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A new survey finds that a majority of men say they often sacrifice a good night’s sleep to spend more time playing video games and drinking alcohol. Photo Attractive/Getty Images
  • A new survey has found that men often prioritize other activities like video games or drinking over sleep.
  • Playing video games late into the night and drinking alcohol can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Poor sleep is linked to some of the top killers of men, including cancer, heart disease, and accidents.
  • Sleep experts say it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene so you can get proper rest.

June is Men’s Health Month, a time when health organizations across the nation focus on encouraging healthy behaviors in men and boys.

Educational efforts often focus on how men can improve their health outcomes through things like diet, exercise, and preventative care.

However, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, one area that often gets neglected is sleep.

The organization’s Sleep Prioritization Survey 2022 — which included 1,00 adult men — found that they often put other activities ahead of getting a good night’s sleep.

In fact, 75 percent of the men surveyed reported losing sleep in order to play video games.

Additionally, 62 percent of them said they had stayed up past their bedtime to drink alcohol.

AASM spokesperson Dr. Imran Shaikh, a member of the AASM’s Public Awareness Advisory Committee and a sleep specialist in Quincy, Illinois, said sleep is important because it allows both the body and the mind to recharge.

“Those who consistently get less than the recommended amount of healthy sleep could experience reduced cognitive and motor performance and be at risk for several health issues, from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to obesity,” explained Shaikh. For adults, the recommendation is to get at least seven hours, he added.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American men die, on average, about five years earlier than women. In addition, they tend to die at higher rates from certain conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and accidental injuries.

Sleep can play an important role in cancer prevention. Disruptions in our circadian rhythm, the biological clock that tells us when to sleep and when to wake, can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including colon, breast, and prostate cancers.

Sleep deprivation and fragmented sleep are also linked to issues related to cardiovascular health, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.

Finally, sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue are linked to an increased risk for accidental injury or death.

Sleepy people are 70 percent more likely to have workplace accidents.

They have also been found to be up to 2.9 times as likely to be in a car crash.

Lourdes DelRosso, PhD, who is associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington, said that playing video games and drinking alcohol can both be problematic when it comes to falling asleep and sleeping well.

“First, video games can be quite stimulating, causing a state of mental excitation and increasing alertness, counteracting the effects of drowsiness or sleepiness,” she said. “Therefore they can prolong the time that it takes to fall asleep, once in bed.

“Second, there can be a sense of ‘losing track of time’ and video games can be prolonged into late hours of the night or early hours of the morning,” she said.

DelRosso further noted that the light from the screen can block melatonin production, making it take longer for you to fall asleep.

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced when our eyes are exposed to darkness. It tells our body that it’s time to sleep. If it’s suppressed by exposure to light, then insomnia sets in.

DelRosso acknowledged that it can be tempting to think that drinking alcohol at bedtime might be a good solution, but this can backfire on you.

“As alcohol is metabolized, during the second half of the night, sleep can be restless, fragmented, and have rebound REM sleep, which is a stage during which we dream or have nightmares,” she explained.

Alcohol can also decrease muscle tone, she added, which can cause you to snore or have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the airway closes off during sleep, causing oxygen levels to fall.

This condition may lead to excessive sleepiness the following day. It is also linked with health issues like depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and accidents.

Cristiano Guarana, PhD, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, said in addition to avoiding alcohol at bedtime, it’s a good idea to avoid coffee during the afternoon and evening. Both can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

You should also develop a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This is important, he said, because we have a body clock that expects a regular schedule.

It’s also a good idea to sleep in a cool room, according to Guarana. Body temperature needs to drop by about two degrees Fahrenheit when we sleep.

“This is why it is usually easier to sleep and stay asleep in a room that is a bit cold than a room that is hot,” he said.

Guarana suggested that 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot that will likely help you sleep well.

Guarana also emphasized the importance of avoiding blue light from screens for at least one hour before bedtime so that melatonin can regulate our sleep timing. “Basically, we are a dark-deprived society. We need darkness before going to bed.”

Finally, Guarana said that if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, you should get back up and not return until you feel drowsy.

He explained that you don’t want to allow your brain to link being in bed with being awake, which can make it more difficult to sleep. Return to bed when you feel tired, he said, so you can break this association.