In modern society, one reason for not being able to sleep is the use of electronics just before going to bed. This is psychologically and physically stimulating in such a way that adversely affects your sleep. Whether you’re playing a video game or checking the weather or emails, using a cellphone in bed could delay your sleep. All electronic devices such as TVs, smartphones, tablets or laptops affect your circadian rhythms.
The release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, is suppressed. This is mostly due to the artificial blue light that these devices emit. The more electronic devices used before bedtime, the harder it becomes to fall asleep. Alertness is increased at a time when you should be starting to feel sleepy. Further studies on light emissions from screens are currently being done, so more answers on exactly how they affect sleep should be forthcoming.
Another factor that affects sleep is that these devices hold your attention and keep your brain engaged at a time when you should be winding down for the night. In combination with the excessive blue light exposure, it’s no wonder that your brain feels stimulated and alert instead of pleasantly relaxed and sleepy.
Try to turn off all electronic devices at least half an hour before bedtime. The earlier in the evening this is done, the better but keep to whatever feels realistic. Reading a book in bed is a good substitute for being on a cell phone prior to going to sleep. Studies have revealed that texting late at night affects a teenager’s quality of sleep and grades. It may be helpful to establish an electronic gadget curfew for the whole family.
Many people have a habit of drinking coffee at night after a meal. The problem is that the caffeine in the coffee is a stimulant. The most recognizable effect of drinking coffee is that you feel more alert. Interestingly, the caffeine in coffee suppresses melatonin production even more than bright light, playing havoc with your sleep-wake cycle.
You don’t feel the effects straight away. The caffeine takes a while to kick in, but the effects last for a couple of hours. It can take as long as 6 to 8 hours for its stimulant effects to fade. Stopping all caffeine consumption at about 2pm in the afternoon is recommended because it has such a long-lasting effect. If it takes about 8 hours for only half the caffeine to be metabolized, stopping at about 2pm means you will be able to fall asleep at about 10:30pm.
The quantity of caffeine consumed is another factor. You tend to forget that caffeine is found in other sources like tea, sodas, energy drinks and chocolate. Energy drinks and sodas are full of caffeine and sugar. If you’re regularly relying on these drinks to make it through the day, insomnia is likely to become a problem. Consuming too much caffeine on a daily basis can seriously affect your health and your sleep.
The side-effects of over-consumption of caffeine include heart palpitations, nervousness, upset stomach, the frequency of urination and muscle tremors. Chronic over-consumption of caffeine can even lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. You will have to figure out whether what you are consuming is affecting your sleep. Try drinking decaf coffee after 2pm if you seriously can’t give up your coffee. It may take a while getting used to not having that caffeine kick, but it may just cure your sleeplessness.
Many people find that a glass or two of wine in the evening helps rather than hinders their sleep. However, excess alcohol intake causes frequent waking during the night and a feeling of not being rested in the morning. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption before bedtime has a severe impact on sleep quality. You may fall asleep quickly, but it’s common to wake up in the night. Short-term alcohol use may give the impression of helping with sleep, but studies have proved this is not true.
This is because drinking alcohol before going to sleep increases the production of a sleep-inducing chemical called adenosine. It allows you to fall asleep faster, but when it subsides, which is quite quickly, you will find yourself wide awake in the early hours of the morning. Alcohol is fast acting, and the effects are fairly short-lived. The liver metabolizes the alcohol quickly, and you go from a deep sleep into a disturbed sleep.
Drinking reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which is the restorative phase of sleep. It takes longer to go into this phase when you drink. REM sleep phases get longer as the night progresses and when alcohol enters the equation, this is disrupted. This is why you may wake up feeling unfocused and groggy after drinking the night before.
If you drink alcohol before going to bed, it can aggravate breathing problems. The alcohol relaxes your whole body, including your throat muscles, which can cause snoring and sleep apnea. If you already suffer from sleep apnea, drinking alcohol can make it worse. Alcohol is a diuretic so you will also tend to make more trips to the bathroom which is disruptive to your sleep. It seems that there are many ways that alcohol can affect your sleep. Having an occasional drink before you go to sleep is unlikely to do much harm but drinking high amounts of alcohol before bedtime could have many detrimental effects.
5. A high-fat diet
It appears that there’s a link between consumption of saturated fat and decreased the duration of sleep. A 2016 study found that a diet high in saturated fat and sugar and low in fiber is associated with less restorative, lighter sleep and more waking up. This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. A diet high in fat appears to cause daytime drowsiness and poor quality sleep at night.
Sleep researchers in both Australia and the UK have concluded from their studies that diets high in fat lead to less quality sleep. They found that participants on a high-fat diet not only gained weight but showed symptoms of sleep deprivation like daytime drowsiness and irritability. Feeling drowsy during the day tends to induce a craving for high fat, high carbohydrate foods to try and pump up energy levels. This is associated with poor sleep levels, and so the poor-diet poor-sleep cycle continues.
Researchers also found that the timing of high-fat meals made a difference to sleep quality. Participants who ate a light meal quite early had no trouble going to sleep. Those who ate a high-fat meal like a cheeseburger and fries not long before bedtime took three times as long to fall asleep and tossed and turned more. They also suffered from more abnormal breathing and got less REM sleep.
Ways to prevent this from happening is to eat more balanced meals throughout the day, spreading fat consumption over all the meals and reducing those high in fat closer to bedtime. What we eat during the day appears to have lasting effects on the duration and quality of our sleep and affects not only our sleep but our overall health.
6. Lack of exercise
If you spend the day slouched in a chair reading or watching TV, you may feel tired and sluggish, but when you go to bed, you find you can’t go to sleep. Exercise can significantly improve your ability to have a good night’s sleep. It is better to do any intense exercise early in the day because it stimulates you by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. The hours before you go to bed should rather be spent on relaxation and exercising early in the day is probably better.
Insomnia is commonly linked to anxiety, depression, and stress. It is well known that exercise is able to reduce these conditions. Many people who exercise moderately report that their levels of anxiety and stress are reduced by exercising. They find that they are able to sleep better on the days when they work out than those when they don’t.
If you exercise too much, it can backfire on you. It activates your stress response, elevates your stress hormones, and if these stays elevated for long periods of time, it can damage your health. Your body has to be allowed to recover fully between sessions, or extreme exercise could lead to heart problems, a weakened immune system and more risk of developing chronic health conditions.
If you have no time to exercise during the day, you could do less strenuous exercise in the evenings such as Pilates, Yoga or walking. This type of exercise can be very beneficial for stress reduction and relaxation. If you have insomnia, it may take some time before you notice any beneficial effects from exercising. A fitness routine has to be sustained for a while for you to see the effects.
Smoking has so many bad effects on your health, including causing insomnia. Smokers tend to equate smoking with relaxation, but the nicotine acts as a stimulant. Nicotine withdrawal during sleeping hours also leads to restless and disturbed sleep. When you smoke before going to sleep, you tend to wake up during the night. A smoking habit can wreak havoc on your normal sleeping rhythms because nicotine acts on multiple pathways in the brain. If you smoke, you are statistically more likely to develop insomnia problems down the line.
Smoking also increases the risks of developing sleep apnea when the muscles at the back of the throat collapse during sleep causing breathing to cease. Inhaled smoke irritates the tissue in the nose and throat, causing inflammation and further restricting the flow of air.
Various studies have shown that smoking and sleep don’t go well together. Researchers doing studies found that when mice were exposed to cigarette smoke, their circadian rhythms were disrupted. In a 2013 study done by the University of Florida, it was found that 1.2 minutes of sleep were lost as the result of every cigarette smoked.
Once you start smoking, your sleep is never the same. Smokers suffer from reduced deep sleep, suppression of REM sleep, fragmented sleep patterns and drowsiness during the day. The good news is that if you give up smoking, it can work wonders to improve the quality of your sleep. Of course, it’s better not to start in the first place. People who are trying to quit find that sleeplessness can get worse before it gets better.
8. Temperature, light, and noise
Light can have a profound influence on sleep. Sound sleep requires a dark bedroom. Even a small amount of ambient light can cause a decrease in melatonin production which prevents you from falling asleep. If your brain is exposed to light when you’re meant to fall asleep, it thinks it’s still daytime and that you’re meant to be awake. You may have to use dark shades on your windows to block out the streetlight.
Scientists have discovered that when the brain produces melatonin, the body temperature cools down as your metabolism slows. If your room is not cool enough, it can prevent you from sleeping. In the middle of winter, you may turn on the heating, put on warm clothing and sleep under a number of layers. Do you know that if your sleeping environment is too warm, it can affect your sleep?
According to recent research, light, temperature, sound, and physical comfort all have the potential to influence our sleep. Many of us have experienced that feeling of lying listening to a dripping tap. Sounds that appeared unobtrusive during the day can keep us awake at night. Most of us have been woken by a loud sound in the night. Sound appears to have both negative and positive influences, depending on the type, personal preference, the level and other factors.
Keeping your room cool, dark and quiet, rather like a cave, is the advice given by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. A white-noise machine or noise-canceling headphones can help to block out all the noises that prevent you from sleeping or wake you up at night. Wearing an eye mask is another way to help you sleep at night by blocking out the light. When it’s made of a soft, comfortable material, you hardly notice you’re wearing it.
9. Hormonal changes
Hormones are like chemical messengers in the body. They control many of the body’s processes and are linked to sleep in many ways. A hormone-like adrenalin, for instance, makes us more alert which is not conducive to sleep. A hormone-like melatonin, on the other hand, is a hormone that induces sleep. The changes in hormone levels during the various stages of a woman’s life have an effect on sleep.
Women are often more likely to have sleep problems when they are menstruating, pregnant or menopausal. This is because their hormone levels are fluctuating. Before and during menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate. During pregnancy progesterone levels increase and during menopause, they decrease. Shifting in hormone ratios often results in an inability to go to sleep.
Hormones are even produced in our bodies during the night that prevents us from having to get up to go to the bathroom. This is why children may wet their beds while they are still developing because they may lack this anti-diuretic hormone. Cortisol is another hormone that has a significant effect on sleep. At times of stress, cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands. When the stress is ongoing, the excessive arousal of the stress hormones can contribute to sleeplessness.
Sleep helps to balance the appetite because the right levels of the hormones, leptin, and ghrelin are maintained. Getting less sleep than we should, may make us want to eat more. Cortisol and insulin levels are also controlled during sleep so we feel ready to eat when we wake up and ready to face the stress of the day. The hormone prolactin can also become unbalanced with too little sleep, causing carb cravings and a weakened immune system.
10. Pets in the bedroom
Many people sleep with pets in their bedrooms. Is sleeping with a cat or dog in the bedroom bad for you? Researchers at the Mayo Clinic conducted a study monitored how 40 healthy dog lovers slept over a five-month period with a dog in the bed. They found that sleeping with a pet in the room does not necessarily disrupt sleep. However, when the pet slept in the same bed, it caused frequent waking through the night.
The study had some limitations, and further studies need to be done. Many pet owners find it comforting and relaxing to have pets in the bedroom with them and even in their bed. They do not believe it disrupts their sleep. Of course, the size and breed of the dog can make a difference too. Dogs often whine, bark or jerk their legs while sleeping which can be quite disruptive. They also tend to scratch at the bedding to try and make a comfortable sleeping area, leaving you coverless on the edge of the bed.
Some owners can’t afford to have their pets in the bedroom with them because they suffer from allergies. Some diseases can also be transferred from animals to humans when they are in such close quarters, such as rabies or antibiotic-resistant infections, but this is rare. People with compromised immune systems need to be more careful, but most people shouldn’t have to worry about this.
If you suffer from insomnia and consistently feel you are not getting enough sleep, it’s worth considering moving a pet out of your bed. Your pet may not be happy, but you can’t afford to risk all the health consequences of not getting enough sleep. Your pet will be happy about having a healthy, well-rested owner rather than a grumpy, irritable one.
11. Napping too long and too late in the day
You need to be careful about napping during the day. It can be a great way to refresh your brain and make you feel more energetic if you nap for no longer than about 20 or 30 minutes. If it goes on for longer, there is a risk of going into deep sleep, and that can throw off your circadian rhythms. A longer nap will often leave you feeling groggy because you wake up from a deeper sleep.
If you take a nap too late in the day, it can also give trouble when you try to go to sleep at night. Try to take a nap early in the afternoon. Even a short nap early in the evening will interfere with your bedtime. If you feel yourself wanting to nod off while watching TV, either go to bed if it’s close enough to your bedtime or if you’re not ready for bed, get up, move around and find something else to do that’s relaxing but doesn’t make you want to fall asleep.
Feeling drowsy in the afternoon is quite normal but nodding off several times a day is not normal. If your eyelids feel heavy and you feel tired all day, it’s a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep. It may also indicate an underlying sleep disorder such as sleep apnea which is fairly common and affects millions of people in the U.S. alone. Excessive daytime sleepiness could also be a symptom of another disorder called narcolepsy.
A siesta in the early afternoon is common in many cultures. Taking an afternoon nap is normal practice and considered essential for getting energy for the rest of the day. If you feel you have to take a nap, don’t make it too long, take it in the early afternoon and make up for it by postponing your bedtime for the same amount of time, you took your nap.
12. Leg cramps
Most of us are familiar with leg cramps. If we sit in one position for long enough or stand for too long, we often get cramps. Cramps that are sleep-related usually cause sudden, intense pain. They usually occur in the calf muscles, but they can also occur in the thighs and in the feet. The muscle contracts and tightens, either while you’re still awake or after you’ve fallen asleep, causing you to wake up due to the pain. Cramps may end as quickly as they start.
Some people have them on rare occasions, and others suffer from them many times in one night. They also tend to come and go over the years. Anyone can get leg cramps, but they occur more often in older people. You can try stretching the muscle to relieve the cramps. You can also try moving the leg, massaging it or applying heat. You often feel soreness once the cramp has gone that may prevent you from going back to sleep.
The causes of leg cramps are not really known, but they may be linked to overexertion of the muscles sitting for long periods or sitting in awkward positions. They appear to be linked to certain health conditions too such as electrolyte imbalances and neuromuscular disorders. Using certain medications like diuretics and statins is also believed to cause leg cramps.
There’s a difference between leg cramps and restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome involves movements of the legs but does not cause pain or tightness of the muscle. The urge to move the legs is very strong with a kind of crawling, discomforting feeling that is partially relieved as soon as the legs move.
13. Your mattress
A supportive, comfortable bed is one way to ensure a good night’s sleep. You may try relaxing before bedtime with a warm bath and a milky drink but if you’re sleeping on an old mattress that does not support you, sags in the middle and creaks through the night, chances are you won’t sleep well.
Your mattress may be home to a whole lot of dust mites. These creatures feed on your dead skin cells. Many people are allergic to dust mites, and they are a real problem for people who have asthma. You can clean your mattress with a vacuum cleaner to get rid of them. You can also use allergy-proof pillow covers and wash covers and sheets frequently in hot water frequently.
There isn’t much evidence to suggest that a firm mattress or a soft mattress is best for you. If you keep waking up with back pain and stiff muscles, your mattress may not be giving you enough support. If it’s starting to dip in the middle, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to turf it. Sleeping on a saggy mattress with a few broken springs is certainly not going to give you enough quality sleep.
Don’t just buy a new mattress without testing it out first. Just because it’s description sounds appealing with terms like ‘plush’ and ‘downy soft’ being used does not mean that you will find it comfortable. Comfort is a subjective feeling. Some people sleep better on a firmer mattress, and others prefer one with a little more give. You need to consider size, the technology used for making it and the material used when selecting the best mattress for you.
14. A messy bedroom
A cluttered bedroom is not conducive to relaxation. If your bedroom is a dumping ground rather than a sanctuary, it can be very difficult to relax in it. People who tend to hoard often end up with clutter in their bedrooms and studies have found that it takes these people longer to fall asleep than their counterparts who have clean and tidy bedrooms.
A messy bedroom can lead to a poor night’s sleep and more anxiety. Increased tiredness the following day means even less likelihood of cleaning up. This vicious cycle can eventually result in cognitive dysfunction and depression as the quality of sleep worsens. This information should be the perfect nudge to tidy up your bedroom so you can have a good night’s sleep.
When your bedroom is dirty and untidy, the jumble in your room seems to reflect the jumble in your mind. Having a clean room can be very comforting and relaxing. Your room should be a place you can retreat to where you can get away from the worries of the day, and your work should never intrude into your bedroom.
The environment you sleep in can do a great deal to affect how you sleep. A good mattress, comfortable pillow, clean bedding and a dark room can go a long way toward helping you get a good night’s sleep. Cleaning up a messy bedroom can help to relieve stress and tension. It will make it more functional, comfortable and pleasing to the senses. It also allows you to utilize your bedroom in the way it is meant to be – a place to relax and to sleep.
15. A disruptive partner
If you have to put up with a partner in your bed who snores, tosses and turns, it can seriously affect your sleep quality. By the time you’ve tried to roll your partner onto his or her side to stop the snoring, it may be difficult to fall asleep again. A partner may even be suffering from sleep apnea without realizing it and you are woken by periodic noises as your partner stops breathing and then starts again.
Another issue can be with temperature. The temperature you feel comfortable with is not comfortable for your partner. Your feet are always cold, but your partner’s are always warm. Perhaps you need to consider separate bedding if you want to share the same bed peacefully. Another problem may be the fact that one partner wants to go to sleep earlier than the other and is disrupted by the other one hitting the hay later and getting up later.
Children also have an impact on your sleep. They have nightmares and get ill. It helps if partners take it, in turn, to attend to the kids. Some find it works to take one night on and one night off whereas others prefer to take shifts through the night. As they get older, children disrupt your sleep lesser and eventually those disrupted nights are a distant memory.
Snoring is one of the most common problems that affect the duration and quality of sleep of partners sharing a bed. Overweight people tend to snore more, and alcohol consumption also increases snoring. Another problem may be the grinding of teeth. A dentist can fit a dental guard to stop the grinding. Research has shown that partners often sleep better when sleeping together than when sleeping alone. However, if your partner’s sleeping habits are preventing you from getting enough sleep, you need to address the issue, or it can have serious implications for your health.