MEN'S HEALTH MONTH: ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?

June is Men's Health Month and we wanted to give some attention to a part of a healthy lifestyle that often is overlooked: SLEEP. Are you getting enough sleep? Millions of men, young and old, will eat right, exercise, avoid smoking, get to the doctor on a regular basis, and generally take great care of themselves, but never consider how a lack of sleep could be affecting them.

According to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than ⅓ of adults in the United States are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

When asking "Are you getting enough sleep?", there are an endless number of reasons why we don’t get enough sleep and most have very simple solutions. Getting more sleep is not just a convenience...it’s a necessity for a healthy life for men of all ages. How many hours of sleep do I need, you ask? According to the National Sleep Foundation, Adults 18-64 require 7-9 hours of sleep a night, while adults over the age of 65 require only 7-8 hours. Having the proper bedding does not hurt either, so making sure that you have a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillow can only help. 

Determining how to get better sleep starts at looking at what is keeping you up. Let’s look at some of the causes of sleep loss, shall we?

Technology and the benefits of sleep 

In the Technological Age in which we currently reside, we are bombarded with a constant barrage of emails, chats, texts, videos, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tweets, advertisements, 24 hour news cycles, and a million other distractions. In the age of binge-watching entire seasons of shows in one evening, we don’t often stop and think about how that might be affecting us when bedtime rolls around. You are processing multiple storylines and characters while responding to Instagram posts and emails from your boss late into the evening. You are living and dying by your Facebook feed and Twitter stream with earbuds in, playing your favorite podcast while searching Netflix on your tv for new episodes to binge watch and then…..you realize it’s time to lay down and get some sleep. Yeaaaaaah, right.

This is an insane amount of information for one person to take into their brains every night before bed. When your world is a big full page of multiple different .gifs looping 24/7, getting some rest is the only way to stay sane. 

Could this be affecting your sleep? Yes....the answer is a resounding YES! There are many benefits to all of this technology, but the benefits of sleep greatly outweigh all of them.

WEIGHT AND SLEEP: CLOSELY RELATED

One side effect of a lack of sleep for adult males is a high risk for weight gain. Researchers at the University of Chicago ran tests that showed that people without the proper amount of sleep are more apt to choose unhealthier food...and eat more of it. We have all had those nights when we were out late and the normal bowl of oatmeal or fruit just isn’t going to cut it in the morning. We want Grease, with a capital G. Now, imagine doing that every day and you have a serious risk of obesity and further health issues. Finding out how to sleep better could help you maintain a healthy weight or help you lose weight if needed. So, if you are concerned about your weight, the first question that should be asked is, "Are you getting enough sleep?". 

Concentration and Sleep

Anyone who has had that sleepless night that has to go to work and try to focus on their daily tasks knows that it sure feels like it affects your decision making and concentration. But, does it?

Washington State University conducted a study in which they split participants into two groups; one that was allowed to rest as normal while the second group went without sleep for a period of time. While many of the initial tests that they were given proved that both groups were capable of performing well on the tests despite some having a sleep deficit, when the directions were reversed, the sleep deprived group had “almost zero success”.

They were just not able to wrap their sleep-deprived minds around the directions. Now, although your daily life may not be this extreme, if you are depriving yourself of sleep daily, you may very well be a fraction as sharp as you are supposed to be. Your concentration, your drive, and your general well-being could very well be drastically affected. And depending on what you do for a living, Gents, that could mean that a formula gets entered incorrectly for the Excel presentation for the boss, which is no big whoop in the grand scheme of things. 

But if you’re a surgeon, an air traffic controller, or run a motor vehicle or heavy equipment for a living, someone could get hurt….or worse. Following standard sleep recommendations for adults is a great way to keep yourself on top of everything and keep those around you safe! 

But Seriously, fellas: Your Health and Sleep

So, obviously, for your day to day life, living in a zombie-like sleepless haze is less than ideal. But a lack of sleep for an adult male can have some some serious repercussions on your health. There are multiple studies out there that link a lack of sleep to a whole host of health issues, such as Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, and Diabetes.No one wants any of those issues, so if getting a little more sleep could help to curb them from being the reason for doctor’s visits in the future, it’s definitely worth it, right? Right.So, now that we have properly scared you, let us offer some suggestions. If you are wondering if you are getting enough sleep, here are a 6 tips on how to sleep better. 

Social media and Sleep

It’s been said many times, many ways, but we are slaves to our devices. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluded in a 2013 study that “the amount of media used in the bedroom in the hour before bed was significantly related to difficulty falling asleep.

”A good rule of thumb is to close down the Facebook and the Twitter of the world an hour before bedtime. All of that stimulation is a terrible way to calm the mind before working on that whole “sleeping-thing”. If you’re going to use your phone before bed, try looking for articles, blogs, or iBooks that are a bit more like “reading” and not scrolling, commenting, and interacting. 

Essentially, you want to give your mind a singular focus to let it wind down. Getting angry about a political Facebook post from your aunt or arguing about who the best film Batman was on Facebook are both terrible ways to calm down and get to sleep.

That said, even if you are using your phone or tablet for more of a “passive” use, such as browsing the Internet or watching videos, just having the device in front of your face can cause difficulty getting to sleep. Many studies have shown that the “blue light” produced by our phones cuts down on the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that your body produces to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you are having a hard time winding down and getting some shut eye, maybe it’s time to pick up one of those, uh..what are they called? Oh yeah: BOOKS. Like in the olden days…. in the 90s.

Caffeine and Sleep

We all love our go-go juice in the mornings, afternoons and, unfortunately, into the evenings. And most people understand that if you have a latte at 7:30 pm, it could affect your sleeping patterns a few hours later. But, that afternoon pick-me-up could be drastically affecting your sleep as well. If you enjoy an energy drink or jug of coffee at 2:00 pm when the deep desire for an afternoon snooze hits you, the caffeine in that drink could still be affecting you a lot when it is time for bed many hours later. 

Try setting a caffeine cut-off hour much earlier in the day to allow time for it to get out of your system before you lay your head down at night. Also, that diet soda that you enjoy with your dinner may seem harmless, but it may be loaded down with caffeine that will have you jacked up for hours. If the answer to the question of "Are you getting enough sleep?" is no, the answer may be in the bottom of that coffee cup. 

Alcohol and Sleep

For millions of men, having a beer or highball in the evening while watching the game or binging on Game of Thrones is normal, but it could be affecting your sleep a great deal. In a study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, they found that while alcohol may help someone to relax and initially get to sleep, there is a “rebound effect” after your nightcap has been metabolized, It can actually cause sleep disruption and ultimately, make you sleep worse. You may be getting to sleep sipping on that long neck or cocktail, but the quality of the sleep that you’re getting may be much worse than if you had abstained.

If a drink helps you to relax, we suggest trying some chamomile tea to brew up and relax with a few nights a week. It’s a lot better for you and will lull you into the slumber that you have been needing.

The News and Sleep

In the 24 hour news age that we are in, it’s easy to have the news updates rolling in on your phone 24/7 while having your chosen network on the tv with 5 experts arguing about a news story with 4 news tickers going in opposite directions at the bottom of the screen. While it’s great to be informed for the modern man, all of that news is still going to be there in the morning. Turn it off and get your mind off of everything going on in the world and focus on getting some rest.

Tv and Sleep

Some people do require some entertainment to be able to sleep, whether it be music or television. We suggest maybe going with something that is a lot less engaging than what you would normally listen to or watch. If you’re going to watch television, the more mind-numbing, the better. And for music, maybe go with some calm classical music. Listening to the same music that you would listen to while you are at the gym is playing a mean trick on your brain. Speaking of working out….

Exercise and Sleep

Getting your workout in is a great thing, but try to time it out where your body has a few hours to calm down before you get in bed for the evening. Getting a quick run in and getting your heart racing right before bed time is not a great plan at all. Honestly, it’s sort of defeating the purpose. You can work out all that you like, but without sleep, you’re compounding the health issues and risks.

Simplest Answer is the Best Answer...

Gents, long story short: Stepping away from all of the medical facts and research, there is a very good homespun reality to consider: If you are feeling down, tired, anxious, getting headaches, not eating right, gaining weight, etc., try to increase the number of hours that you are sleeping just a bit. It might fix what ails you.  Think of yourself as that smartphone; your bed is that power cord, and without that 8 hours of charging, you’re not going be much good to yourself or anyone else.

For your health, fellas….. get some sleep.

For those new parents not getting a lot of sleep due to a newborn keeping you up, that is a whole other ball game. But, don't worry, we have some help for you on this blog as well, just click over to this article from  eLuxury.

Do you have any ideas on how to improve sleep? What has worked for you? Do you struggle with sleep? Start the discussion below in the comments section!