Sleep. The one thing our bodies need that can not be given, borrowed, saved, or gone without. It cannot even be “caught up on”. We need to sleep, and we need to sleep regularly.
But, we live in a world of 24 hour news cycles, extra-long work days, constant internet access and a need to say “plugged in”. This is all before we factor in personal responsibilities like families, friends and relationships. All of this has led us to create a society where sleep is considered a luxury that most of us cannot afford. The outcome of this new mindset is proving to be catastrophic.
Daily, news reports are showing us the negative results of a society lacking in sleep. From truck drivers and doctors to students and parents, accidents and workplace errors are literally costing lives. And for some reason, we have begun to respect and envy those who can “be productive” on only 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. This is because we don’t understand how important a full night’s rest is to our body’s overall health.
WHY DO WE NEED TO SLEEP?
The National Sleep Foundation explains the importance of sleep and dispels a few of our collective concerns and incorrect beliefs.
“We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Exactly how this happens and why our bodies are programmed for such a long period of slumber is still somewhat of a mystery. But scientists do understand some of sleep’s critical functions, and the reasons we need it for optimal health and wellbeing.”
“One of the vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored; and many of these steps happen while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called “consolidation.” Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.”
Sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body. This may also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder.
Not getting the proper amounts of nightly rest can cause havoc on your physical and mental health.
SLEEP AND THE GAY MALE BODY
If you are starting to see a pattern between your sexual orientation and your health, that is because the two are permanently linked. Yes, for the most part, our bodies work exactly like our straight brother’s, but we do have some external stressors and challenges which they don’t, that can and do effect our health. Contrary to conservative opinions, anal sex is not the cause of all, or even most of our physical ailments. The true culprit is society itself.
Minority Stress Theory
People of colour are known to face a multitude of hardships and challenges that the general white population does not. These extra stressors are the cause of much, if not all, of those communities issues with poverty, crime, education, employment, housing, and of course, healthcare, among other social ills. Minority Stress Theory is the outgrowth of decades of study mapping and detailing the events that can make life that much more unnecessarily challenging for members of effected communities.
Just like people of colour, gay males suffer under minorty stress, and of course, those gay males of colour, even more so.
“Minority stress describes chronically high levels of stress faced by members of stigmatized minority groups. It may be caused by a number of factors, including poor social support and low socioeconomic status; well understood causes of minority stress are interpersonal prejudice and discrimination.Governmental discrimination typically takes form in constitutional discrimination and stays that way until equal protections are applied. Many of these have roots in scriptural discrimination. Indeed, numerous scientific studies have shown that minority individuals experience a high degree of prejudice, which causes stress responses (e.g., high blood pressure, anxiety) that accrue over time, eventually leading to poor mental and physical health.Minority stress theory summarizes these scientific studies to explain how difficult social situations lead to chronic stress and poor health among minority individuals. It is an important concept for psychologists and public health officials who seek to understand and reduce minority health disparities.”
Homophobia is a queer way to speak of the systemic levels of discrimination gay males experience on a daily basis, because it literally means “fear of homosexuals”. Straights that hate us, don’t fear us, but we should definitely fear them. Their actions continue to negatively effect us on every level that can be imagined, which greatly impacts our ability to get the quality sleep we need to be productive and active members of society.
As reported by VICE.com
“A new study published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity adds an interesting new angle to minority stress theory. This research suggests that the health disparities affecting lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults aren’t just a direct function of stigma-induced stress—rather, this stress may indirectly affect health by interfering with sexual minorities’ ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Scientists have increasingly found that sleep is vital for maintaining good physical and psychological health. Sleep problems have been linked to everything from depression and anxiety to sexual difficulties to high blood pressure and diabetes. How much sleep do you need to maintain good health? For adults between the ages of 18 and 64, the recommendation is seven to nine hours per night.
Given the powerful link between sleep and well being, it stands to reason that if LGB adults are having more sleep problems, this might explain—at least in part—many of the health disparities they are experiencing.
So are LGB adults indeed getting less sleep? In order to answer this question, researchers analyzed data from a large, nationally representative survey of Americans that included more than 15,000 participants. Participants were 29 years old on average and most (96.6 percent) identified as heterosexual, with 2.1 percent identifying as gay and 1.3 percent as bisexual.
Included in the survey were two questions about insomnia, which focused on problems falling asleep and staying asleep. Participants also answered questions about the amount of stress they were under in the last month and the quality of their relationship with their parents. Relationships with parents were a major focus of this investigation because parents are one of the biggest sources of emotional support in most people’s lives. The authors argued that strained parental relationships were likely to be a major source of stress for sexual minorities, who all too often find themselves kicked out of their homes or rejected by their families.
What the researchers found was that, compared to heterosexuals, LGB adults were more likely to report problems both falling asleep and staying asleep.
Also, relative to heterosexuals, LGB participants reported having lower quality relationships with their mothers, but especially with their fathers. LGB adults reported experiencing higher levels of stress in the last month, too. The key analysis in this study involved testing an elaborate statistical model, which found that identifying as LGB predicted having lower quality relationships with one’s parents. This, in turn, predicted experiencing more stress—and this stress ultimately predicted more sleep difficulties.
In other words, the overall model suggests that when LGB persons are socially rejected by their families, it creates stress and, further, the more of this stress they experience, the more likely they are to develop symptoms of insomnia. “
Even if you have a great relationship with your parents and community, you still won’t be able to escape issues regarding your sleep pattern. Findings from the 2013-2015 National Health Interview Survey:
We used 2013-2015 National Health Interview Survey data (46,909 men; 56,080 women) to examine sleep duration and quality among straight, gay/lesbian, and bisexual US adults. Sleep duration was measured as meeting National Sleep Foundation age-specific recommendations for hours of sleep per day. Sleep quality was measured by 4 indicators: having trouble falling asleep, having trouble staying asleep, taking medication to help fall/stay asleep (all 4 times in the past week), and having woken up not feeling well rested (4 days in the past week).
In the adjusted models, there were no differences by sexual orientation in the likelihood of meeting National Sleep Foundation recommendations for sleep duration. For sleep quality, gay men were more likely to have trouble falling asleep, to use medication to help fall/stay asleep, and to wake up not feeling well rested relative to both straight and bisexual men.
Finances and Sleep
Stress due to financial hardship is a very real thing that many gay males suffer from. The stereotype that all of us are rich white dudes with tons of money and free time is obviously incorrect. Sadly, the actual truth is much darker.
John Schneider and David Auten are Denver-based financial planners who focus on serving LGBT clients and also happen to be married.
Despite being financial professionals who had plenty of knowledge about money, they realized their “financial troubles had roots in being LGBT,” Schneider says.
“We both came from a time and place where it wasn’t OK to be gay,” Schneider says. “We lived some of our formative years in the closet, and there were times when we were both bullied and picked on. So when we were finally adults and out on our own, we kind of reveled in that independence.”
In other words, they dove, credit cards first, into overspending on the fancy clothes, drinks and nights out that all their peers were also indulging in. And they weren’t alone. According to a 2016-2017 report from financial services firm Prudential, 48 percent of LGBT survey respondents consider themselves spenders, compared with just 32 percent of the general population. Also, 4 in 5 LGBT households report that high debt levels make managing household finances difficult, according to a 2017 survey from MassMutual.
Of course, higher LGBT living costs aren’t all due to frivolity. Many parts of the country are not welcoming to the LGBT community, and areas that are tend to come with higher price tags. For example, Manhattan and San Francisco are well known for being both LGBT-friendly and budget-unfriendly. Living costs in the respective areas are 195 percent and 118 percent above the national average, according to research firm Sperling’s Best Places. On the other hand, the states with the lowest living costs – West Virginia and Arkansas at 17 percent below the national average and Oklahoma at 16 percent below average – are also among the 20 states that do not have hate crime laws specifically protecting LGBT people.
Researchers have known about financial stress and its effect on our sleep for some time, but this information hasn’t changed any of society’s discrimination laws or views about gay males. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a USA problem, but one gay males all around the world suffer from.
Paris, France was ground zero for this latest study on gay male sleep patterns. Broadcast advertisements were placed on a popular geosocial-networking smartphone application for MSM to direct users in Paris to a web-based survey measuring financial hardship and five dimensions of sleep health as well as socio-demographic characteristics. Modified Poisson models with robust error variance were computed to estimate risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the associations between financial hardship and the following self-reported outcomes: 1) poor sleep quality, 2) short sleep duration; and 3) sleep problems. In total, 580 respondents completed the survey.
In this sample, both financial hardship and poor sleep health were common – 45.5% reported that it was extremely, very, or somewhat difficult for them to meet their monthly payments on bills (referred to as “high financial hardship”) and 30.1% rated their sleep as fairly bad or very bad (referred to as “poor sleep quality”). Multivariate models revealed that, compared to participants who reported low financial hardship, those who reported high financial hardship were more likely to report poor sleep quality (aRR: 1.35, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.77), to report problems falling asleep (aRR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.49), and to report problems staying awake in the daytime (aRR: 3.12, 95% CI: 1.83, 5.31). Future research should investigate whether this relationship is causal and determine whether interventions to reduce financial hardships could promote sleep health among MSM.
- LIVING WITH HIV
Gay males with HIV know that this illness effects them in ways that cannot always be predicted. Employment and finances is an area that has come under new scrutiny, but this has also exposed the issue of financial stress and sleep patterns.
There is a recent important study that investigated associations between socioeconomic status (i.e., income, employment status, education) and sleep health among gay and bisexual men living with HIV (Downing Jr et al., 2016). In particular, this US-based study found that these traditional socioeconomic status indicators were associated with sleep health, particularly poor self-reported sleep quality and the use of medication for improving sleep, among their sample of gay and bisexual men.
SIGNS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
It is natural and quite common to have nights were we don’t sleep well, but if it is happening often, there might be reasons for concern.
Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention.
Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life.
A review in 2010Trusted Source found that sleeping too little at night increases the risk of early death.
Noticeable signs of sleep deprivation include:
Stimulants, like caffeine, aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. This, in turn, may lead to a cycle of nighttime insomnia followed by daytime caffeine consumption to make up for the lost hours of shut-eye.
Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above.
SHORT AND LONG TERM EFFECTS
Central nervous system
Your central nervous system is the information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body usually sends information.
During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well.
You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body send may also be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risk for accidents.
Sleep deprivation also negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.
If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations — seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have bipolar disorder. Other psychological risks include:
You may also end up experiencing microsleep in the day. During these episodes, you’ll fall asleep for a few seconds or minutes without realizing it.
Microsleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving. It can also make you more prone to injury due to trips and falls.
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Cytokines also help you sleep, giving your immune system more energy to defend your body against illness.
Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may not be able to fend off invaders, and it may also take you longer to recover from illness.
The relationship between sleep and the respiratory system goes both ways. A nighttime breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt your sleep and lower the quality.
As you wake up throughout the night, this can cause sleep deprivation, which leaves you more vulnerable to respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. Sleep deprivation can also make existing respiratory diseases worse, such as chronic lung illness.
Along with eating too much and not exercising, sleep deprivation is another risk factor for becoming overweight and obese. Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness.
Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in the night.
A lack of sleep can also make you feel too tired to exercise. Over time, reduced physical activity can make you gain weight because you’re not burning enough calories and building muscle mass.
Sleep deprivation also prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat. Insulin controls your blood sugar level. Higher insulin levels promote fat storage and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, including your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. It also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart.
Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is about the time of your first REM episode. Waking up throughout the night could affect hormone production.
This interruption can also affect growth hormone production, especially in children and adolescents. These hormones help build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues.
The pituitary gland releases growth hormones continuously, but sleep and exercise also help induce the release of this hormone.
If you are concerned about your sex drive, getting a regular amount of sleep (between 7-9 hours) can help increase your testosterone production, and thus increase your sex drive.
Scientists from the University of Chicago found men who get less than five hours sleep a night for a week or longer suffer have far less levels of testosterone than those who get a good night’s rest.
Their study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that the levels of the hormone are reduced dramatically to levels more akin to someone 15 years older.
“Low testosterone levels are associated with reduced wellbeing and vigour, which may also occur as a consequence of sleep loss,” said Prof Eve Van Cauter, who led the study.
“As research progresses, low sleep duration and poor sleep quality are increasingly recognised as endocrine disruptors.”
HOW TO GET THE SLEEP YOU NEED
There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself get a good nights sleep. We have recommended sleeping naked and even masturbation and sex, but the simplests activities are ones you probably already know about.
- limiting daytime naps (or avoiding them altogether)
- refraining from caffeine past noon
- going to bed at the same time each night
- waking up at the same time every morning
- sticking to your bedtime schedule during weekends and holidays
- spending an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath
- avoiding heavy meals two hours before bedtime
- refraining from using electronic devices right before bed
- exercising regularly, but not in the evening hours close to bedtime
It might seem like we are giving sleep more credit for your good health than what is needed, but that is the very problem we are trying to address. Sleep is very important to your physical and mental health and it’s time that we take is seriously. You cannot “catch up” on sleep or replenish quickly when you are deprived.
Taking simple steps to get better rest, and/or addressing the causes of your sleep distress are important to maintaining a long and healthy life.