown quite clearly that increasing DHEA levels also increases testosterone. One really interesting study showed that long-term practitioners of meditation had 40% higher DHEA levels than the control group, which is a fascinating and huge difference when you really think about. Considering that meditation is merely sitting down focusing on breathing and emptying your thoughts, the relationship there seems to be quite profound and significant. And it’s not something where the effects are sort of borderline, it’s pretty clear that it does work and that DHEA increases from meditation long-term.
Sleep is quite important to consider as well. We have different sleep cycles, we have non-rapid-eye movement, and we have rapid-eye-movement sleep. REM sleep, or rapid-eye-movement sleep, is quite important, and it’s something that people have a dysfunction with commonly.
Testosterone seems to have an interesting relationship with REM sleep. What scientists have found is that testosterone peaks during REM sleep and then seems to stay the same until you wake up. It’s known that meditation has really really good effects on your sleep for a number of reasons. It’s been shown that meditation helps to secrete melatonin, which is the sleeping hormone, especially if you meditate at night. Nighttime meditation helps keep cortisol down, which does not need to be high before bed. You have a natural circadian rhythm, and cortisol is released in the highest amount in the morning, while it’s released in the lowest amounts at night while you’re trying to relax. At that time, melatonin is released instead, so meditation helps to release melatonin.
When you meditate, you also learn to breathe better. You learn to use your nose and do nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, and you learn to control your breathing through your diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing is really important for getting a deep sleep, and it’s been shown to have pretty important implications for the quality of your sleep.
The way you breathe when you sleep is so much more important than people think. If you’re not sleeping well enough your cortisol levels shoot way up, even when you’re sleep-deprived by a few hours, and as we learned, when your cortisol goes up, your testosterone goes down.
So in theory, if meditation helps you get a better and deeper sleep, it’s going to help control and regulate your cortisol levels. It may also improve your REM sleep. Improving these two factors by meditating can have a major effect on improving testosterone levels.
In closing, meditation is fantastic, and it’s probably one of the most profound habits I’ve added into my life for a long time. I once thought that exercise was the best thing that ever happened to me, but meditation is on par with the the effects that exercise had on my life.
So if you are not meditating, or not taking it seriously, you might want to consider it. It’s a great way to increase and optimize your hormones, decrease your cortisol, improve your libido and sex drive, and increase your testosterone, all of which are really important for life satisfaction in general.
Testosterone is also necessary for muscle strength, performance, endurance, and for our moods as well. This is why it’s important to be able to regulate our cortisol levels and find ways to increase our testosterone.
So meditate! Do it. Try it. You’ll be glad that you did.