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Inadequate sleep patterns may lead to muscle dysmorphia, study finds alarming link Health News


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 more than 900 adolescents and young adults. Over two weeks, participants who reported more symptoms of muscle dysmorphia reported getting fewer hours of sleep and having difficulty falling or staying asleep.

“Poor sleep can have significant negative consequences for adolescents and young adults, including negative mental health symptoms,” said lead author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, assistant professor in the Factor-Inventus Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto.

“Poor sleep among those who experience muscle dysmorphia symptoms may exacerbate functional and social impairments commonly reported by these individuals, as well as increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

Previous research supports this cause for concern. Past studies indicate that, on average, teens and young adults sleep less than the recommended 7 to 10 hours per night.
A plethora of studies have also found that poor sleep is a marker of mental health diagnoses and is associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression and psychosis. The study by Ganson and colleagues is the first to investigate the relationship between sleep and muscle dysmorphia.

The mechanisms linking greater muscle dysmorphia symptoms and poor sleep may be multifaceted, the study authors said. For example, people who have high intolerance to appearance, who engage in obsessive thoughts, and who feel anxious about their body and muscles may have sleep problems.

Also, for some, physical activity may displace sleep, as a person engages in muscle-building exercises in the evening to avoid interfering with professional duties.

“Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of muscle dysmorphia may be more likely to use and consume dietary supplements that are marketed to improve workouts, increase muscle mass and accelerate muscle recovery,” says Ganson.

“These products contain high levels of caffeine or other stimulants, which can have a negative effect on sleep. Additionally, anabolic-androgenic steroids, which are commonly used in people with muscle dysmorphia, have also been shown to have a negative effect on sleep.”