I believe a top stressor for most men is the lack of proper sleep. The average amount of sleep has consistently declined and deteriorated since the advent of modern technology. Texting, emailing, or watching the tube can be a sleep killer. Work stress, an unstable economy, and health problems do not help.
An occasional sleepless night usually isn’t much of a problem, but running a sleep deficit over time can cause serious issues. Every system in your body is affected by lack of sleep. Restorative sleep is an essential ingredient for a healthy mind and body.
However, hypercompetitive men and much of Western society in general think sleep is a waste of time and a luxury for the lazy. The notion that successful people can get by with just a few hours of sleep a night without paying the price is not only erroneous, but dangerous.
There is nothing wrong with being competitive or successful, or course—both can be healthy. But when sleep is consistently sacrificed to obtain a competitive edge, due to stress or any other reason, you will damage your long-term health and promote prostate cancer. In the end you may not be successful either.
You need to approach sleep as you would every other aspect of your health. It is just as important as diet, exercise, supplementation, and stress reduction—everything else outlined in the CM. Give it the same attention. Here are some tips to help your sleep be more restful:
1. Get the right amount
The right amount of sleep, based on much research, is seven hours. Although it’s a common belief that eight hours of sleep is required for optimal health, a six-year study of more than one million adults ages 30 to 102 has shown that people who get only six to seven hours a night have a lower death rate. Individuals who sleep eight hours or more, or less than four hours a night, were shown to have a significantly higher death rate. For many patients, seven hours of sleep is a lot and it simply does not happen. Just work toward the goal of seven hours. For example, if you typically get four to five hours per night, moving up to six hours is a huge success, and makes a great impact on your overall sleep quality.
2. Dim the lights at night
Sleep in complete darkness. Start dimming the lights about three hours before bedtime. Light exposure affects the production of your nighttime sleep hormone, melatonin.
3. Go easy on caffeine and alcohol at night
The half-life of caffeine is six hours, which is the time it takes your body take to get rid of one-half the amount of caffeine in your body. Some people don’t have a problem sleeping after an after dinner espresso. But if any level of caffeine keeps you up, stay away from it for up to six hours before bedtime. Having a glass of red wine with dinner is also fine and may help initiate sleep. However, more than two glasses and your sleep quality suffers.
4. Control your "monkey mind" by resting your brain on paper
Write down your next day’s to-do list before going to sleep, which stops you from lying in the dark thinking about what needs to be done.
5. Disconnect from electronics in your bedroom
No computers, no TV and no smartphone in your bedroom. Your bedroom is a sanctuary only for sleep and intimacy.
6. No heavy meals at night, especially simple carbs
Big meals at night make your body work too hard during sleep and interfere with sleep quality. Remember, quality sleep is just as important as quantity. That’s why, if you notice when you pig out at night (and I have done so many times), you’ll notice a hangover feeling, or what I call pig out hangover. Some whole grain carbs at the right time, mainly in the evening, actually can be helpful for better sleep. A little carbohydrate with turkey increases the levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps with sleep. But the emphasis is on “little.”
7. Invest in a good mattress
It’s worth the research—time and price. While no single bed is perfect for everyone, many people swear by memory foam mattresses for a better night’s rest rather than box springs. Also, you should flip your mattress every month and replace it every seven years, if not sooner, depending on wear/tear and comfort. Bottom line: find the best mattress you can afford. It’s a game changer in your sleep quality.
Finally, let’s be holistic, but realistic. There will be times where getting more than four or five hours of sleep is not an option. Life happens. A family crisis, flight delays, deadline with work, baby in the house or even a good party that goes on all night (and you must party). Short-term sleep deprivation will weaken your body much, so at some point soon you will have to make up for your sleep debt. Make sure you do.