23 Unexpected Things That Might Be Disturbing Your Sleep
We spend a third of our lives sleeping, yet still don't always grasp just how crucial it can be for our health and happiness. Missing or getting poor-quality sleep can cause drowsiness and increase one's risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, so it's always important to get a good night's rest — and to avoid anything that might get in the way. If you're having trouble, here are a few unexpected factors that may be contributing to your sleeplessness.
Drinking too much of anything late at night can cause sleep disturbances for obvious reasons, and this is especially true for alcohol. Though a cocktail or glass of wine might lead to drowsiness at first, the alcohol has a stimulating effect after it wears off that can make you toss and turn. It's safest to avoid alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime.
Also try eating at least three to four hours before going to bed, as doing so any later can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash while you're asleep, leading to increased stress and weakened metabolism. Plus, lying down on too full a stomach is a surefire recipe for heartburn and subsequent restlessness.
Don't eat a watermelon, cucumber, or stalk of celery before bed either. These and other fruits and vegetables with high-water content are natural diuretics, meaning they'll interrupt sleep to make you get up and urinate in the middle of the night just the same as drinking water in liquid form.
Speaking of heartburn, despite their other noted health benefits, spicy foods are often a main culprit behind late night indigestion and acid reflux. Lying down will allow those extra-spicy stomach acids to flow back up and possibly even damage the lining of your esophagus, but you can dull the effects by propping your upper body higher with an extra pillow or two.
Unsurprisingly, eating late at night is even worse if you're eating unhealthily. Candies, ice creams, and other foods with little but sugar to offer all digest rapidly in your body, so eating them before bed means your body will go through a sugar spike and subsequent crash while it should be focused on producing sleep hormones like melatonin.
Acidic foods will also add to that uncomfortable acid reflux, for obvious reasons. In the hours before bed, avoid citrus fruits in favor of less acidic ones like apples or bananas, which are more packed with carbs that help you sleep and fiber that aids the body in absorbing sugar more slowly.
Foods high in fat have also been linked to poorer sleep habits, likely because they, too, activate digestive processes and contribute to stomach acid buildups. A high-fat diet can also be problematic for your body's production of sleep-regulating neurotransmitters like orexin and melatonin.
Closely related to fat, protein-rich foods like red meat are another risky proposition before bed. Being tough to break down, they'll require more digestive function from your body, which gets in the way of relaxing and recharging for the next day. If you must, carbs and fiber-rich food are better to eat before bedtime, as long as they're not too heavy.
Sometimes it's hard to set aside your smartphone, even in bed. It's important to do so anyway, however, as the artificial blue light emitted by phone and computer screens can restrict the body's production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for tracking your sleep cycle. The stress involved in checking email or Facebook can also make your brain feel more alert when it should be unwinding for rest.
Stress is a major factor behind sleep loss, as 43 percent of adults say it's caused them to lie awake at night. If this happens to you, practice better stress management by meditating or exercising during the day, then give yourself at least a half-hour before bed free from technology or other stimulating elements. If stress still keeps you awake in bed for longer than 20 minutes, try getting up and doing something relaxing in another room until you feel tired.
Caffeine keeps you awake — that much everybody knows. But even if you think you're mostly immune to the drug's stimulating effects, drinking coffee or tea up to eight hours before going to bed may be secretly contributing to your restless nights.
In addition to the usual suspects like coffee, tea, and soda, watch out for more unexpected caffeine sources like chocolate. Darker varieties are more refined and thus contain more caffeine, as well as other stimulants like theobromine, the compound that makes chocolate dangerous to cats and dogs. So if you must have dessert shortly before bed, opt for something other than the dark chocolate mousse.
Caffeine helps to make painkilling medications up to 40 percent more effective, so those suffering from sleep disturbances should also be wary of what over-the-counter or prescription medicines they consume late at night. Always check the ingredients, and watch out for common caffeine-carrying drugs like Anacin and Excedrin Migraine.
Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, and it's been linked to insomnia and other sleep issues. It's good to avoid smoking within a few hours of bedtime, but even better to cut it out altogether, as smokers have been found to spend less time in deep sleep than non-smokers.
Trying to sleep as long as possible should lead to less tiredness throughout the day, right? Actually, no — always staying in bed until the alarm goes off can instead lead acute insomnia to develop into chronic insomnia. So when you wake up at 5 a.m. instead of 7, electing to get up and do something will be better for your long-term habits than trying to force sleep in bed.
Hot and muggy conditions may make you drowsy in the daytime, but at night, high temperatures often get in the way of a good night's rest. Experts agree the best temperatures for sleeping are between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, as this range helps facilitate the gradual drop in temperature your body undergoes to initiate sleep.
Don't bundle up in pajamas at night if you don't have to. Sleeping naked can lead to better rest for a number of reasons. Lower skin temperature leads to reduced stress and deeper sleep, while also speeding up the body's metabolism and burning more calories to generate warmth.
Even 10 minutes of physical activity during the day can improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of sleep disorders — just don't do it too close to bedtime. All that physical activity raises your body temperature and creates a stimulating effect that can pose problems if you're trying to sleep within the next three hours.
Do you sleep in later on the weekends than you do on weekdays? Then you may be among the estimated two-thirds of the population suffering from "social jet lag," brought on by the regular shift in sleep schedules many undergo on their days off. This inconsistency in sleep has been tied to increase risk of obesity, as the body burns fewer calories at rest.
Married people sleep better than their single or divorced counterparts, according to demographic data from the CDC. The CDC found that 67 percent of those in a relationship reported seven or more hours of sleep a night, compared to 62 percent of unmarried persons and 56 percent divorced or widowed. So far, it's unclear how one's relationship status might account for this disparity.
The effect of lunar phases on human physiology is still little understood, but a large-scale international study within the last few years showed that children's sleep patterns were indeed affected by the moon. The research analysis showed they slept an average of 4.9 minutes less during a full moon than a new moon — a small variation to be sure, but one that held remarkably true all around the world.
Keep the bedroom window cracked at night. This will increase airflow and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in your room that can negatively impact sleep quality, according to one study. Lower levels of carbon dioxide were found to be correlated to greater sleep depth and fewer awakenings at night.
Lashing out at or coming into regular conflict with coworkers can be so stressful it gets in the way of sleep, sometimes even leading to acute insomnia. According to research recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, being counterproductive during the day will make you more stressed about those behaviors at night, thus leading to more difficulties sleeping.
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