Do you struggle to get to sleep for hours after going to bed? Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Do you feel tired after waking up in the morning? If your answer is “YES” to any of these questions, it is a serious issue.
Sleep deprivation is a serious problem and you need to take care of it as soon as possible. Lack of good sleep takes a toll on your energy, mood, health and ability to function during the day.
Inadequate or disturbed sleep can result in daytime fatigue, a strong urge to take naps during the day, irritability or anxiety, lack of concentration, depression and even mood swings.
Inadequate sleep is also linked to obesity, heart disease, hypertension, strokes and diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours and adults need 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep.
However, many adults are not getting the required amount of sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.
There can be several reasons behind disturbed or low-quality sleep that you can fix, so you can enjoy the health benefits of sound sleep.
Here are the top 10 reasons why people do not sleep properly at night.
Though most neglected, stress is one of the most common causes of periodic bouts of disturbed sleep. It causes hyperarousal and upsets the balance between sleep and wakefulness, thus causing difficulty falling and staying asleep.
In the American Psychological Association’s 2013 Stress in America survey, 43 percent of adults in the US reported experiencing stress causing them to lie awake at night.
Excessive stress, a complex condition with emotional, cognitive, and biological factors, negatively affects sleep by activating the sympatho-adreno-medullary (SAM) and HPA systems, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Experimental Neurobiology.
Also, a 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine examined the role of stress, arousal, and coping skills in primary insomnia. The study found that stress tends to enhance vulnerability to insomnia.
Before going to bed, read a book, listen to soft music or try meditation and deep breathing to help you relax and sleep better.
2. Use of Electronics
In this modern society, one important reason for poor sleep at night is the use of electronic equipment before bedtime.
Light emanating from electronics inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep-producing hormone, and thus affects your sleep.
Moreover, when your attention is engrossed in a TV or laptop screen, it stimulates brain activity, which is the just the opposite of what you want to happen if you wish to enjoy sound sleep.
Plus, spending time near electronic gadgets before bedtime affects the circadian rhythm of your body in major ways.
A 2012 study by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute states that light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, thus delaying sleep. A 2-hour exposure to electronic devices leads to delayed bedtimes, especially in teens.
Using electronics during the day also severely harms sleep in adolescents, according to a 2015 study published in BMJ Open. It causes a reduction in the hours of sleep along with poor quality of sleep.
To enjoy sound sleep, switch off your TV and laptop at least a couple of hours before your bedtime. Also, put your cell phone and other gadgets away at least an hour before bedtime.
Also, ask your friends and colleagues not to contact you after a particular time unless it is an emergency.
3. Smoking Just Before Bedtime
Smoking affects your body in hundreds of ways and disturbed sleep is just one of them.
Smokers equate smoking with relaxing, but the harmful nicotine works as a stimulant.
So, when you smoke just before going to bed, you may wake up several times throughout the night. Plus, nicotine withdrawal during sleep further leads to restlessness.
A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that cigarette smoking is associated with disturbances in overall sleep architecture.
Later, a 2008 study by the American College of Chest Physicians reported that cigarette smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep due to the stimulating effects of nicotine.
Also, a 2012 study published in Addiction Biology reported that higher degrees of nicotine dependence and intensity of smoking were associated with shorter sleep duration.
Smoking also increases the risk of a dangerous sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea.
However, the good news is that quitting smoking can immediately improve sleep health. So, if you are a smoker and not able to enjoy sound sleep, take steps to quit smoking. It will benefit your health in many ways.
4. Not Exercising Enough
People who do not exercise at all can experience restless sleep and frequent awakenings throughout the night. It may also lead to lack of alertness during the daytime.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 “Sleep in America” poll, participants who exercised at any time of the day reported sleeping better than those who didn’t exercise at all.
Similarly, a 2011 study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity notes that people who performed 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week (the national guideline) reported better sleep quality and daytime alertness than those who were not as physically active.
A 2014 study published in Biomed Research International also reports that exercise can improve sleep quality and minimize some of the impairment associated with chronic primary insomnia.
Some people say that exercising too late at night can hamper sleep quality, however in reality, it is not true.
According to a 2011 study published in Sleep Research, vigorous late-night exercise does not disturb sleep quality. However, it may have effects on cardiac autonomic control of the heart during the initial sleeping hours.
Try to exercise in the morning or during the late afternoon to enjoy sound sleep.
5. Excess Alcohol Intake Close to Bedtime
For many, alcohol works as a sleep inducer. But while a glass of wine may get you to doze off, excess intake of alcohol may make you more likely to wake up during the night and not feel as rested following your sleep.
Heavy drinking can actually interfere with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This, in turn, makes you feel more tired the next morning.
Studies have shown that alcohol has extensive effects on sleep and daytime sleepiness.
A 2013 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that, at all doses studied, alcohol increased deep or so-called slow-wave sleep during the first part of the night.
However, it may cause restlessness later during the sleep cycle. It also affects the REM sleep, making you more tired and lethargic the next morning.
6. Late Night Coffee
Many people have the habit of drinking a strong cup of coffee after dinner. This is something you need to avoid if you wish to enjoy sound sleep.
The caffeine in coffee works as a stimulant and can result in increased alertness, cause nervousness and dizziness, and even lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia. Caffeine can interfere with normal REM sleep and make you feel even more tired.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has disruptive effects on sleep and sheds light on the importance of refraining from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime.
A few hours before your bedtime, avoid drinking coffee as well as other caffeinated beverages like tea and soda. Enjoy your coffee during the daytime.
When it comes to disturbed sleep, you can even put the blame on your dinner menu. High fat and low fiber intake spoil your chances for a good night’s sleep.
A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity Chinese reports that Chinese men and women who slept less than 7 hours a night ate more fat than those who slept 7 to 9 hours a night.
This establishes the link between high fat intake and decreased sleep duration.
In fact, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.
So, to enjoy sound sleep, take a look at your dinner menu and include foods rich in fiber and low in fat content. Also, keep your dinner light.
8. Your Bedroom’s Light and Temperature
For sound sleep, you need a dark bedroom. An ideal bedroom is one that does not have any light once the switches are off.
Light can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone released by your pineal gland that causes sleepiness and lowers body temperature.
Even a small amount of ambient light from your cell phone or computer can disrupt the production of melatonin and overall sleep.
When exposed to light during sleep, your brain thinks that it’s time to wake up and that causes disturbed sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark throughout the night. If needed, use dark shades or curtains on the windows to block out streetlights.
Also, make sure there isn’t any kind of noise, such as water dripping from a tap or the tickling sound of a clock. If needed, use earplugs to cut out the noise.
Furthermore, your body needs a cooler temperature when you sleep. If the temperature of your bedroom is too warm or too cold, it will affect your sleep quality, especially the quality of REM sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a temperature somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (about 18 degrees Celsius) to induce sound sleep.
A 2008 study published in Brain – The Journal of Neurology indicates that very mild manipulations of room temperature can help in the management of disturbed sleep, especially in the elderly.
The two most typical age-related sleep problems are a decreased slow wave sleep and an increased risk of early morning awakening.
Along with the room temperature, lowering your body’s temperature by taking a shower before hitting the bed can also bring on sleep.
9. Hormonal Changes
According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are more likely than men to not get enough sleep or feel sleepy during the day. This is mainly due to hormonal changes in the body.
Women are more prone to poor sleep quality around menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
The fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone before or during the menstrual cycle can sabotage sleep.
During pregnancy, there is an increase in progesterone in the body, which causes endless trips to the bathroom. This, in turn, causes disturbed sleep.
On the other hand, during menopause, there is a drop in progesterone and estrogen levels that causes nighttime hot flashes and disturbed sleep.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine highlights the effect of fluctuating hormones on sleep patterns.
A hot bath a couple of hours before hitting the bed can help you deal with hormonal-related sleep problems. Even following a consistent sleep-wake schedule can help a lot.
10. Pets in the Bedroom
Pets offer many physical and psychological health benefits. They can help reduce stress, motivate you to exercise and even improve your outlook toward life. But pets can affect your sleep.
Sleeping habits of humans and pets are different, and hence pets should not be permitted in the bedroom.
In 2002, the MD of Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center surveyed 300 patients and found that 53 percent of people who slept with their pets reported disturbed sleep to some extent.
Plus, a 2011 study by the CDC found that some diseases can be transmitted from pets to humans, especially when pets share the same bedroom.
Everyone deserves their own sleeping space, so keep your pets out of your bed to get sound sleep.
Tips to Improve Sleep
- Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Do not take long naps during the day, as it can make it more difficult to sleep at night.
- If you feel like taking a nap, limit it to 30 minutes and before the late afternoon.
- Keep the bedroom clocks out of view. Clock watching can make you more anxious and stressed.
- Turn off electronic screens and put away your gadgets at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Do not keep any type of electronics, such as a TV or laptop, in your bedroom.
- Do not discuss work or family problems with your partner after getting into bed, as it can lead to stress.
- Take a short walk after eating to improve digestion and prevent heartburn and gas that can lead to disturbed sleep.
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods for dinner. Such foods can cause heartburn.
- Drink less water before bedtime to prevent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- If you are unable to fall back asleep after 20 minutes, do not lay in bed. Get up and do some deep breathing exercises to help you relax.