Sleep and Men’s Health
Snoozing is not losing
There are many of us who would love to never sleep. It’s nice to imagine everyone taking advantage of the nighttime hours without feeling weariness to relax or work more, do away with pesky biorhythms and adopt a free-flowing schedule. However, there is a good reason why we spend a third of our lives sleeping, and that reason is sanity and health. This is a special time when the body heals itself, and biological processes slow down, providing relief to all organs and systems in the body. It is believed that the brain uses this time to sort through and analyze all the information it gathers throughout the day, all while showing you fascinating dreams linked to the subconscious. We all know that sleep is important, but why is it so hard to get a good night’s sleep? In the U.S. alone, nearly 40 million people suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind, often suffering from both minor and major health effects.
Tens of millions more sleep less than they should and spend their workdays feeling sleepy and fatigued. As the traditionally stronger sex and breadwinner in a family, it is crucial for a man to get the right kind of sleep, and this article will explore why this is, as well as determine which approach they should take to this everyday process.
Not all hours of sleep are the same
To better understand how sleeping for different durations of time can affect you, you should understand that sleep is not a uniform process. It comes in stages. The first stage of sleep is often called the alpha stage, and it is associated with a very light sleep, drowsiness, and a tendency of waking up when disturbed. However, this stage of sleep is very short, lasting an average of 10 minutes, and is not associated with any dreams or significant rest, leaving the sleeper feeling like he didn’t sleep at all if he is disturbed in this phase. The second phase is a much deeper sleep. During this period, our breathing becomes regular, our heart begins to slow, our eyes stop moving, and muscle movement significantly decreases. We also stop responding to sounds or comprehending them, making it much more difficult for us to be woken up. This stage of sleep accounts for nearly half of our sleeping time.
In the third stage of sleep, our brain activity and physical indicators reach their lowest and slowest levels. This stage is associated with the process of memory consolidation, the first major display of dreams, and the manifestation of night terrors sleepwalking and sleep talking. The final stage of sleep is the most fascinating, bearing the name REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and this stage usually begins 70-90 minutes after falling asleep. This is the time when we experience dreams the most, our heart rate picks up, and our eyes begin moving rapidly. It’s important to know that sleep progresses in cycles, and each four-stage cycle can last up to two hours, after which the next begins and the stages alternate. This is why your reaction to waking up will differ greatly based on which stage of sleep your are woken up in, and this is also the reason why you sometimes remember dreams, while sometimes only come up with a blank slate.
What determines the quality of our sleep?
Contrary to popular belief, the degree to which you feel rested in the morning is not only decided by how long you sleep. We are taught that we must sleep at least 8 hours a night, but this is not a very good universal rule. After all, everyone has their own unique physiological qualities and requirements, so sleeping six hours may be more than sufficient for some while others still feel tired when they sleep 9 or 10 hours. Generally, children require more sleep than adults do, but this should not be taken as a universal rule, either. So what other factors determine the quality of our sleep? According to researchers, your sleeping environment plays a very important role. Sleeping in a room that is too hot, cold, noisy, light-filled can greatly reduce the quality of your sleep, along with the comfort of your bed. A bed that is too hard can cause back pains and muscle aches while a bed that is too soft or unsupportive may limit your movements and have the opposite effect.
Sleeping with a partner active in movement at night can also cause disturbances to sleep. Daily activities also play a very big role in how well you sleep. For example, dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep or feel rested in the morning while drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages can have a similar effect. Frequent travelers often have difficulty sleeping due to jet lag, which disrupts their biorhythms and strains the body. Many people experience the same effect when their time is set back or forward by an hour. Another big factor that influences the quality of your sleep is health problems. Sleep scientists have shown that test subjects who experience pains or illness such as arthritis have a harder time entering deep sleep, and spend much less time in this phase, thus limiting how rested they feel the next morning.
Problems and disorders
As a crucial part of our lives, it is unsurprising that all of us experience some kind of sleep problem at one time or another. Without a doubt, the most common sleep problems are sleeping too little or being unable to fall asleep, but there are in fact dozens of other very common problems.
Although it is sometimes unavoidable, lack of sleep can cause a variety of negative effects from minor and troublesome to very dangerous. At first, the symptoms of sleep deprivation are mildly bothersome. Subjects are irritable, unfocused, and moody throughout the day. If they do not get the sleep they need, symptoms become more serious. These people experience apathy, show little emotion, often speak slowly and have trouble remembering things or carrying out difficult tasks. Further sleep deprivation is very dangerous, causing lapses in attention, involuntary shifts to the sleeping state even while standing or doing simple activities, and irrational behavior. In the worst cases of sleep deprivation, people experience hallucinations.
Insomnia is the second major sleeping problem people deal with. This condition makes it very hard for people to fall asleep of stay asleep. In the long term, insomnia can cause depression, heart disease, and memory problems.
Sleep apnea is another very common problem millions of people deal with. Many people call it snoring, but it actually refers to any kind of hindrance to breathing during sleep. Considering the vital importance of the breathing process, the risk sleep apnea poses to health should not be underestimated.
Narcolepsy is another sleep problem that is not as common as those previously mentioned but is still quite prevalent all over the world. Those who suffer from narcolepsy have disturbed sleep cycles, causing them to sometimes feel sleepy during the day and restless at night. It is also often confused for hypersomnia, which causes people to feel sleepy and tired at inappropriate times, even after getting a full night’s rest.
Other sleep disorders include restless leg syndrome, bedwetting, sleep talking, sleep walking, tooth grinding, night terror, and exploding head syndrome. Sometimes, sleep disorders are linked to a host of behavioral disorders and psychiatric conditions.
Another problem in the bedroom
While all of the problems described above are a significant cause for concern, and all result in varying health factors, you should pay special attention to the lack of sleep as the consequences of this problem are the most profound. Besides making you too tired for nighttime activities like sex, lack of sleep can have another shocking effect on your sex life. When your body is in a tired and sleep deprived state, you tend to go for foods that will give you a boost of energy, such as snacks and caffeinated beverages. This kind of diet is a well-known culprit for weight gain, and when coupled with a sleep-deprived and poorly functioning metabolism, you are on your way to gaining some significant weight, at least if you make the shortage of sleep and sweet binging a trend. As surprising as it may sound, this can also cause you to become impotent. Weight gain is almost always associated with atherosclerosis – a narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque.
When the arteries of a certain area of your body (like the genitalia) become clogged, this limits blood flow, which is the main requirement for a solid erection. As you can see, getting a lack of sleep is rarely dangerous as an isolated incident, but if you make it a norm, you could find yourself with unwanted body fat and an unsatisfied partner in the bedroom.
Do not take sleep lightly
As you have now learned, getting a good sleep is not as simple as lying down for eight hours. To make sure that your sleep is restful and fulfilling, you should make sure you sleep in a comfortable and disruption-free environment, regulate your daily activities to keep up a healthy biorhythm, and make sure to sleep just enough to fit your body’s preferences – not too much or too little. If you find yourself dealing with sleeping problems like sleep apnea or insomnia, you should not ignore them or choose a temporary solution like sleeping pills (which don’t even leave you well rested in the morning). There has been enough research conducted in the sphere of nocturnal health to come up with viable solutions to these problems, so all you need to do in these cases is follow the doctor’s orders.