When surfing, likes and posting gets in the way of a good night’s sleep, it’s time to make a change to improve your sleep AND better your health
We sympathize with you. We understand what it’s like to fall into the latest digital rabbit hole. Whether it’s Netflix, TikTok Instagram or good old Pinterest – so much entertaining content at your fingertips can draw you in for much longer than you anticipated. Where did that last hour go? But let’s face facts. Your digital habits are not only affecting your sleep; they’re, they’re killing it. Of course along with all the rest-inhibiting habits that come along with our hamster-wheel 21st century lifestyle.
Our busy lives and online activity (and their effect on sleep) have caught the attention of researchers who are discovering that putting off sleep to do other things (name it: sleep procrastination) is a real thing. Studies conducted at Utrecht University in the Netherlands show this delay may be more harmful and more widespread than previously believed.
The harmful effects of procrastination on your sleep
In case you didn’t know, procrastination is defined as the voluntary delay of an intended course of action, despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. It causes us to do things like putting off the laundry until we have a mountain of dirty clothes and nothing to wear to work tomorrow. While we can navigate our way around most of the tasks we’ve left undone, it’s a lot harder to get past a lack of sleep. A mountain of research points out the myriad of health problems – physical and psychological – that come with being a culture notoriously sleep-deprived.
So, what are some of the health problems that go part in parcel with not getting enough sleep? We already know that alertness, work performance, mental health and weight can be impacted. But there can be more serious – and surprising – side effects too. And some of those are gender related.
Cancer. The research by scientists at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, looked at men who worked night shift for 20 years to see if there was any correlation between their disrupted sleep and disease. Data collected suggested a 27% increase in their risk of cancer.
Fertility. For couples looking to start or grow their family, poor sleep might derail those plans – on the man’s side at least. Getting too much or too little sleep decreases a male partner’s fertility by as much as 42%, according to data from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Guys should get 8 hours per night to improve odds of impregnating their partner.
Heart Disease. Getting less than 8 hours of sleep elevated women’s risk for heart problems. Research has shown higher levels of C-reactive protein, a predictor of future cardiovascular death. Men were affected, too, but at a significantly lower rate.
Is social media induced procrastination the only thing affecting our sleep?
The quick answer is no. Lots of things impact sleep, from exercise, and diet to life situation and gender.
We conducted a National Sleep Survey to help us learn more about how sleep trends are changing. The results from more than 1,000 responses were a little surprising. The fact that men and women are different isn’t news. But what might be surprising is the many ways that their sleep behaviors vary from one another.
For starters, 38% of women report feeling like they don’t get enough sleep compared to only 20% of men. But when it comes to who does better with a shortage of rest, the nod goes to the ladies, according to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Who sleeps more – men or women? Colin Lawlor, CEO of SleepsScore Labs, based in Carlsbad, CA has the answer. His company has collected close to 2 million nights of sleep data. “What we’ve found is that men and women have different opinions regarding the quality of their sleep,” he says. “For instance, on average women sleep about 24 minutes longer than men. However, women tend to think they have more sleep issues than men – 77% of women versus 71% of men.”
What’s that ruckus? Snoring alert! Twice as many men than women snore. But don’t be too tough on the guys because they can’t help it. Blame their biology. The space behind the tongue, called the oropharynx, is larger in those born male. The tongue relaxes during sleep and can fall into that space, causing a breathing obstruction, apnea and snoring.
On a related note, though sleep apnea is more common with men, rates jump among women after the age of 50, while remaining steady for the lads.
Who ate the leftovers? Nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) is a kind of sleepwalking that causes people to eat during the night while they appear asleep. Those with the condition – more likely to be women (66%) – cannot remember being in the kitchen and filling their bellies. It’s thought to be caused by apnea and medications used to treat insomnia or depression.
Pass the remote. Who’s more likely to be up watching late-night TV? According to the 2002 National Sleep Foundation poll, women are more likely than men to report insomnia – 63% said at least a few nights a week. With men, it was 54%.
Why can’t she sleep? Hormones are certainly a key factor, but 1 in 4 women reported pain – due to migraines, tension headaches, arthritis, and heartburn – as a factor. Just 48% of the male respondents cited nighttime pain as a factor for sleeplessness, compared to 58% among middle-aged women.
How does having children impact sleep? Children in the home impact sleep differently for men and women, according to Lawlor. For men, a family with none or 1 child doesn’t impact their sleep, but women can snooze through the night with up to 3 kids. When you get to four or more kids, both parents have sleep problems. “Surprisingly, men sleep less when there are 4 kids in the household; women lose 25 minutes a night, while men lose 45 minutes,” he explains.
However, findings from another 2017 study said otherwise. The American Academy of Neurology and Georgia State University determined women who live in the house with children get less sleep than those who had none. In fact, moms (aged 45 and younger) with kids reported feeling tired 14 nights each month, while childless women said 11. Surprisingly, for men – with or without kids – sleep was not impacted.
5 tips to help you get the rest you need – without any sleep procrastinating
- Make bedtime spa time. Sleep spas are a hot trend among spa-goers desperate to get rest and to learn how to tame their bad, sleep-wrecking habits. These facilities are a good way to reset bedtime rituals, forcing a slowdown and treating sleep as an important pillar of health. Read more: Sleep Spa
- Stick to a sleep routine. Haphazard bedtimes are the enemy of good quality sleep. Do your best to set a time to hit the sheets that works for you night after night. And make a habit of easing into it by making sure your bedroom is an oasis of calm. That means banning the TV and handheld electronics, keeping the room dark and cool. Read more: Bedtime Alarm Clock
- Stretch your way to sleep. Yoga Asanas can help you relax your mind and body as you prepare for bed. A few simple yoga poses help you make the transition from the busy hours of your day to a peaceful state. Read more: Yoga for Better Sleep
- Nap to reap benefits for your brain. A short catnap is ideal for boosting your productivity and your feeling of wellness, but the trick is not to sleep for more than 30 minutes. Keep it short and you’ll get a great boost from napping. Timing is key, too. Mid to late afternoon is the sweet spot. Read more: Secrets of Highly Effective Nappers
- Get a gentle reminder. When you were a kid, your parents likely that told you when it was time to go get your pajamas on and get ready for bed. As a grown-up, we can get that kind of gentle prompting from an app, aptly named Go To Bed (free on iTunes). It also tracks your sleep, too. Read more: Best Sleep Apps
If lack of sleep is holding you back, it might be time to adopt better sleep hygiene. If that doesn’t help, you might want to find a Sleep Doctor near you.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- How to get going faster in the morning
- Is your bed helping or hurting your sleep?
- Why reading before bed is a good idea