When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on your day? If you’re like most Canadian men, chances are it wasn’t this morning. You’ve probably heard by now that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, and that getting less (and funny enough, more) sleep can lead to a host of health risks like lower testosterone, poor concentration and even stroke. But what about guys who walk that knife’s edge between sleep deprivation and the bare minimum? Can some men really survive on six hours of sleep a night?
It turns out the amount of sleep you need depends on your age, genes and lifestyle. Earlier this year, the U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation brought together sleep specialists from every corner of the medical world and released a “Recommended Sleep” chart. For guys between ages 26 and 65, there are no surprises: you’re looking at 7 to 9 hours as your ideal sleeping window. But there are still some people who can sneak in just six hours of shuteye each night and still kick some ass. Another sub-group of (unlucky?) dudes needs a whopping 10 hours each night to function properly.
But what about you? Let’s start with what we know about sleep patterns. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian men report they sleep less than women on average. The reasons behind this phenomenon aren’t fully understood, but we do know things like young kids, work stress and a lack of exercise can eat away at length and quality of ZZZ’s.
We also know sleep deprivation lowers testosterone levels in men (you can thank Peterborough’s Brock University Sleep Research Laboratory for that recent discovery). If you’re still not getting it: lower testosterone = erectile dysfunction. Have we got your attention now?
The benefits of figuring out your individual sleep window are beginning to shape up. So how do you do it?
- Keep sleeping notes. Write down when you go to bed and when you wake up each morning. If you’re too lazy to monitor your slumber, there are awesome digital wristbands that track your sleeping pattern through apps (FitBit One and Jawbone Up are great). Once you’ve figured out your sleep time, take a minute to assess your mood when you first get up and a few times throughout the day. If you’re irritable or finding it hard to concentrate, try setting your bedtime back by half an hour for a week. Repeat as necessary.
- Cut back on caffeine. This will be a challenge, but if you can stop masking your fatigue with coffee, you’ll figure out pretty quickly if your minimum sleep time is on point.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve got young ones at home, you’re probably LOL’ing at the mere suggestion of a proper night’s sleep. For the rest of us, things like longer work days, a lack of exercise and even a crappy commute are taxing on sleep quality. Take the YouCheck health tool, courtesy of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, to give you a starting point for evaluating your overall health. If you’re lacking in the exercise department or feeling wired from your work stress, even a 20-minute walk around the block can make a big impact on your sleep pattern.
Some guys can function fine on six hours of sleep a night, but your ideal sleep window depends on genetics and lifestyle. For most guys, seven to nine hours is the sweet spot. Keep track of your sleep pattern (or have an app do it for you) and take note of your mood for a true, individualized read on your ideal sleep time. Taking control of your sleep doesn’t take much!
1) Who gets any sleep these days? Sleep patterns of Canadians. Accessed July 11, 2015. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008001/article/10553-eng.htm#2
2) Cote, K.A., McCormick, C.M., * Geniole, S.N., * Renn, R.P., * MacAulay, S.D. (2013). Sleep deprivation lowers aggression and testosterone in men. Biological Psychology, 92: 249-56.
3) Sleeping over eight hours a day associated with greater risk of stroke. Accessed July 11, 2015. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225164004.htm
Are you trying to get more and better sleep? If so, we’ve got your back!
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