Is your masculinity preventing good sleep?



Men's Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Dr. Jen Tan


15 October 2020

Do men sleep better?

As the statistics above indicate, sleep problems are pretty widespread.

Unfortunately, though, issues are even more prevalent for men. On average, they are likely to get less sleep a night than women.2

Some reasons for this are:

  • Men are more prone to sleep apnoea, due to its link with testosterone
  • Higher alcohol consumption amongst men, which has been linked to disrupted sleep3
  • Men are more likely to delay sleep in order to fit in activities like exercise or watching tv4
  • Women are more likely to nap during the day5
  • Work and travel time may be higher for men
  • Men are less likely to seek help for medical or sleep issues.7

These issues are all things we've probably heard before, so where does masculinity come into the picture?


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Even in 2020, a male stereotype persists and it is having a damaging effect on sleep.

A recent study highlighted that a male stereotype exists, whereby men who sleep less are perceived as being more masculine.8 A corollary also persists: a stereotype that 'masculine' men are assumed to sleep less.

This particular study goes even further by saying that men feel more masculine just by telling people how little sleep they get each night; and that they fear negative judgments if they aren't seen to be manly enough!

Underlying all of these theories is the stereotype that to look after your health isn't considered masculine. Instead, being 'stoic' is sometimes considered to be a sign of strength or independence. This is despite the fact that lack of sleep can have a considerable negative impact on our physical and mental health!

The tactics available to deal with poor sleep have long been discussed but, as well as getting the right sleep position and going to bed at a reasonable time, it now seems we also need to change our way of thinking of masculinity to help deal with this problem.

Tackling the ‘sleep-deprived masculinity stereotype’

If this is you, then rather than having an 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' kind of mantra, I would suggest investing in some tactics to help you feel more rested. You may just see improvements to your mood, productivity and energy levels as a result. Who knows, you may even be able to squeeze in an extra round on the treadmill too!

So, what can you do?

I suggest setting yourself some sleep goals. It may not do away with society's outdated ideas of masculinity, but it'll certainly help you feel better. Here's what you can do.

Goal Solution Why?
Relax before bed Turn off phones, television and other technology after 9.30pm. The blue light emitted from our tech disrupts sleep.
Get 8 hours sleep Set a regular bed time that will allow you to get this much sleep a night. We need around 7-9 hours' sleep a night to keep us rested and healthy.
Cut down your caffeine intake Choose caffeine-free drinks like Bambu after lunch time. Caffeine is a stimulant and keeps us awake. It can also linger in the system for a very long time.
Keep cool at night Open a window and use a duvet with a low tog number. A cool body temperature is known to facilitate better sleep.
Reduce alcohol intake Stick to the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week (a pint has about 3). Spread this over at least 3 days, rather than drinking your weekly allowance all at once. Alcohol reduces sleep quality, making you wake up feeling groggy and unrested.

References

1 https://www.usa.philips.com/c-dam/b2c/master/experience/smartsleep/world-sleep-day/2019/2019-philips-world-sleep-day-survey-results.pdf 

2 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0003122412472048 
3 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/datasets/adultdrinkinghabits 
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164903/ 
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164903/ 
6 https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/articles/genderdifferencesincommutetimeandpay/2019-09-04 
https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-understanding-health-and-access-services 
8 https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/711758 

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