sleepless nights

  1. The hidden risks of fatherhood

    You make a lot of sacrifices when you become a parent -- but this is one I'm sure most men never see coming...

    It's the loss of their manhood.

    No, I'm not just talking about the fact that one-time tough guys will coo at a baby, or decorate a nursery in pink.

    I'm talking about real research that reveals a sharp dip in testosterone levels from the moment they hear the words, "It's a boy!"

    Fatherhood can literally cause testosterone levels to plummet by as much as half the moment a child is born. And while it recovers after that (a little bit, anyway), they never quite get their pre-parental mojo back.

    Researchers measured testosterone levels by taking saliva samples from 600 childless men in the Philippines, then repeated those tests for five years. The men who had kids during that time saw their levels plunge by 50 percent in the first month of fatherhood.

    Those who were most involved in physically caring for their child had the biggest drops. (If you ever needed an excuse to skip diaper-change, this is it!)

    Testosterone levels eventually recovered when the children reached toddlerhood — but not completely. Men with kids had 34 percent less testosterone by the end of the study, while men without had drops of just 14 percent (we all lose a little as we age).

    But you don't have to tolerate low testosterone levels, whether you're a dad or not. There are simple steps you can take right now to keep your hormone levels exactly where they need to be.

    First, be sure to get your rest. Testosterone levels can fall by 15 percent after just one week of sleepless nights, according to a recent study.

    Next, lose some weight: Studies have found that overweight and obese men have lower levels of the hormone -- and that those levels rise when the weight comes off.

    Finally, find a safe way to get off the drugs you don't need (and that's nearly all of them). Many come with side effects that are downright emasculating. One recent study found that men who take statins, for example, have double the risk of low testosterone.

    If none of these apply to you, and you're suffering from low testosterone, here's one for you: Emerging research has found that an extract of the spice fenugreek can actually cause free testosterone levels to surge by as much as 96 percent. Read more about it here.

    That's enough to turn you into the manliest dad -- or even granddad -- around.

  2. Poor sleep linked to hypertension

    If you're battling blood pressure problems, you don't need another med -- you just need better sleep... and that doesn't necessarily mean more sleep.

    "Better" sleep is slow-wave sleep -- the deep sleep that helps to refresh our bodies and restore our minds. And now, a new study finds that people who miss out on it aren't just tired, forgetful, and irritable -- they have a dramatically higher risk of hypertension, too.

    Researchers checked the BP levels and monitored the sleep habits of 784 senior men on two occasions, three and a half years apart.

    They found that men who spend less than 4 percent of the night in slow-wave sleep were 83 percent more likely to develop hypertension between the two tests than men who spend at least 17 percent of the night locked inside that deepest of slumbers.

    The men who got the low-quality sleep were also more likely to get less overall sleep, wake up more often, and even suffer from sleep apnea.

    So how much quality sleep are you getting? There's no way to know for sure without spending a night in a sleep lab. But one way you can tell on your own, right now, is to just see how you feel in the morning.

    If you wake up feeling lousy, odds are you're not getting enough. Poor sleep can do so much more than raise your blood pressure. Lack of sleep and low-quality rest can boost the odds of everything from cognitive decline to an early death.

    You definitely don't want any part of that – but don't rush off to your doctor and beg him for sleep meds, either, because there are natural solutions that can help you to get the best rest of your life.

    One recent study found that seniors can overcome sleep problems with the help of talk therapy in as little as two in-person sessions and two follow-up phone calls. (Read about it here.)

    Other studies have found that you can get relief by making simple lifestyle adjustments -- like cutting back on late-day caffeine -- or easy nutritional additions, such as a calcium and magnesium supplement before bedtime.

    For more on the risks of sleepless nights -- and how to beat them -- read this.

  3. Sleepless men die sooner

    A new study finds that men who battle insomnia have quadruple the risk of an early death--and if you're suffering from disease along with your sleepless nights, your death risk can be even higher than that.

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