The most common sleep problems for men

With both Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day on the calendar for this week, it’s time to turn the focus onto male sleep quality and how to improve it.

Sleep disorders can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender or location. However, when it comes to sleep health, and healthcare as a whole, men don’t have the best track record of addressing issues head on. In 2018, the National Pharmacy Association reported that men are less likely to visit the pharmacy when they are sick, and only visit the pharmacy four times a year on average, compared to 18 visits for women. What’s more, nine out of 10 men don’t like to trouble their GP unless they are suffering from a serious problem.

But many problems can grow more serious if left unchecked, and that includes sleep disorders. This Men’s Health Week, we’re taking a closer look at some of the most common sleep disorders impacting men.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea occurs when the back of the throat collapses during sleep, as the tongue falls back and blocks the airway resulting in breathing difficulties and a fractured night’s sleep. Because sleep apnoea is more likely to impact larger people and those with thicker necks – and men are, on the whole, larger than women – men are particularly at risk.

The primary signs of sleep apnoea are loud snoring at night and excessive tiredness during the day. Over time it can become hard to concentrate during the day, and the lack of good quality sleep can make you more at risk of high blood pressure, lung disease and diabetes.

Sleep apnoea is most often treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). This provides a gentle and steady flow of air through a mask, keeping the airway open. Speak to your GP if you think you might be suffering from sleep apnoea.

Jet lag and shift work

Statistically speaking, men are more likely to work in roles that require travelling working night shifts. These factors can quickly wreak havoc on your sleep health, making it difficult to maintain a set schedule. Working with rotating shifts can leave you constantly trying to reset your internal body clock, resulting in symptoms such as finding it hard to sleep at night and feeling severely tired during the day.

Delayed sleep-wake cycle

You don’t need to travel or do shift work to be at risk of a disrupted sleep schedule. A delayed sleep–wake cycle can be the result of busy work and social schedules. This causes men to delay going to sleep, making it more difficult to wake up in the morning. What’s more, working up until (and often after) lights out prolongs your exposure to bright lights and screens, which can inhibit your release of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it more difficult to relax and unwind when your head finally hits the pillow. This means it may take even longer to fall asleep, throwing your internal clock even further out of sync.

By prioritising sleep, you can take smart steps towards a better night’s rest, which in turn can improve your productivity during the day. Give yourself a curfew when it comes to work, smartphone screens and other stimulants, instead opting to read, meditate or find your own way to unwind in the hour leading up to bedtime. You should also avoiding working in the bedroom, saving it as a place that’s solely for rest.

By taking sleep health seriously, men can improve the quality of their sleep, and their overall, in the long run.

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