Six Of The Most Common Causes of Insomnia in Men
In the USA alone, approximately 40 million people experience some form of sleep disturbance each year.
Whether it’s issues with sleep quality, or even just getting to sleep in the first place, insomnia comes with a range of consequences than unfortunately span more than a little irritability and tiredness during the day.
Studies suggest that if not treated; chronic insomnia could significantly increase the risk of early death, particularly in men.
As with any problem in life, in order to understand how to deal with the issue, it helps to know what is causing it.
In this article we’ll explore some of the top resources around the web in order to give you a clear understanding of what causes insomnia in men, and how you can go about fixing it.
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Six Of The Most Common Causes of Insomnia in Men
1. High Stress Levels
Back in our caveman days, we would have mainly been dealing with acute stressors. These are things that happen suddenly, but are dealt with and dissipate just as quickly. Our bodies are built to deal with these types of stressors - they’re fairly natural.
However, our modern world is full of chronic stressors, things that last over longer time periods. We worry about deadlines, upcoming meetings, bills to pay, and mistakes we’ve made in the past. Faced with a chronic stressor, we mount the same response as we would do if we were faced with a short-term stressor, but that response lasts over a longer time period.
We remain in that fight or flight state with our cortisol and adrenaline levels raised. Short term, this is fine, but over periods of days, weeks, months and even years, the elevated stress hormone levels can start to have serious implications when it comes to our sleep, and our general health.
Over at the ‘For Dummies’ site, they explain that:
Researchers estimate that 75 to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for complaints and conditions that are, in some way, stress-related.
Stress has been linked to anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancers. The typical male stereotype is someone who takes everything in his stride and never get’s stressed, but we all know that’s not the reality. No one is invincible…
The simple fact is that when stress hormone levels are raised and your mind is racing back and forth, the body is unable to relax and enter that ‘rest and digest’ state. It’s certainly not manly to ignore stress and pretend that you are immune to it. If anything it’s much more manly to take action, and do something about it.
What to do: You can practice a few simple exercises that will help you to become more at ease with the potential stressors of modern day living. As the guys over at Health Room point out, guided meditations work really well for many people, and breathing exercises can also help.
Do whatever you can to bring yourself back to the present moment, instead of worrying about the past or future.
2. Unhealthy Eating Habits
Your eating habits can have a major impact on the quality of your sleep.
As modern living has become busier and busier and people are constantly rushing from here to there, there has been an increased demand for fast food.
The market has responded to this demand, meaning that it has never been easier (or cheaper) to fill up on processed junk.
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These products may taste great, but they’re far from being the whole foods that your body needs to function correctly. Not only does your diet help to determine your state of health, it can also have a big impact on your sleep quality.
Writer Caroline Jones explains the results of a recent study, stating that:
Longer sleep was associated with consuming more carbohydrates, less choline, which is found in eggs and fatty meats, and less chocolate and tea.
Again it goes back to that common definition of masculinity. For a long time it has been thought that eating red meat is masculine. There are many people out there however who are challenging this stereotype, and they argue that being healthy and well rested is more masculine than begin sick and sleep deprived…
As well as the food itself, the timing of food consumption may also have an affect on sleep quality. The guys at Harvard Health suggest that a heavy meal just before bed can interrupt the natural sleep cycle, and therefore they recommend you avoid anything too big within 2-3 hours before bedtime.
What to do: Begin the process of cleaning up your diet. Try to up your intake of whole foods, and cut back on the processed foods and animal products.
You can also begin to introduce foods that can help to encourage good quality sleep. Bananas contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as a precursor to the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Foods rich in zinc and magnesium, such as nuts, seeds as legumes, have also been shown to help with symptoms of insomnia.
3. Stimulants and Drugs
Stimulants are another big culprit when it comes to sleep deprivation. The typical story is that someone who works long hours, eats unhealthily or experiences stress starts to experience symptoms of insomnia.
This then causes tiredness during the day, which isn't acceptable in a high paced work environment. So they turn to stimulants (caffeine in coffee being the main culprit) to maintain some form of alertness.
Unfortunately, caffeine can have an adverse affect on sleep quality, especially when consumed later in the day. Caffeine has a long half-life, and according to the National Sleep Foundation it can take up to six hours for half of the caffeine intake to dissipate.
It’s a vicious circle of stimulation and sleep deprivation.
Alcohol is another drug that can hamper proper sleep by interfering with your natural sleep cycle. As the guys at Drink Aware point out:
In the course of a night you usually have 6-7 cycles of REM sleep, which makes you feel refreshed. However, if you've been drinking, you'll only have 1-2, meaning you can wake up feeling exhausted.
What do do: Start to wean yourself off of stimulants – coffee, alcohol, and even some sports supplements. When consumed later in the day they can really hamper your sleep quality, so at least try to avoid them after lunch, and replace them instead with caffeine-free herbal teas, or plain old water.
4. Low Activity Levels
Your level of movement throughout the day can also have a big impact on your sleep quality. Again, going back to our caveman days, survival would require us to move our bodies regularly.
These days, everything is made as convenient as possible. You can get through a whole day without really moving - you sit in the car to get to work, sit at a desk whilst at work, and sit in front of the TV at home. At no point does this way of living require any physical exertion.
As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your body adapts to the stimulus that you provide it with. A lack of movement often leads to problems with posture and chronic back issues, which if left untreated can cause significant pain and trouble sleeping.
Inactivity can also cause the build-up of unwanted fat and unfavorable body composition, which increases the risk of sleep apnea, a form of sleep disturbance.
What to do: A 2011 study showed that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Do your best to up your activity levels wherever you can. Whether that means going to the gym regularly, or simply taking the stairs whenever possible. Do what you can to release those feel-good endorphins. Take Ido Portal’s advice, and just move!
Research suggests that high intensity sessions may be particularly effective, as they leave the body and mind feeling completely exhausted. Just be mindful not to exercise too intensely too close to bedtime, as some people find that it has the opposite effect and can keep you from nodding off.
5. An Unsuitable Sleeping Environment
The environment you find yourself in can contribute significantly towards whether or not you get a good night’s sleep.
Lighting is one of the main factors. Studies have shown that exposure to bright lights (like those on the laptop screen) in the evening can significantly hamper sleep quality. The light interrupts your natural circadian rhythm, making you think that it’s time to be awake and alert. Sound can also hamper sleep quality. Any nighttime noises activate our fight or flight responses to ready us for action.
What to do: Do what you can to prepare a sleep-friendly environment.
If possible, install dimmer switches around your home and keep the lights down in the evening. You can also enforce an electronic ban after a certain time, or at least install the free software flux, which alters screen colors to warmer, more sleep-suitable tones.
Invest in a decent pair of earphones to block out any noise pollution, and maintain a cool room temperature either by opening a window or setting the air conditioning.
6. Poor Sleeping Habits
Last but not least, your evening habits can also have a big impact on sleep quality. It makes sense that working late on a project or watching an intense action movie only stimulates the mind as opposed to helping it relax. Staying up late won’t help things either, especially if you have to rise early in the morning to work. Reporter Susan Scutti explains over at Medical Daily:
Because there exists a greater propensity for deep non-REM sleep earlier in the night, someone who sleeps from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (eight hours total) will have a different overall composition of sleep with more non-REM than someone who sleeps from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. (also eight hours total) and so is likely to experience more REM.
What to do: Start to introduce an evening routine that’s conducive to sleep. Rather than simulating the mind, engage in activities that will allow you to relax.
Yoga works for some, as does reading or taking a warm bath. For other ideas, you can also check out the Huffington Post’s guide to the Ultimate Bedtime Routine.
You may also want to experiment with your sleeping posture and pillow position to find one that works. Lying on your back with one pillow might be best for your posture and overall health, but do what feels right for you!
Also, try your best to get to bed early, and do so at the same time every night, even on the weekends. Establishing a regular habit will help your body fall into a natural rhythm, improving your chances of getting a good nights rest.