Last week, we examined the risks associated with insufficient quality sleep. Shockingly, a lot of us are sleep deprived for one reason or another. Why is this? Why are so many of us getting into bed, but not finding the peaceful release from our daily lives and those important hours to properly recharge? Unfortunately, this is not a question that has a simple answer. However, with a little inward reflection and an analysis of our daily routines, general health, and emotional state, we can figure out the culprit(s). It’s time to take control of our sleep; it is highly valuable and even more imperative to our health and overall wellbeing.
Why can’t we sleep? There are so many different distractions/sleep faux pas, mental/emotional, health/medication, and sleep disorder related reasons why we can’t drift away to that magical and rejuvenating place in the back of our minds at night.
- Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep, not an addition of your office or living room space. Our devices (phones, tablets, computers, alarm clocks, etc.) emit light that can affect our sleep. Also, unless your devices are silenced, it is likely that one will make some sort of notification noise at some point that can disrupt your sleep. You should stop using electronic devices at least thirty minutes prior to going to sleep. Break the technology addiction!
- Our eating and drinking habits play a big role in our sleep quality. If you eat too much, especially heavy food, too close to going to bed, you can expect to have trouble sleeping. On the flip side, if you restrict yourself from eating enough during the day and or at dinnertime, your body will continue to send signals that it needs food even when you are trying to go to sleep. Alcohol and caffeine can greatly affect your sleep quality, as well.
- There is such a thing as “too quiet.” White noise is very helpful when shutting down for the night. This noise can come from the barely audible sound of your fan spinning, the air conditioner running, or maybe even a noise machine that produces peaceful ocean sounds or a gentle rainstorm.
- While naps are truly wonderful, be careful when and for how long you nap. If you nap too late in the day, or take too long of nap, you might find yourself unable to shut down at your normal bedtime. This cycle can mess up your biological clock. Try to avoid late in the afternoon naps and ones that are longer than 90 minutes (if you are so lucky enough to score 90 minutes of mid-day sleep time!) A 10-30 minute nap is perfect for a mid-day break and rejuvenation, and is unlikely to affect your sleep later at night.
- Your mental and emotional state plays a major role in your sleep quality and quantity. Depression, anxiety, chronic stress, grief, and worry can greatly affect your sleep. It is important to address your issues and work toward resolving the things that are bothering you. Sometimes, this is more complicated than simply addressing the issues, however, you have to start somewhere and the process will be different for each individual. We are complex human beings, which is awesome, but sometimes that complexity can be a bit too much to handle alone. An overactive mind (making lists, constantly thinking about the future, weighing out what if’s, etc.) is a common culprit to sleep deprivation. *In the next article, we will discuss some helpful tips to getting better sleep and dealing with the assortment of sleep inhibitors.
- Certain medications have a history for affecting sleep. Over the counter cold, flu, and pain relievers sometimes contain caffeine. Also, some beta-blockers and antidepressants have a side effect related to trouble sleeping.
- Medical conditions, such as asthma, acid reflux, heartburn, musculoskeletal disorders, and diabetes, among other conditions can greatly impact our quality of sleep.
- Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (which we will go into great detail about later), contribute to our sleep problems.
These are just a few common reasons why some of us can’t obtain the sleep that we need. Once you know your problem, it is easier to seek a solution. Next week, we share some helpful tips for shutting down at night and getting the rest your body and mind deserves.