Sleep Tips for Father’s Day—Looking at Sleep Health Issues for Men
Father’s Day is right around the corner. To celebrate, let’s explore the many aspects of sleep health that are unique to men. In this article, we will explore gender differences when it comes to sleep physiology, sleep disorders, and other medical issues that can be specific to the fathers in our lives.
Before we delve into these differences, it’s important to know the aspects of sleep that don’t differ between males and females. The typical sleep need is no different between genders. Once you reach adulthood, the average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. There are genetic factors that determine how much sleep you need and this cannot be changed. Ensuring you get the full amount of sleep you need is vital for daytime performance including energy, mood, and attention.
One difference in sleep physiology is that men have a slight preference for later bedtimes than women. This is based on limited research and more studies are needed. It also applies to the population as a whole, but there are considerable individual differences in preferred bed and wake time that are determined by our internal body clock (aka the circadian rhythm). Those that wish to shift their body clock and become more of a “morning person” can do this by limiting lights and screen time for 30 minutes before bed, and by getting lots of bright light exposure first thing in the morning.
Testosterone levels are also tied to sleep. Studies show that sleep restriction can cause a drop in testosterone levels. In one study looking at healthy young men, decreasing sleep time to five hours per night for one week caused a 10-15% drop in testosterone levels. We know that testosterone plays an important role in bone mass, muscle mass and strength, as well as libido.
Sleep Disorders: Sleep Apnea and REM Behavior Disorder
There are two notable sleep disorders that are more common in men than women. The first disorder is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes too narrow while asleep, thereby leading to insufficient air exchange and frequent awakenings from sleep. A large study showed that 24% of men and 9% of women have sleep apnea. About half of adults that snore regularly could have sleep apnea. This disorder has a variety of health consequences, including increased incidence of heart attack and stroke. Interestingly, men with erectile dysfunction are twice as likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea as those without erectile dysfunction. Treatment of sleep apnea may improve this dysfunction.
The other sleep disorder more common in men is REM behavior disorder. This is a dangerous disorder in which the body acts out dreams at night. This can lead to injury for the person or for their bed partner. It could also be the sign of a more serious underlying neurological disorder. Seek help from a sleep physician if you feel you may have this condition.
Sleep can be different for men and have wide ranging effects on overall health and well-being. This Father’s Day, consider sharing this article with the fathers in your life and give them the best gift of all—good sleep health! Wishing all the fathers out there a very happy and restful Father’s Day.