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How Sleep Disorders Affect Men’s Health

Hayley Dawes
14 June 2022

Sleep is vital for everyone, but there are differences in sleep for men and women. Research has suggested that women tend to get more sleep, on average, than men. Work and family responsibilities can influence time spent sleeping.

There are many factors, such as hormone production, aging, or social and cultural differences, that influence how men and women sleep. Many men may not get enough quality sleep each night despite spending enough hours in bed. It may be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. These may be signs of a sleep disorder.

Sleep Disorders

When left untreated, sleep disorders can affect men’s health in many ways. Sleep disorders can impact everything from mood to fertility in men. Poor sleep can increase your risk of developing other health issues as well.

This slow-wave sleep is so crucial for physical restoration, while rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a lighter stage, is essential for restoring mental clarity and alertness. While both are important, a helpful strategy is to focus on consistent, unbroken sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more common in men than in women. OSA is a serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. When you have OSA, the lack of oxygen your body receives during sleep can have long-term consequences for your health. Untreated OSA increases your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and depression.

The amount of sleep you get can have an impact on your health, too. Research has found that men with too little and too much sleep seem to be at higher risk for infertility compared to those who get 7-8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can impact your mood and mental health. Sleep deprivation increases the probability of having depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Men are also more likely than women to have REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD). RBD occurs when you act out vivid dreams as you sleep. It occurs at a higher rate in people who have Parkinson’s disease or who may develop it later in life. 

How Can Men Get Better Sleep?

Simple daily habits, such as getting regular exercise, increasing daytime exposure to sunlight, and limiting screen time before bed can all help improve your sleep. Most men will sleep much better if they simply develop the habits of good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene consists of basic tips that help you develop a pattern of healthy sleep:

Ensure a sleep-friendly bedroom environment

Establish your sleep environment so it feels comfortable for you but keep it quiet and dark with a generally cooler temperature. Air conditioning, electric alarm clocks, light pollution from street lamps, blue night-lights, and electronic devices are notorious sleep saboteurs. For a good night’s sleep, you need to exercise a zero-tolerance policy against all light sources. 

Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m.

Caffeine doesn’t allow you to get into deep sleep, it keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. To avoid the “sleep-dampening” effects of caffeine, which has a half-life of 8 to 10 hours, shut down caffeine intake after 2 p.m.

Get 20 minutes of morning sunlight

Surprisingly, preparing for sleep should start as soon as you wake up in the morning. Exposure to morning sunlight is an essential component of our evolutionary heritage; it helps calibrate our 24-hour body clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. Put simply, more morning sun means better sleep at night.

Exercise your mind and body

Exercise will positively affect your sleep – a regular routine will help lead to better sleep in the long-term. Modern life has tied us to our cars, offices, and workstations. Being deskbound can lead to feelings of lethargy and fatigue through failing to oxygenate the body. Physical activity also releases ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins that are invigorating. Even short injections of activity can turbocharge energy levels.

Strike a health work-life balance

Many of us are quick to push everything else aside to satisfy our professional goals, even if it leaves us exhausted but striving for a healthy work-life balance is nothing to be smirked at. Achieving balance can help mitigate stress, reduce the risk of burnout and lead to a greater sense of wellbeing. Try to implement realistic boundaries on what you’re prepare to do at work and home. Leave work at work and prioritise your health and loved ones.

Take a hot shower 

A relaxing rinse under hot water increases your core body temperature and can improve your sleep. The drop in core body temperature (once you’re out of the shower) is a signal to produce melatonin. Melatonin makes you sleepy and regulates sleep and wake cycles.

Avoid stressful topics before bedtime

Stressful topics less than an hour or two before bedtime can affect deep sleep. It should come as no surprise that discussions about finances, or strongly worded work emails aren’t the most conducive to quality sleep. Instead of winding you down for sleep, they wind you up. Never discuss stressful or financial matters before bed and make it a rule not to check work emails 90-minutes before bed. Try to manage any emotional commotion before bed that may get between you and restful sleep.

Minimise alcohol before bed

While alcohol makes you feel sleepy, it also keeps you out of the deeper stages of sleep. It is likely to cause you to wake up during the night, and many people wake up too early after drinking alcohol in the evening. This may be a “rebound” from the use of alcohol, as it stays in your system for a long time after you have a drink. The human body needs an hour to metabolise one alcoholic beverage. Alcohol use can also worsen the severity of breathing problems during sleep, such as snoring.

Treat sleep apnea

When you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, it can cause breathing problems that wake you during the night and prevent you from remaining in deep sleep.

Try sleep-monitoring apps

Several apps help you track your sleep to provide insight on what may wake you up at night.