Okay… I'm going to start by restating the nearly obvious bit of brilliance dispensed by bodybuilding experts that goes like this:
'In order to build muscle, we need to get plenty of sleep.'
Yet I'm going to follow that up immediately with a caveat:
'Sleep requirements vary among individuals and are probably a largely hereditary phenomenon.'
I feel compelled to clear that up after seeing more than a couple 'muscle building and sleep' articles recommending eight to nine hours of sleep per night for bodybuilders.
Eight to nine hours of sleep - every night? I'd need shots of opium to do that. I average six and a half. I might get seven for a few nights in a row if I'm pushing the envelope of energy expenditure during my waking hours. The only time I sleep eight is after several nights of sleeping far below six.
Sleep requirements for muscle building vary from person to person - just like sleep requirements in general.
Is it an age thing? I doubt it. When I was in my twenties, I averaged seven hours per night. A former colleague of mine - a guy in his mid sixties - told me he slept no less than nine or ten hours each night. I wondered how that was possible. My body just won't stay in dreamy-land that long. And I hardly consider it a disadvantage.
Speaking of 'muscle building and sleep', I remember a magazine interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger from back in the eighties. At the time, he was at the start of his movie career. He told the interviewer that he never needed more than six hours of sleep per night. He thought that getting eight hours was a waste of time. He said "just think what you could do with that extra two hours each day if you change from sleeping eight to sleeping six. You could study; you could learn a second language within a year."
Spoken like a true achiever. He's one who obviously never valued muscle building as a be-all/end-all achievement; was never a one-dimensional bodybuilder.
Yet too little sleep is detrimental to performance of any kind; physical, mental, and especially those skills calling for the combination of both. Performance diminishment in bodybuilding usually manifests itself in lackluster workouts at the gym. This, of course, can negatively affect bodybuilding progress.
But recuperation between workouts takes an equally negative hit from sleep deprivation. Deep and thorough sleep promotes growth hormone release by the hypothalamus. Since growth hormone helps rebuild tissue and burn body fat, its suppression is antagonistic to muscle building and general fitness. It's a major component in the 'muscle building and sleep' equation.
And because excessive sleep deprivation also tends to raise cortisol levels (a catabolic hormone), the double whammy of too much of a bad thing and not enough of a good one can eventually send your inter-workout recuperation into a tailspin.
So how should you treat the 'muscle building and sleep' issue; how much sleep do you need to build steady muscle?
Most of us can intuitively gauge when we're not sleeping enough just by monitoring our threshold for orneriness; those moments when we have some awareness of empathy for the screaming infant that just needs a nap. Plainly, it's something you can only determine on a personal level through feedback.
And if your body tells you that you don't need eight to ten hours every day, listen to it and not the "experts" who tell you otherwise.