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How Much Sleep Do Men and Boys Need?

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By: Martha Michael


We’ve all been there. Fidgeting in a chair, taking deep breaths, rolling our necks. Doing everything we can to fight the feeling to close our eyes and give in to the Sandman. It happened to us in school during our post-lunch civics class, and it happened at work when the VP of Whatever droned on in a manner inconsistent with holding our attention.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, somewhere between ten and 30 percent of adults battle insomnia. Most of them are women, but men struggle with maintaining a healthy sleep schedule as well. Nearly half of all Americans surveyed report feeling sleepy during daytime hours at least three days a week.

The discomfort of being tired and the loss of this year’s “Employee of the Year” award aren’t the worst result of sleep deprivation. A good night of sleep is responsible for providing boys and men the ability to develop physical strength and maintain mental well-being.

Combined with other healthy habits, quality sleep can keep boys and men on a trajectory leading to personal and professional fulfillment.

How does sleep quality affect men?

While there are universal habits that contribute to healthy sleep patterns, the quality of sleep men achieve is often different from—and less than—a woman’s healthiest sleep patterns, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. There are various factors influencing sleep quality that can register differently for each gender. These factors include:

  • Aging
  • Hormones
  • Social messaging
  • Cultural norms

Research shows that 29.2 percent of men get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. Seven or more hours are recommended, but not all men can fall asleep or stay asleep that long. It’s a vicious cycle because the lack of sleep may be the cause of poor health while poor health may be contributing to the lack of sleep. Disrupted sleep may be a symptom of a sleep disorder.

Long-term sleep deprivation may result in daytime sleepiness, impaired mental functioning that impacts multitasking or workplace mistakes, mood changes that may create more anxiety or depression, reduced immune function, and weight gain.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Characterized by vivid dreams, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (also known as RBD) is more common among men than women. If you find yourself becoming physically active during dreams, you may be developing RBD. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease, or those who develop it later in life, are more likely to suffer from symptoms of RBD.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a condition defined by interrupted breathing for more than 10 seconds with a frequency of at least five times per hour. When breathing stops completely it’s called apnea, but if breathing is reduced, it’s referred to as hypopnea. During an apnea episode, your breathing ceases because something is blocking your upper airway, muscles, tongue, or other body tissues.

The extent of your apnea is measured using an apnea-hypopnea index, or AHI, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Your condition is qualified by recording the number of apnea or hypopnea episodes experienced every hour.

The severity of your sleep apnea is classified accordingly.

  • Severe obstructive apnea - AHI higher than 30 (more than 30 episodes per hour)
  • Moderate obstructive sleep apnea - AHI between 15 and 30
  • Mild obstructive sleep apnea - AHI between 5 and 15

If left untreated, OSA can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or depression. There’s also a strong link between OSA and erectile dysfunction.

How does sleep quality affect teenage boys?

Many changes occur when boys and girls become teenagers, and sleep patterns are some of the most noticeable. The Sleep Doctor website talks about the important role that sleep plays in a teen’s development. Most adolescent boys are getting too few hours of sleep per night; if it’s an ongoing problem, they can suffer from behavioral and health issues.

Insufficient sleep can lead to problems for teens, including:

  • Acting out, being disruptive
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Feeling depressed or moody
  • A decrease in self-esteem
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent illness
  • Low energy level

Lack of sufficient sleep also poses a significant risk while driving, although there is no test for determining whether a driver (either dead or alive) was fatigued at the time of a crash. However, gender plays a role in driving accidents among teens. Males aged 16-19 had a crash death rate three times higher than females in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Boys are significantly more likely to engage in risky driving that includes operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher, and speeding. The younger the driver, the higher the crash rate. Researchers believe that, because of their inexperience and lack of understanding of the risks, teens and young adults (ages 16-24) are more prone to drive while drowsy. About one in ten car crashes are due to drowsy driving, and the 16-24 age group accounts for more than half of those. Furthermore, studies show that a later start time for high school classes are linked to a significant reduction in automobile accidents, according to sleep researcher Wendy M. Troxel, because it would reduce the amount of drowsy driving in the morning.

While growing from boys to men, adolescent males are practicing skills from decision-making to tackling complex tasks. Since boys mature later than girls, chronic sleep deprivation may interfere with the development of the brain.

Appropriate levels of sleep for a young man begin to change at stages in their development.

  • From ages six to 13, a youngster should get nine to 11 hours of sleep nightly.
  • Between 14 and 17, a teenager should be getting eight to ten hours of sleep nightly.
  • From 18 to 25 years old, a young man should get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly.

What is a sleep score, and how do you change it?

The design of various apps and products includes their own version of a “sleep score.” The metric they use to help you calculate the length and quality of your sleep is customized to the client base of each technological product.

ResMed, a leader in sleep medicine, created a SleepScore technology that combines such metrics as the duration of sleep, the length of time it takes you to fall asleep, depth of sleep, REM sleep, and the number of times you wake during the night. The data is compared with the averages for your age and gender and produces a SleepScore between 0 and 100.

The website for the SleepSpace app uses similar data by monitoring your phone movement to offer a sleep score that can help tap into your quality of sleep. It includes your recovery time, meaning how quickly you recharge from sleep. The app calculates time in bed, sleep stages, and it monitors your heart rate and pulse oxygenation.

Other products also produce a sleep score, says an article in Wired. Some of the most accurate sources of sleep data include:

That’s right, a mattress cover.

How to improve the quality of your sleep

If you’re an active male with poor sleep patterns, you’ve probably noticed its effects. When you're having trouble falling asleep or find yourself tossing and turning at night, it's helpful to have some tips for getting more restful sleep. Turning that trend in a more positive direction can elicit notable health outcomes.

  • Muscle recovery - When you get enough sleep, your muscles experience growth, and performance improves.
  • Mental focus - Adequate sleep can boost cognitive function and memory, skills you need to make daily decisions.
  • Balancing hormones - Sleep helps regulate testosterone levels, affecting muscle mass, bone density, energy level, and men’s vitality.
  • Cardiac health - People who fail to get the recommended amount of sleep can raise their risk of contracting heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
  • Lower stress - Your mental wellness, including a boost in mood and a reduction in stress, depends on proper nutrition and adequate sleep.

There are strategies you can put in place to improve your sleep patterns regardless of whether you have problems getting to sleep each night or remaining asleep. By turning to practices that promote relaxation, you can turn your struggle for shut-eye into natural sleeping patterns that help you achieve adequate rest.

Create a routine

From reading a book to a meditation practice, a bedtime routine can offer a level of relaxation you can replicate daily. People are different, so each person has a favorite way to unwind. When repeated at the same time every day, your body will begin to associate that practice with falling asleep and signal relaxation.

Develop a healthy schedule

Our daily activities and lifestyle choices significantly impact the quality of our sleep. Whether it's too much activity or not enough exercise, these daytime factors play a role in our nocturnal activities. Heavy alcohol consumption or consuming caffeine late in the day can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Eating a large meal right before bedtime can also inhibit sleep. Developing a healthy schedule can promote a quality sleep routine.

Do what comes naturally

Healthy sleep habits are often compatible with your body’s instinctive rhythms and the daily cycle of natural light and darkness. Settling into an organic state can aid in sleep quality, as well as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Turn off screens at least a half hour before bedtime and create an environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool. A teenage boy or 35-year-old manchild may not be happy that his video game session before bedtime is off the table, but quality sleep is something that’s often taken for granted.

A man's lifestyle, including factors like his height, weight, occupation, and hobbies, greatly influences his overall well-being. Quality sleep plays a crucial role in a man's health and longevity, making it essential to prioritize rest. Whether you're an actor, accountant, golfer, or sports fan, ensuring you get enough sleep can help you stay alert and focused, leading to a better quality of life.

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