While shrinkage is the bane of skinny dippers in chilly climates, the shriveling that happens when you get junk-deep in cold water is temporary embarrassment at best.
Worth worrying about: ball shrinkage, which can tank your T levels. And in a new video, Dr. Karan Raj, a surgeon with the UK’s National Health Service and popular social media doc, spells out how a lack of sleep can tiny-size your testicles.
Sleeping less than 5 hours or less per night ups your risk of testicular atrophy–when your testicles literally shrink, says Raj.
And it’s not just that your nuts look more like raisins than grapes. There are legitimate health concerns linked with shriveled balls.
“This is an actual reduction in testicular volume,” says Raj.
Your testicles are basically testosterone factories, Raj says. “And with less sleep comes less testosterone which means your factories have to downsize.”
Your body produces testosterone during REM sleep—the deep stage of slumber when you do most of your dreaming—which happens for the first time around 4 hours into your sleep cycle, Raj says.
If you fail to get quality shut-eye, you miss the window for optimal testosterone production and can’t replenish your hormones.
Even a few nights of crappy sleep can impact your T: a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found men who got less than 5 hours of sleep for one week showed a 10 to 15 percent decrease in overall testosterone production.
Small Testicles=Less Sperm
With less sleep, “Your testicular cells atrophy and the gonads shrivel up,” Raj says. This can hamper sperm production.
“80 percent of your testicular volume is made up of tube-like structures that create sperm cells,” Raj says.
Low sperm count also hurts your sex drive and can cause erectile dysfunction.
Without proper sleep, your body also increases the amount of anti-sperm antibodies that treat sperm like a virus and kill them, says Raj. Having these sperm-killing antibodies is uncommon but they develop in some men after they get a vasectomy or who suffer an injury to their testicles.
But not all hope is lost. “The good news for your balls is this is reversible as long as you sleep well,” Raj says.