Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing.
At a time when society is hyper-focused on health, the importance of a good night’s sleep is becoming clear.
In particular, male sleep patterns have been a cause for concern for a long time, and the current hustle culture has only made things worse. There’s even a gender-specific term that captures the heart of the problem: ‘sleep machismo.’
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine covers the relationship between men and sleep in more detail, but the short version is that sleeping less seems to be seen as ‘manly.’ It’s time to change that.
Why Sleep Matters for Physical Health
When asked on the Huberman Podcast what sleep is, neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker said, “Sleep is probably the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body health.”
For most of us, the effects of skipping out on even a few hours of sleep are noticeable the next day. It can lead to negative short-term symptoms including headaches, inflammation, and drowsiness.
That last one is an established cause of higher vehicle accident rates, another unfortunate male-connection highlighted by the Harvard Business Review.
In the medium term, losing out on sleep is linked to a compromised immune system and poor recovery from physical activity.
The long-term picture is even grimmer. Poor sleep habits have been associated with everything from high blood pressure to heart disease.
Why Sleep Matters for Your Brain
Just as important as physical health is mental health, and the science points to sleep deprivation affecting that, too.
Since sleep is a complicated process regulated by some of the same neurochemicals that likely play a role in depression, getting too little can exacerbate symptoms of that mental illness. It can also trigger manic episodes in bipolar patients and interacts with other mental illnesses like anxiety disorder.
But even if you aren’t affected by mental illness, you’ll still want to watch your sleep. Its impacts on neuroplasticity make it crucial for learning and memory, spoken about in a memory-focused episode of The Huberman Lab.
How Sleep Impacts Productivity
Okay, so sleep is important, but so is maximizing the hours in your day. As Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said, if you feel like you need more sleep, “Sleep faster.”
The problem is, you can’t sleep faster. And trying to squeeze more out of your waking hours by stealing from sleep doesn’t work as well as you might think.
A 2010 study assessing more than 4,000 employees across four corporations found that employees lost an average of $1,967 annually due to lack of sleep. The simple reason for this is that you don’t work as well when your eyes are puffy and your head is throbbing. And studies show that other factors like reaction time are reduced when fatigued.
How Much Sleep Should You Get?
So, how much is enough?
Though Arnold would have you believe that you can get by on six hours of sleep, the truth is that 99% of people fall into the range of seven to nine hours.
A study that took sleep deprived people and put them in a bed for 14 hours showed that the average person eventually settles on 8.1 hours of sleep. If you’re a man looking to maximize your health and productivity, you should shoot for that, too.
What is Good Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the solution to a good night’s sleep. The term was first heard in 1939 by physiologist and sleep researcher, Nathaniel Kleinman. Although Kleinman was known as the father of modern sleep research; it wasn’t until 1977 that psychologist, Peter Hauri, introduced the concept within the context of modern sleep medicine.
But what is sleep hygiene? Sleep hygiene is best described as a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations intended to promote healthy sleep.
Now that we have learned about sleep hygiene, here are 7 healthy habits you can incorporate into your daily activities to ensure you will be on top of your game:
- Find your sleep pattern. You can find many apps on the market that offer solutions to understanding your sleep pattern. Once you know your sleep pattern, it is important to maintain your sleep schedule.
- Give yourself 8 hours of sleep. Back into your bedtime from the time you need to wake up. For example, if you need to be at the gym by 6 a.m., count back 8 hours plus the time it takes to get to the gym.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. Establishing a healthy sleep routine trains your brain to associate your bed and sleep, making it much easier to fall asleep.
- Limit your intake of caffeine. Just remember, a lot of food and drinks contain caffeine. Even your go-to milk and chocolate chip cookies could negatively impact your sleep due to chocolate containing caffeine.
- Exercise regularly. We know that exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle, but how many of us think about how it will help with our sleep hygiene? Just 30 minutes of daily exercise can improve your sleep and your overall quality of life, which all of us should be striving for.
- Create a bedtime routine and stick to it. Take a warm shower, do a light stretch or breathing exercise. Now this is the way to slip into a solid night of sleep.
- Finally, Turn off electronics 30 minutes prior to bedtime. You know the drill. Turn off your phone and power down your laptop so you can ease into a restful night’s sleep.