Like most things to do with the body men and women run slightly differently, and sleep is no exception. Men face different challenges when it comes to getting a healthy night of sleep.
Sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy life. When we sleep, we heal damaged cells in our bodies; we boost our immune system; we recharge our heart and cardiovascular system and our minds get to process all the activities from the day. Without enough sleep our days are spent tired and irritable, we lose concentration and find learning new information harder, and physically we are not working at our optimum level. Annoyingly, our bodies also crave more unhealthy foods when we are tired.
So, what is standing in your way to getting enough sleep?
Life is busy with work, exercise, socialising, family bonding and good old chillout time that getting the sleep we need can be tough. But to live your life in peak condition sleep needs to be pushed higher up the list of priorities. In the same way that exercise is prioritised as it’s a way of keeping healthy and feeling good, sleep has the same worth and should be scheduled into your day in the same way.
If you really want to be your best self - make sure you get enough sleep.
We’ve all heard of the famous execs who run large companies or countries on 3-4hrs a sleep a night. Think Tom Ford, fashion designer; Martha Stewart, Chair of Martha Stewart Omnimedia. I’m sorry to say it but there is a good chance this 1% of the planet who can live with little sleep is not you. The average person needs 7-9 hours of shut-eye to be fully refreshed. Any less than this means we are building up a sleep debt that will need to be paid off (usually on the weekends and holidays) but before you do, you won’t be working anywhere near your full capacity.
To get a better idea of your personal sleep needs give yourself a week to sleep without an alarm clock (sleep off your debt first). You’ll find your body will wake up naturally after a consistent amount of sleep every night. This is your magic number! Once you know your sleep needs, you’ll never (unknowingly) need to be tired again.
Beyond Blue tells us that one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. Depression can affect all areas of your life, including your sleep. Depression can make it hard to fall asleep at night and even harder to get out of bed in the morning. If you are feeling down, talk to a mate, your doctor, or a therapist. Reach out for help now, so you can work at getting back to a healthy mind space, your sleep and so many other areas of your life will thank you for it. Remember you don’t need to handle it alone.
The good news is that men need on average 20 minutes less sleep per night than women; the not so good news is that men are three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a serious condition where a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. If untreated, the breathing can stop up to a hundred times a night, which can lead to a lack of oxygen for the brain and the rest of the body.
Below are some of the symptoms of sleep apnoea
The biggest predictor for sleep apnoea is a large BMI and a large neck size, especially if it’s accompanied by a generous beer belly. However, men who are not overweight can also get sleep apnoea. This can be caused by a person having a narrow upper airway and large tonsils or a blocked nose. People with small jaws or an overbite are also at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea.
What to do if you think you have it?
If you think you have sleep apnoea, see your doctor who may arrange for you to have a sleep study or send you to a sleep specialist.
As you get older more male-specific medical issues can start to impact sleep. For example, an enlarged prostate, which can affect more than half of men by the age of 60, can cause you to wake up throughout the night to pee. Other sleep disturbers are asthma, heart disease, arthritis, or medications. Talk to your doctor if you feel you aren’t working to your capacity because your sleep is being affected.
Sleep can be the first thing to be affected by stress and anxiety. If you’d like to speak with our wellbeing specialist about tailoring a Workplace Wellbeing module to your workforce, please contact us, or visit Altius Groups Employee Wellbeing Programs for further information.