Men’s Health: Importance of Sleep

Since Father’s Day is coming later this month, I thought it might be a good idea to post a few discussions relating to men’s health issues. I’ll try to introduce subjects that will be of interest to our clients over the next few weeks with the hope they will be interesting and informative. The first is a subject we are all familiar with, but may not understand just how important it is to good health: Sleep.


A lot of men won’t admit to needing 8 hours of sleep. They say they can get by perfectly well on just a few hours a night. But the fact is, proper sleep is tremendously beneficial for long term health.

A restful night’s sleep consists of a balance of two general sleep patterns. One is called REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The other is NREM, or Non Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The best sleep comes from cycling through both types. The best sleep also comes in the latter stages of sleep, well into the night.

Something else happens during sleep. Growth Hormone (GH) is released. GH doesn’t just make us grow or make muscles bigger, though. It also helps us retain calcium for stronger bones. Lack of proper sleep can actually lead to reduced bone mass. GH also encourages fat loss. Lack of sleep leads to reduced GH production and increased appetite, which can lead to weight gain. Growth hormone also helps to strengthen the body’s immune system and reinforces things we learn during the day. Sleep also allows the body to regenerate new cells and to remove waste products by circulating them through the liver. That’s pretty important to good health.

So, how much sleep do we need?  Adults generally need about 7 – 9 hours. It seems that, as we age, though, the length of a night’s sleep decreases slightly, due to a number of factors. Seniors, men older than 65, can get by perfectly well on 7 1/2 hours.

Quality of sleep, however, remains important. Here is where the macho factor rears its ugly head. Many men think sleep prevents them from achieving more, that only wimps sleep a full night. Stress at work can also keep them from relaxing. For seniors, the reasons can be age related, such as reduced melatonin, a natural sleep inducing chemical, or certain medical conditions or medications. Seniors may become more sensitive to light or sound as they age, and that can affect their sleep. Illnesses, falls and balance issues are magnified by lack of proper sleep. Even if seniors don’t have these problems, sleep deficiency can trigger them. Seniors also receive less deep sleep, and sleep becomes more broken. Sleep patterns can change as we age and we need to listen to our bodies and adjust accordingly. Forcing ourselves to stay in a pattern we followed when younger can be a mistake.

Proper sleep is important for good health, whether we’re young or old. If you, or someone you know is not getting enough restful sleep, check with a physician. It’ll be time well spent.