WESTCHESTER, Ill.— For many men, sleep is just one more thing at the bottom of the list of all that needs to be done in a day. Those with a family have an especially daunting task of trying to balance the needs of their children and spouse with demands from other angles, particularly the workplace. In the midst of all these activities, a lot of these men tend to cut back on their sleep. As Father’s Day approaches, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reminds all dads of the importance of a good night’s sleep, that sleeping well enables one to feel, think and perform better and that enough rest can help maximize one’s time and energy during the day.
Lawrence Epstein, MD, AASM past president, medical director of Sleep HealthCenters in Brighton, Mass., and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that men, in general, are getting less sleep and less refreshing sleep.
“Over the past 50 years, average sleep time has decreased by one-and-a-half to two hours each night,” said Epstein. “There are more things to distract people — work, television, the Internet — and people are choosing these things instead of sleep, to their detriment. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to problems with work performance, increases the risk of automobile accidents, and increases the risk for certain conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and weight gain.”
According to Dr. Epstein, there are many men who are unable to get quality sleep even though they spend enough time in bed each night. It may take them a long time to fall asleep. Their sleep may be disrupted and broken. They may sleep through the night but still feel tired the next day. These, said Dr. Epstein, are all signs of a sleep disorder.
Most men who have a sleep disorder are unaware of it. Even when they are aware, many times they will not seek help for it, noted Dr. Epstein.
Sleep disorders that are common among men include the following:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep related breathing disorder that causes one’s body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep, which prevents air from getting into the lungs. The primary signs of OSA are daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. OSA also increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, stroke and heart failure. Men are twice as likely as women to have OSA.
- Men who work rotating, early morning or night shifts often suffer from shift work disorder . His schedule requires him to work when his body wants to sleep. Then he has to try to sleep when his body expects to be awake. This causes him to have trouble sleeping and to be severely tired.
- Inadequate sleep hygiene, or “bad sleep habits”, involves the things that a person normally does every day. These habits keep one’s sleep from being refreshing, and can also keep one from feeling alert during the day.
- Narcolepsy describes people who suffer from extreme sleepiness. It can cause one to suddenly fall asleep. These “sleep attacks” can happen while eating, walking or driving.
- Delayed sleep phase disorder is when a person can only fall asleep a couple hours or more later than normal. Busy work and social schedules can cause some men to get in the habit of going to bed very late.
- Jag lag, which is suffered by those who often travel long distances by airplane. A long trip quickly puts someone in a place where he needs to sleep and wake at a time that is different than what his internal body clock expects.
On behalf of the AASM, Dr. Epstein offers the following sleep hygiene tips for all men:
- Get out of bed at same time each morning.
- Make your bedroom cool and comfortable.
- Don’t stay in bed and try to sleep. If, in 10-15 minutes, you are struggling to fall asleep, get up and move to another room and do something distracting, but not stimulating. Read or perhaps listen to soft music.
- Use the bedroom for sleep and sex. This is not the place to pay bills, watch TV, eat, etc.
- Don’t clock-watch.
- Avoid alcohol near bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Relax before bed and allow yourself time to unwind.
Not sleeping well can lead to a number of other problems. Fathers who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have a depressed mood, attention and memory problems, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.
On average, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well-rested.
Dr. Epstein advises those who suspect they have a sleep disorder to see a sleep specialist at a facility accredited by the AASM. Detecting and treating a sleep disorder can cause a dramatic improvement in your sleep. This will allow you to sleep your best at night and feel your best during the day, said Epstein.
“Making sure you get enough sleep and correcting any sleep disorders will make you feel more energetic, improve your work performance and improve your overall health,” added Epstein.
For a listing of AASM-accredited facilities in your area, visit www.SleepCenters.org.
AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research.
To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9317, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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