Disclosure: This is a guest post, I am not the author of this post.
Why Can’t I Sleep?
By: Darci Maxwell
Nearly 20% of Americans suffer from some sleep disorder, and over 50% of Americans self-report that they do not sleep enough. While you are sleeping the cells in your body repair themselves, and your brain recharges. Not getting enough sleep leads to many health problems such as high blood pressure, an impaired immune system, and diabetes, but also problems such as falling asleep while driving, not taking care of financial affairs, and having difficulty concentrating. If you are having a hard time sleeping, check out these common behaviors and determine if one of them is affecting your sleep.
You drink caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you up at night. Caffeine decreases deep sleep time, total sleep time, and increases waking up in the night. Effects of caffeine can last anywhere from 2-12 hours after consumption, so even the caffeine you drink at 4 in the afternoon can affect your sleep. Avoid drinking caffeine for 3-6 hours before going to sleep, and decrease your total caffeine intake throughout the day for a better night’s rest.
You use electronics or your room is too bright
Glowing lights from alarm clocks, DVD players, outside streetlights etc. can make it difficult to sleep. Turn off lights, cover your alarm clock, or turn it the other way, get an eye-mask, and buy blackout curtains to eliminate light pollution when you’re trying to sleep. Avoid using electronics, watching television or playing video games before going to bed, as they stimulate the brain and the light can delay the release of melatonin. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using electronics for an entire hour before going to sleep. If you need help winding down, read a book to relax your mind and body before tucking in for your nightly rest.
You might be suffering from withdrawal
If you recently stopped an addictive behavior such as smoking or drinking, your sleep may be disrupted as you experience withdrawal. Drugs tend to decrease REM sleep, and when you quit, you may experience rebound-REM. As your body begins to experience more REM sleep, your dreams may increase as well your restlessness during the night. It can take a month or more after you quit your drug use for your body to settle into a normal sleep pattern. To learn about other symptoms of withdrawal, check out this blog.
You eat too close to bedtime
If you eat a large meal right before you go to bed, you might be keeping yourself up at night. Eating too much can cause bloating, making it too uncomfortable for you to fall asleep. Late dinners can also increase acid reflux in your body, causing heart burn, sore throats, and even asthma. The blood sugar spike your body experiences from eating late can cause your body to crash a few hours after you go to sleep. Your body will produce more cortisol, the “stress hormone” that also signals your body to wake up. This can disrupt your sleep pattern.
Hunger pains can also wake you up if you don’t eat enough during the day. Make sure that you eat enough calories, and have a light snack a few hours before you go to bed if you are still hungry.
You have an inconsistent sleep schedule
If you throw off your circadian rhythm by staying up late, and sleeping in some mornings, chances are, you will have a hard time sleeping. Don’t sleep in, even on weekends, and program your body to go to bed at the same time every night. To help yourself sleep better, create a “bedtime routine” much like you would create for a child. You will classically condition your body that certain behaviors mean that it is time to go to bed.
You can hear everything
Sometimes we are kept up at night because we can hear everything: a leaky faucet, cars outside, a barking dog, etc. This happens a lot if we try to sleep in a new environment. It actually isn’t the noise, or the lack of noise, that keeps us up, but the inconsistency of the noise. Get a white-noise generator, or turn on a fan to create a consistent hum that will help you fall asleep. In fact, many hospitals use white noise generators to help their patients sleep in intensive care units.