Do you find yourself tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep or stay asleep? We all have those nights from time to time, but if you experience this unrestful sleep frequently, you may want to consider finding the underlying cause or causes.
Sleep is a critical element of optimal wellness. When you identify the potential causes of less than optimal sleep, you can address them and find solutions. It may be as easy as closing the bedroom door. Here are some possible causes of sleep disturbances and tips for better sleep.
Causes and Solutions
Some reasons for frequent insomnia or unrestful sleep are related to your state of mind. Depression, stress, and anxiety often negatively affect sleep. A change in lifestyle can lead to inadequate sleep. Changing your work schedule, working night shifts or having an inconsistent work schedule can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. Being sedentary or becoming less active or even changing your exercise routine can cause some tossing and turning.
Consider how many caffeinated beverages you drink each day and when you drink them. Many people have trouble falling asleep when they drink caffeine too close to bedtime. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can also have an effect on sleep. Often times there are aspects of your sleep environment that are not conducive to restful sleep. Creating a proper sleep environment may be all you need to get a good night’s sleep.
Optimal Sleep Environment
- Optimal Sleep Environment
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Make your bedroom as quiet as possible
- Make sure your pillow and mattress are supportive and comfortable
- Wash your bed linens frequently
- Wear earplugs if you share a bedroom with someone who snores
Keep pets off your bed
What to Avoid
- Avoid working, texting or any other phone or computer activities in bed
- Avoid watching TV in bed
- Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
- Avoid eating sugary, spicy and fatty foods close to bedtime
Cool, Dark, Quiet
A cool, dark and quiet room is more conducive to sleep than a warm room. You can use a ceiling fan or oscillating fan at any time of the year to create a cooler and quieter environment. Along with moving more air in the room to keep you cool, it will also generate white noise to help mask the ambient sounds that may wake you up at night. There are also a number of electronic devices available to produce white noise.
There may be too much light getting into your bedroom, close your window coverings completely. You can use blackout shades to eliminate early morning light. Avoid night lights.
Strive for Comfort
Examine your mattress and pillow. Are they comfortable? Do they give you enough support? If you have been using the same pillow for more than a year, consider getting a new one. Depending on the type and quality of the pillow, it’s recommended you replace your pillow every 6 months to 2 years.
It’s also recommended to change your mattress every 8 to 10 years. Your mattress may even come with a suggested timeframe.
How often do you change your bed linens? Dust, dirt, perspiration, bacteria, dust mites and other allergens can thrive on your bed linens. Some people are more sensitive to these accumulations than others. It’s best to wash sheets and pillowcases once per week because they are in contact with your body. Comforters and other bed linens can be cleaned less frequently. However, it’s a good idea to vacuum your bedding once per week to remove dust and other accumulations. If you find you are sensitive or allergic to dust or other particles, you may want to consider an allergy resistant pillow cover and mattress cover.
Who Do You Sleep With?
Another possible cause of unrestful sleep could be your partner. If you or your partner snores, find ways to decrease the effects snoring has on your sleep. In addition, urge your partner to see a doctor and ask about a sleep study. Snoring can be an indication of a serious medical condition.
Wear earplugs, use a white noise device or go to bed earlier than your partner. If you are asleep before your partner begins to snore, it may not be as disruptive to your sleep.
If your partner is a pet, he or she may be the culprit. Pets can disturb sleep in many ways. First, pet dander is an allergen. Many people have varying degrees of allergic reactions to pet dander. Second, where and how your pet sleeps could be a reason for your unrestful sleep. If your pet moves around a lot or seeks your attention, these disruptions can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Third, if your pet sleeps against you or claims a large portion of your bed, these habits are also not conducive to proper sleep.
Sleep and Intimate Relations
Sleep and intimate relations should be the only activities conducted in bed.
Avoid working, texting, or any other phone or computer activities in bed and avoid watching TV. These activities keep your mind active, even after you finish the activity. What’s more, blue light exposure, from tablets and laptops suppresses melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a crucial role in sleep.
Food and Drink
What you eat and drink can affect the quality of your sleep. We all know that caffeine too close to bedtime can keep us awake. Alcohol too interferes with proper rest. It’s a common misconception that drinking alcohol before bed helps you sleep better. A glass of wine may make you feel a bit more relaxed and sleepy, but this effect will soon wear off, and you’ll be wide awake.
According to researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, Medical Director at The London Sleep Centre, “Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night.”
Irshaad Ebrahim also states, “Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea.” Sleep apnea refers to pauses in breathing that can occur throughout the night.
Eating spicy, fatty or sugary foods can keep you up at night, too. Spicy and fatty foods can affect your digestive system and lead to indigestion and heartburn. Sugar and other low-quality carbohydrates that digest rapidly cause a spike in blood sugar which in turn can increase your energy level.
According to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “Low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.”
If you find your sleep predicament is related to your state of mind, relieving stress and relaxing may be what you need. There are mind-body therapies, such as meditation, breathing techniques, yoga and tai chi that can be effective in improving sleep.
Mindfulness meditation is a mind-body therapy that helps to relieve stress and has been found to improve sleep, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This calming activity involves focusing your mind’s attention on the present and keeping it from drifting away. Mindfulness meditation can involve breathing practice, mental imagery, mind and body awareness, and overall relaxation.
Specific deep breathing techniques can induce sleep by increasing relaxation. Nasal breathing, for example, keeps your body in a steady, more relaxed state than breathing through your mouth. Diaphragmatic breathing and lengthened breathing involve focused breathing using inhalation and exhalation techniques and are often used to increase relaxation.
Tai Chi and Yoga
Tai chi and yoga are ancient practices focusing on the mind-body connection. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice, originating in India. Yoga’s beneficial effect on sleep is primarily due to its meditative aspects. According to Johns Hopkins sleep expert Anastasia Rowland-Seymour, M.D. “There is some suggestion that certain [yoga] postures may be helpful.” But the benefits are more due to its meditative properties.”
Tai chi is a gentle mind-body therapy rooted in the martial arts. Tai chi is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It’s comprised of a series of slow, focused movements accompanied by deep breathing. A study published by the Sleep Research Society has found tai chi to reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
Consider a Sleep Study
If you have tried these tips for better sleep and your sleep quality has not improved, you may want to consider a sleep study. A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is performed to diagnose sleep disorders. It involves spending a night in a sleep laboratory. Electrodes are attached to your head and body and monitor your brain waves, breathing, and movement while you sleep.
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Content Director, Writer, Editor, Consultant and Personal Trainer based in Los Angeles.
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