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Poor sleep health is linked with muscle dysmorphia: Study

ANI Feb 29, 2024

Getting adequate sleep is critical for our bodies to maintain basic health processes, and it is especially necessary for teenage and young adult development.

A recent study discovered a link between poor sleep and indications of muscle dysmorphia, a growing trend among young people.

The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, included over 900 adolescents and young adults. Over two weeks, participants who reported having more muscle dysmorphia symptoms reported getting fewer hours of sleep and having a harder time falling or staying asleep.

"Poor sleep can have significant negative impacts for adolescents and young adults, including increased negative mental health symptoms," said lead author Kyle T Ganson, PhD, MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

"Poor sleep among those who experience muscle dysmorphia symptoms is concerning as it may exacerbate the functional and social impairment these individuals commonly report, as well as increase suicidal thoughts and behaviours."

Prior research supports this cause for concern. Past studies indicate that, on average, adolescents and young adults are sleeping less than the recommended 7 to 10 hours per night.

A plethora of research has also found that poor sleep is a marker of mental health diagnoses and is associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Ganson and his colleague's study is the first to investigate the relationship between sleep and muscle dysmorphia.

The mechanisms connecting greater muscle dysmorphia symptomatology and poor sleep may be multifaceted, say the study's authors. For example, those who have greater intolerance for their appearance, who engage in obsessive thinking and who experience anxiety related to one's body and muscularity may experience impaired sleep.

Also, for some, sleep may be displaced by physical activity, as an individual engages in muscle-building exercise during the evening hours to not interfere with occupational responsibilities.

"Individuals experiencing symptoms of muscle dysmorphia may be more likely to use and consume dietary supplements that are marketed for improving workouts, increasing muscle mass, and accelerating muscle recovery," said Ganson.

"These products tend to have high levels of caffeine or other stimulants, which may negatively impact sleep. In addition, anabolic-androgenic steroids, which are commonly used among people with muscle dysmorphia, have also been shown to negatively impact sleep." 

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