Good sleep can improve men’s mental and overall health

[4 min read] 

In this article:

  • Learn how our sleep patterns impact our body’s organs as well as our mental health.

  • Hear from Providence Chief Medical Officer Dan Getz, D.O., about the importance of sleep for a man’s overall physical health and mental well-being.

  • Understand how critical a good night’s sleep is — and what you should do about it if you can’t get adequate rest.

Good sleep can help men’s mental state and other aspects of good health

Sleep engages with every one of our body’s organ systems. Sleep can impact your mental health, your cardiovascular health, your heart and lung health and your brain health. Poor sleep habits can even increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.

And sleep is probably one of the most important contributors to good mental health, according to Dan Getz, D.O., chief medical officer at Providence. “We can make really mild strategic changes and incorporate behaviors that can lead to better sleep. If you give the brain time to relax and rest itself, you wake up with a better perspective,” he says.

Hear answers from Dr. Getz on commonly asked questions about the importance of sleep for men and ways to strengthen our mental health as we age.

Q: How important is a routine before bedtime?

A: A regular sleep schedule is incredibly important. We need to give our bodies and minds time to wind down before sleep. Make sure you have a good routine, maybe beginning half an hour before sleep, just reading or drinking a cup of warm tea or hot milk. We don’t want you in bed scrolling on your phone or watching television. It needs to be a space that’s quiet, cool and really conducive to good sleep.

Make sure you don’t eat within three hours of sleep. The stomach takes time to empty those contents into the rest of your intestine. If you have a big meal and then lie down, you may disrupt your sleep suffering from reflux symptoms that can lead to coughing in the middle of the night.

Regular exercise is incredibly important to good sleep. It’s important you don’t exercise too close to sleep, but if you have good exercise throughout the day, that helps create just enough fatigue that your mind feels like it’s ready to relax and rest.

Q: Tell us about sleep apnea.

A: Sleep apnea is really challenging to diagnose, but also extremely common in the United States. One of the most common symptoms is loud snoring, but it can also present with excess sleepiness during the day or persistent fatigue. Sometimes it may appear the patient stops breathing for a point of time, which is very distressing for a partner who’s sharing the bed.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be a common cause of high blood pressure and even cause low testosterone in men. Long term untreated sleep apnea is a risk factor for having a stroke or heart attack.

Primary care providers at Providence do a wonderful job really keying in on the importance of sleep and screening patients at risk for sleep apnea. We want to understand if the patient is experiencing symptoms that may be defined by a sleep disorder. Then we can drive toward an intervention that might be best for them.

Q: When I’m stressed and too anxious to sleep, what can I do?

A: Stress management is one of the most important keys to sleep. Making sure that every night you’re getting good, regimented sleep is important for heart and brain health. Good sleep hygiene also helps reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. Depression has very tangible potential health risks in the form of heart disease and stroke.

Some people struggle with falling asleep. Mindfulness and meditation can help quiet those thoughts and help you focus on sleep. Setting a routine time to initiate sleep, keeping your room cool and dark, and avoiding caffeine later in the day can help. Having a good, frank discussion with your primary care provider about how to improve sleep is crucial because some available treatments are simple and can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your sleep.

Q: Why is mental health an important part of your medical practice?

A: Growing up, I had a mother with health care issues, so she was in and out of hospitals and struggled with mental health. When we talk about the mind-body-spirit, it’s really hard to think of anything that’s more important than mental health. We need to get past the stigma that people have, especially men, talking about their feelings, their emotions or even the thought of struggling.

At Providence, we don’t want patients to feel like there are things they can’t tell their physician. We want our patients to come into our offices feeling like they’re seeing a trusted confidant, and feeling like they have a relationship with their provider that is almost as sacred as they have with anybody else.

Q: Do diet and physical activity impact my mental health?

A: Diet plays a crucial role in mental health. We know things like omega-3 fatty acids help with overall brain health. When we eat healthy foods and give our body the nutrients it needs, our bodies are going to feel better. Your mind, as a result, is going to feel better.

Regular exercise promotes better mental health. That doesn’t mean there’s not a role for things like medication and therapy. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, which is meditation based, is an incredible tool for helping people manage anxiety or even mild depression outside of medication.

Q: How does stress affect my mental state?

A: Stress management is key and probably the easiest intervention to improve mental health. Often when I break down what’s really stressing out a patient, they’re worrying about things that haven’t happened. That cognitive burden of just worrying doesn’t need to happen. Meditation and mindfulness really will change how you perceive what’s around you.

Q: Is there a connection between my social life and my mental health?

A: Social connections are key to good mental health. The vast majority of people do better when they have at least a small number of very close friends or family members they can interact with.

Mental health isn’t something that involves one visit with a provider, and then you’re feeling better and cured. It requires visits over time. It’s a journey, not a quick fix. It’s really important that we engage you with proper therapy and the proper team of individuals to provide care for you. Making sure you have ongoing access to mental health care is essential.

Contributing caregiver

Daniel Getz, D.O., is chief medical officer of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital.

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If you haven’t seen a doctor in more than a year — or if you have physical or mental changes that concern you — consider scheduling a wellness visit soon. If you are looking for a primary care provider, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

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Related resources

Learn how to sleep better at night

Your physical and mental health go hand in hand

Don’t be afraid to seek mental health care

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.