We’ve all had that night or two where we toss and turn watching the clock unable to sleep. But for some, a restless night is routine. While sleep deprivation is an issue that is often overlooked, it can have a major impact on our minds, bodies, and even careers.
While we sleep, our brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons. This process can only be done while we’re asleep. When we don’t get enough sleep the toxic proteins remain in our brain cells, impairing our ability to think. Lack of sleep slows our ability to process information and problem solve, weakens your creativity, and heightens your stress levels and emotional reactivity.
Check out these eight common sleep problems below along with tips to overcome them in order to get the quality sleep that your body needs.
If you suffer from an anxiety condition or even find yourself feeling anxious from time to time, chances are you’ve had trouble falling asleep. It can be challenging for anyone to relax their mind after a long day, but when you’re combating anxiety on top of it, you may find yourself struggling both physically and mentally to convince your body to fall asleep.
If anxiety is causing you to miss out on ZZZ’s, trying using a meditation app before bed. There are many wonderful meditation apps out there that can help curb your anxiety by relaxing your mind and bringing about more mental peace. Stretching is also a great way to reduce anxiety before bed because it helps combat tension caused by anxiety or stress by loosening up your body.
Mental over-activity is a big problem and more and more people are reporting that they just can’t turn off their brains at night. When you’re stressed, your mind races with thoughts at night rather than shutting down. With each passing year, our societal demands get ever greater leading us to be “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This results in greater rates of insomnia.
In order to set the stage for sleep, we need to unwind and dim our mind. Make time to relax and unwind at least one hour before bed. Keep the lights dim and put away all electronic devices. Try reading, sketching, or journaling. Once you discover what works best for you, develop a nightly bedtime routine consisting of these activities. This will help create closure for the day, allowing your brain to begin the process of shutting off.
Pain is hard enough to deal with in the light of day, but when pain at night robs you of the sleep your body has been craving so badly it can be downright exhausting. According to the National Sleep Foundation, two out of three people with chronic pain have difficulty sleeping. This is because no matter what the cause of it is, pain can disrupt sleep architecture and affect sleep positions.
Sleep is the only time that our muscles, spine, and ligaments can completely relax. Sleeping on a mattress that is not suited to your body can actually cause or increase body aches and pains as it creates bad sleep posture, strained muscles, and unnatural spinal alignment. Foam layer mattresses are a good option because they fit to your body shape and maintain the same natural spinal alignment we have when we are standing. This evenly balances out the weight of our body, creating no pressure points and allowing our muscles to relax at the correct positions and lengths.
It can be difficult to get a full night’s sleep if hunger strikes during the night as hunger pains have been shown to keep the brain mentally alert. On top of that, not getting enough sleep can both lower metabolism and increase levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone” that boosts appetite and can even encourage weight gain.
To avoid hunger pains at night, eat small meals throughout the day. Skipping out on meals can slow your metabolism while eating small meals throughout the day causes your body to obtain energy from fat stores overnight. Late-night eating has been linked to weight gain so if hunger does strike before bed, eat a light carb-heavy snack before bed rather than doing an all-out fridge raid.
One of the most frustrating things is trying to fall asleep at night and not being able to because you are simply not tired. We’ve all had those nights where we keep checking the clock to calculate how many hours of sleep we will get if we fall asleep at a certain time and next thing you know it’s time to start getting ready for work.
If you’re having trouble sleeping due to not being tired, try putting away and turning off all electronics. The artificial blue light emitted by our electronic devices delays your body’s internal clock, suppresses melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Rather than watching your favorite show before bed, try reading a book as it will help your mind relax and prepare for sleep.
Sunday Night Insomnia
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to fall asleep on Sunday nights? For most of us, Sunday is a “lazy day” lacking in physical and mental activity. When it’s time to go to bed at the usual bedtime our body is not ready to because we haven’t actually been awake long enough. This common issue is known as Sunday Night Insomnia.
To prevent Sunday Night Insomnia, you need to maintain a consistent sleep pattern. If you go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am during the week, try sticking to a similar pattern over the weekend, especially on Saturday night and Sunday morning. This will help regulate your internal body clock, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day and night.
Restlessness and an endless night of tossing and turning are often the result of being too hot or too cold. This happens when our external temperatures aren’t optimal because our bodies have to work harder to self-regulate. When our external temperatures aren’t ideal, our body will repeatedly switch back and forth between shivering and sweating, except during the REM stage of sleep. At this point, our body’s shivering and sweating mechanisms are impaired, forcing our body to adjust to whatever the room temperature may be. Once out of this stage, you may be too hot or too cold depending on your bedroom environment.
Sleep experts recommend that you keep your thermostat between 15 and 19 degrees to prevent this from happening. Keep your room at a cooler temperature if you tend to use more blankets or pillows when you sleep. If you prefer fewer blankets, opt for a higher room temperature.
Whether it’s a home appliance, pet or storm, sound has the potential to affect your rest. Sounds that have little impact during the day can become bothersome at night, especially when they are sudden or unexpected. While these noises may not fully wake you, they can arouse you slightly affecting your sleep cycle.
Sound and noise are often out of our control. White noise is a great way to mask and drown out background sounds and achieve better sleep. If you are still finding it difficult to sleep, try using ear plugs to cover up any noise disturbances.
Kelly N. is a Sleep Enthusiast from New York. When she’s not daydreaming about her next nap, she can be found browsing the shelves of her favorite bookstore.