Have you had trouble sleeping at night? You lie in bed, tossing and turning, unable to stay asleep for some unexplained reason. Perhaps you wake up during the night, or you feel like you never sleep the whole night through. You’d be surprised by all the problems that could affect your sleep quality, things you’d never imagined would interfere with your sleep! Here are a few of the most common:
Being hot at night is MUCH worse than being cold. You can always cover up with a thicker blanket, but you can’t take off any more layers. Your body is designed to cool off when you sleep, so a hot body is an awake one. “Ideal” temperature is anywhere between 60 and 65 degrees F. If you can turn up the A/C or turn on a fan, do so! Or, try taking a warm bath. The hot water will raise your temperature, but getting out of the tub will lower your internal body temperature again. That drop in temperature will make it much easier to get a full night of sleep, as it signals to your body that you’re tired. A neat trick, and one that WORKS!
Stress is definitely going to keep you awake at night. When your mind is full of worries and anxieties, it increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol increases, melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) decreases. There’s no way you can sleep when your cortisol levels are up! To reduce your risk of stress-related sleep issues, manage your stress. Try to keep your evenings as stress-free as possible, and take time to relax with activities you enjoy. Avoid talking about work, the kids, or serious problems with your spouse, but focus on winding down and letting your body de-stress after a long day.
Your phone is the #1 enemy of sleep! There are two things that can interfere with your sleep. First, that darned white light. Melatonin production decreases when the sun rises, which means your body is sensitive to light. If there is a lot of bright light from your TV, phone, or computer, your melatonin production will decrease—making it harder to get to sleep. The more light you are exposed to in the evening, the harder it is to get to sleep. But the need to check and re-check your social media will also keep you awake. Social media brings a “fear of missing out”, and you will be anxious that you will miss some important text or notification. That anxiety will increase cortisol production, leading to poor sleep quality. If you want to sleep better, TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!
If you’re full when you go to sleep, your body won’t be able to shut down. Your digestive tract will continue breaking down the food in your stomach even as you’re trying to sleep. Not only can this lead to an increased risk of acid reflux, but your digestive system will be actively turning food into energy. How can you possibly sleep with an influx of energy thanks to your late night meal or snack? To sleep better, avoid eating later than 7 PM. Or, if you must eat a late night snack, eat something light, and primarily foods that help you sleep.
Alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, but it will prevent you from reaching the deep REM stages of sleep. REM sleep is what makes you truly feel rested, so you need it in order to wake up refreshed the next day. To sleep better, avoid drinking after “happy hour”.