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Sleep is an essential human function. Sleep allows our physical body to rest and recover from the events of the day. It also helps to recharge our brain and mind, even supporting memory and learning. Sleep is crucial to survival and overall well-being. One night of sleep deprivation can impair mood, memory and judgment. Chronic sleep complaints can contribute to a range of health issues, including:
• Weight gain
• Elevated blood pressure
• Heart disease
• Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
• Poor sex drive
• Depression and other mood disorders
These changes are thought to occur because of a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands, which are situated above the kidneys. Its release is controlled by the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary glands, regulating when and how much should be released by the adrenal glands.
Typically, a slight rise in cortisol during the day time helps wake us up and get going for the day. As night falls, so do cortisol levels so that we feel calm rather than alert before bed. When released, cortisol triggers a variety of bodily changes such as increased heart rate, rise in blood sugar, rapid breathing, and heightened senses. All these changes can help you deal with a temporary stressful situation or be productive during the day time. However, if cortisol levels remain high in the evening, the body remains in an alert state, making it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.
Men’s Health and Sleep
Pre-existing health conditions, exercise, food and drink consumption, and stress management can all impact healthy sleep patterns, especially in men.
Men are more prone to cardiovascular disease which can negatively impact sleep. In particular, obstruction sleep apnea, whereby breathing is restricted during sleep predominantly affects overweight men. This condition can cause consistent night time interruptions, leaving men feeling exhausted even after eight or nine hours of sleep.
Another factor that affects men’s sleep is alcohol. Alcohol consumption, which is typically higher in men, can interfere with sleep quality. Alcohol does have a sedative effect, helping you initially fall asleep, but having a nightcap can reduce overall sleep quality. Studies show alcohol consumption before bed reduces deep sleep during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep.
A lack of sleep, especially over the long term can lead to stress. Feeling of restlessness, irritability, mood changes and reduced alertness can occur even after one night of poor sleep. Alternatively, feeling stressed can further lead to inadequate sleep, resulting in a vicious cycle where you may be feeling tired and stressed. Committing to a better night time routine and tackling stress benefit one another.
Tips to reduce stress and improve sleep:
1. Make sure your bedroom is your sleep sanctuary, avoid setting up your office or conducting work in the bedroom. Leave work commitments outside of the bedroom. Keep the bedroom clutter free, a slightly cool temperature and dark while preparing for sleep.
2. Find healthy outlets for stress. Reach out to a family member, a trusted friend or healthcare professional to help you cope with stress. Unmanaged stress creates more stress, leading to a host of health complaints including poor sleep. Confide and seek help if stress is keeping you up at night. Tackling stress head on and finding healthy coping strategies can keep cortisol levels in check, which can contribute to healthy sleeping patterns.
3. Avoid caffeine, tobacco and exercise before bedtime. Instead, develop a relaxing night time routine such as reading a light-hearted book, meditation and sipping on a warm cup of chamomile tea.
4. Prioritize your sleep by trying to get between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Set a bed time and stick to it, even on weekends. Maintaining a consistent routine with regards to wake time can really help you feel productive during the day, reducing stress levels overall.
5. Tackling your health, by addressing pre-existing conditions such as sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease and obesity with diet and lifestyle changes can also contribute to optimal sleep.
Men, fluff those pillows and hit the covers. Reclaim a good night’s rest to benefit your overall health.
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