After a long day at work, an exercise program to keep you fit, and answering personal calls and texts, there’s nothing you want more than to slip into your nice, comfortable bed and sleep peacefully all night long. Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes it isn’t simple nor is the whole night a peaceful slumber for most people. Ever had trouble falling asleep at night or staying asleep? You’re in good company. The American Sleep Apnea Association reported that an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience some form of sleep problems, sometimes as often as once a month or more. With technology a full force fighting for our attention, are we too preoccupied to fall asleep at night? What really influences how well we sleep? Let’s take a good look at what is keeping us awake at night.
The Factors That Affect Our Sleep
We’ve always heard it said that going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning is the optimal solution for good sleep consistency. What we might NOT be aware of is just how many factors play a part in when we fall asleep, how long we sleep, and how well we sleep. It’s a comprehensive and helpful list so, pay attention! Your ability to sleep well is on the line!
Life problems and concerns - It’s a common and understandable fact, when something is bothering us, worrying us, angering us, or upsetting us, we’re going to lose sleep because our problems do weigh heavy on our minds and affect every aspect of our lives
Alcohol - A lot of people have a tendency to turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep. While it may initially help you go to sleep, it actually can cause you to be awake and stay awake for the second half of the night.
Body temperature - Scientific research has shown that having a lower body temperature at night helps you to fall asleep pretty quickly and helps you to stay asleep for a longer period of time. When your body temperature is too warm you have trouble falling asleep and obtaining REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep, where your eyes move around quickly as you are in a deep sleep, when vivid dreams can occur).
Caffeine - Obviously caffeine is a stimulant and keeps you awake and alert, so you don’t want to consume any within at least six hours of going to sleep. Caffeine can also cause you to be restless, cause frequent trip to the bathroom, raises your heart rate, and give you possible stomach cramps
Foods you eat - Midnight snacking may be fun but it can impact your ability to sleep well. Foods high in calories and fat eaten late at night have been linked to affecting the body’s ability to enter REM sleep. Late night meals are also a cause of interference in healthy sleep patterns
Sleep apnea- Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of sleep being interrupted. It consists of being tired during the day, snoring, memory issues, and difficulty concentrating
Exercise - Exercise is wonderful for your physical health and crucial in helping your body to become tired and sleep well at night, but exercising at night, especially before bed can have the opposite effect. Exercising in the evening is fine but make sure you have enough time to cool down and let your body relax before going to bed, otherwise the late workout could keep you awake longer than you need to be
Depression and anxiety - Sleep can be directly affected by mental health conditions. Many cases of depression and anxiety can interfere with the body's ability to reach REM sleep
Technology- Your phone, laptop, tablet, computer, and gaming console, all have a blue light that is constantly stimulating your brain to keep going, which makes it tough to fall asleep and stay asleep. Put away the technology devices at least an hour before going to bed. If you find you must continue to use them up until that time, think about investing in a pair of glasses that block the blue light
Taking naps during the day- We’ve heard that a “10 to 20 minute power nap” can be just the thing you need to get you through the day. The trouble is, if you can manage to fall asleep you might not want to wake up that quickly, and a long sleep during the day spells trouble for a restful night’s sleep. Sleeping for long periods during the day throws your body off and makes it that much harder to fall asleep at night and stay asleep
Insomnia- Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It has a whole list of factors that contribute, many that we’ve already mentioned here like alcohol use, depression and anxiety, illness, and taking long naps, to name a few
Make Some Changes
If you’ve suffered with restless nights, trouble falling asleep or feeling like you haven’t slept at all each morning, hopefully this has brought some ideas and explanations to light. If so, take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and there are some things you can do to help your body rest. Always make it a point to see your doctor when something is bothering you and take their medical advice on the best strategy for you and your unique situation. Making positive changes can bring you positive sleep, and that’s exactly what we all need!
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