Many adults suffer from sleep deprivation, with insomnia as a common issue. Sleep problems aren’t random, and some factors influence your sleep quality, but can be remedied.
First, you have to address issues affecting your sleep quality. Many factors that contribute to a bad night’s sleep will be better under control once you bring awareness to the matter. For example, if you’re taking a new asthma drug that lists insomnia as a side effect, it’s important to see your primary care doctor in case you’re exposed to triggers in the night. Look closely at potential reasons why you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep.
Worrywart Level 100
Congratulations! You’ve reached worrywart level 100 and unlocked the achievement of insomnia. Stress, depression and anxiety all cause you to lie awake at night as your mind wanders from one little detail and worry to the next. That hamster in your head is hosting a party, dressed in a sparkly tutu and crushing that wheel — and your chances of sleep. You wake up way too early to start the day, and can’t fall back asleep. Why bother?
Your mental health is connected with the quality of your sleep. In those with a family history of depression, those who go into dream sleep within an hour after drifting off are at least twice as likely to experience depression than other relatives who enter within the normal 90-minute span.
In this case, seek out a therapist to address underlying reasons why you’re not sleeping well. Writing down your concerns before bed or writing about something you’re grateful for is also cathartic.
Wearing Out Your Body
Working out is good for you, and regular exercise helps your body sleep well. However, wearing out your body with vigorous exercise can have the opposite effect: preventing you from drifting off. Exercise increases your metabolism, boosting adrenaline and other hormonal stimulants in the body.
Don’t exercise right before bed. Give yourself a few hours to wind down instead of acting like a jack-in-the-box. Walk, don’t run, to bed. Save the acrobatics to impress your crush at work.
Eating a Heavy Meal
Eating a hearty comfort meal loaded with delicious gravy and starches will make you feel sleepy, but you won’t find comfort when you do lie down. Instead, you’ll be wide awake, with a too-full belly making whale sounds as it digests your food.
Similarly, going to bed on an empty stomach or still hungry also causes sleep problems: Low blood sugar can disturb your sleep. You may also experience night sweats and nightmares. You always wanted to be a horror writer, anyway, right?
If you can’t fall asleep, a nightcap isn’t a good remedy. In small doses, alcohol works as a sedative with mild effects. However, many people turn to heavy drinking to get in their shuteye. Large alcohol consumption first makes you sleepy, but then produces diuretic effects as your bladder fills, impairing breathing and making you breathe shallowly. In the morning, you wake up thirsty and dehydrated due to alcohol increasing your heart rate. Don’t drink to fall asleep.
Your Heart Isn’t in It
Particular heart drugs cause sleep problems, while certain heart problems themselves keep you awake because of a frightening or disrupting experience. If you’re experiencing heart problems at night, such as palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, speak with your primary care doctor, since these could be the first signs of another condition, small or large. Your doctor will also find another medication that may be as effective, but less disturbing to your sleep quality.
Your heart skipping a beat for a sweetheart is a beautiful thing, but not during the night!
Herbal Supplements and Remedies
Many herbal supplements and remedies calm the body and help you sleep. However, others will keep you up when you need to sleep.
For example, ginseng stimulates the body. If you use other herbal supplements and remedies to stimulate physical and mental activity, look closely at the label and do not take these in the late afternoon or the evening. Compare with medications for possible interactions, such as insomnia. Certain pills must be taken several hours apart, or they could cause insomnia.
You Have a Sleep Disorder
You may also have a sleep disorder, regardless of these other factors or intermixed with them. As many partners know, snoring is the most common — and the most annoying — symptom of a sleep disorder, but others include:
- Restlessness or inability to fall asleep at night
- Waking up gasping for oxygen
- Daytime sleepiness
- Jaw soreness
- Memory lapses
Snoring is also a major sign of sleep apnea, which leads to a few seconds of not breathing at night. It’s important to see a sleep doctor, as your partner is often the first to see something’s not right with this condition — and is tired of rolling you over on your side.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, makes you wake up with a sore jaw, earache, headache, neck and face pain and sensitive teeth. Over time, your teeth may suffer serious damage.
These are only a few conditions you may be experiencing related to problems falling and staying asleep. Consult with your primary care doctor and a sleep specialist to find a treatment plan that works for you.
Putting Your Sleeping Problems to Bed
Reducing, changing or eliminating other problem-causing factors will help you improve your quality of sleep. Skip the nightcap and heavy meals before sleep. Space out herbal supplements and medications with interactions, or switch prescriptions. Exercise, but not too much or right before bed.
Aside from writing down worries or talking to a therapist, there are more practical things you can do to get your sleep back on track. Get on a consistent sleep schedule with a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends. Choose a ritual before bed that helps you wind down, such as reading, walking or taking a warm bath.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for the day ahead, but also to maintain a long, healthy life. Sleep well!