Sleeping beautyYes, it’s a racy title but it did get you to tune in!  Let’s face it, when we’re talking about health and well-being, the bedroom is an important category.  Two areas relating to the bedroom that have become chronic problems in North America are insomnia and low sex drive.


Of all the sleep disorders, insomnia is the most prevalent.  It is characterized by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep.  As a result, they may get too little sleep or have poor-quality sleep. They may not feel refreshed when they wake up.

Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is common and often is brought on by situations such as stress at work, family pressures, or a traumatic event. It can also be related to lifestyle factors such as poor diet (caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol) and being sedentary.  Acute insomnia lasts for days or weeks.

Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia.

Insomnia can cause daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. It also can make you feel anxious, depressed, or irritable. You may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering. These problems can prevent you from doing your best at work or school.

Insomnia can have a very serious impact on quality of life also can cause other serious problems.

  • For example, you may feel drowsy while driving or at work, which could lead to an accident.
  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with insomnia are four times more likely to suffer from depression than people who sleep well.
  • When an individual is tired they are more likely to make poor eating decisions and feel less motivated to exercise or participate in social events.
  • Lack of sleep can contribute to absenteeism at work as well as a greater likelihood of illnesses.

The CDC estimates that the direct cost of insomnia is around $14 billion annually.  This includes money spent on treatment, healthcare services, and hospital and nursing home care.  The indirect costs, although harder to calculate, are estimated at $28 billion.  This includes things like loss of time or productivity at work, property damage from accidents and costs associated with getting to medical appointments.  Together these figures top $40 billion dollars!

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness all may contribute to these hazardous outcomes. Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. Sleep insufficiency may be caused by broad scale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also play an important role. According to the CDC, an estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.

In recognition of the importance of sleep to the nation’s health, CDC surveillance of sleep-related behaviors has increased in recent years. Additionally, the Institute of Medicine encouraged collaboration between CDC and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research to support development and expansion of adequate surveillance of the U.S. population’s sleep patterns and associated outcomes. Two new reports on the prevalence of unhealthy sleep behaviors and self-reported sleep-related difficulties among U.S. adults provide further evidence that insufficient sleep is an important public health concern.

According to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Forty-eight percent of Americans report insomnia occasionally, while 22 percent experience insomnia every or almost every night.
  • Women are 1.3 times more likely to report insomnia than men, particularly before and at the onset of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and menopause.
  • People over age 65 are 1.5 times more likely to complain of insomnia than younger people.
  • Divorced, widowed and separated people report more insomnia.

How Much Sleep?

How much sleep someone need varies but the National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. Unfortunately, with hectic lifestyles and 24-7 access to the Internet, people are not getting nearly the amount of sleep they need for good health.  According to data from the National Health Interview Survey completed back in 2007, nearly 30% of adults reported an average of less than 6 hours of sleep per day in 2005-2007.  No doubt, with the increase in the availability of technology since then these numbers are most likely worse.

Getting a Better Sleep Naturally

With so many Americans dealing with insomnia, the use of medications for sleep aid has soared.  According to the CDC, Nearly 9 million U.S. adults take prescription sleep aids.  A study published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics noted that pharmaceutical companies had reported an increased number of prescriptions filled for sleep medication in the last two decades.  This doesn’t include the use of over the counter aids that are easily accessible to anyone.

The need to reach for any type of drug for sleep isn’t always necessary and, of course, should be avoided if possible.  Researchers note that one of the important keys to obtaining a good night’s sleep is proper “sleep hygiene.”   Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.  Some critical components to good sleep hygiene include the following.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.
  • Exercise daily but try and get it in earlier in the day.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and creates a relaxing environment,
  • Find a median temperature, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom.
  • Avoid computer or cell phone use one hour prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Try not to drink too many fluids prior to bedtime, preventing the need for using the bathroom during the night.
  • Avoid nicotine.

By following good sleep hygiene guidelines, you will be on your way to a better night’s sleep without the need for unnecessary medications.

Low Sex Drive

Another area related to the bedroom is sex drive.  Yes, it’s a difficult subject for everyone but the reality is that low sex drive, erectile dysfunction and infertility are three medical issues that continue to rise in North America.  There are a number of reasons that a person’s sex drive can wane.  This is true for both men and women.

First, there may be a psychological issue going on in the person’s life. Stress and anxiety from the strain of daily life, relationship or family problems, depression, and mental disorders are among the many factors that can affect sexual desire.

Second, there could be medical problems. Diseases such as diabetes; conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol; and medications can negatively affect sexual desire.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a medical condition when a man has trouble getting or keeping an erection.  Although it is more common as men get older, it is not a natural part of aging; it is a result of lifestyle choices (like smoking) and occurs more often in men who have some other type of medical condition, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Third are hormonal issues. Testosterone levels impact sexual desire in both men and woman.  Of course, it is part of the natural aging process for a man’s testosterone levels to be reduced as he ages but the same can happen for women.  Women have the additional issue of fluctuating hormones during menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause.  Any fluctuation up or down can contribute to changes in sexual desire.  Other hormones can play a role, too, such as low levels of thyroid hormone.  Underactive thyroid hormones can act as a double whammy for sex drive because it is often accompanied by an increase in weight.  Weight gain can negatively impact sexual performance in men and for both men and women influence how one feels about themselves emotionally.

Fourth are dopamine levels. Sexual desire obviously involves the brain — and the brain’s chemical messaging system is intimately linked to sexual desire. One of those messengers is dopamine.  As dopamine levels decrease, so too does sexual desire.

What is interesting is the regular exercise has an impact on every aspect of maintaining a healthy sex drive.  As we have demonstrated throughout this entire book, exercise is a fantastic stress reliever, it helps to prevent the onset of chronic illnesses, and it boosts hormones and dopamine levels naturally.  If more doctors would prescribe exercise, maybe we would see fewer ads for Viagra and Cialis!

The Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life

Having a healthy sex life is important—for lots of reasons.

  • Improves sleep! Between the activity and the release of hormones, most people report sleeping better after sex.
  • Stress release; gives a new meaning to “burning off stress.”
  • Boost confidence. When you feel better about yourself your confidence soars.
  • Creates an emotional connection. Healthy sexual activity with a partner involves intimacy, which is important to our emotional well-being.
  • Balances hormones naturally.
  • Studies indicate that the incidence of breast and prostate cancer are decreased in individuals who have a healthy sex life.
  • Natural anti-aging. The hormone DHEA is released during sex, which is important for keeping use youthful.
  • It counts as exercise. Not only will you burn more calories but you will also utilize many muscles and increase your heart rate, hence cardiovascular endurance.
  • Increases your blood flow, which is good for overall circulation and cardiovascular health.
  • Makes you feel good because of the release of the “happy” hormone dopamine.

The bottom line is that regular exercise will help both men and women sleep better and have a more fulfilling, active sex life.  Both of which are important for life-long health.