Do you struggle to sleep night after night, even though you consider yourself to be pretty healthy? Well, there’s some good news and bad in store for you.
The good news? You’re still probably healthy!
The bad news? Bad habits may be the cause of your sleepless nights. Even though you are in great health now, you need to address some mistakes you may be making, or sleep deprivation can quickly add up and lead to real adverse effects on health.
But the news can get better yet, as many times you can vastly improve your sleep quality by making some simple changes to your routine during the day and before bed. Ready to start back sleeping the way it was meant to be enjoyed?
Then let’s go!
- Drinking Too Many Stimulant Beverages
If you are like millions of other working age adults, stimulant beverages such as coffee and tea are as cookie-cutter in your diet as water is, and to an extent, it is understandable.
As humans we are constantly looking for ways to optimize our efficiency and output, as there are seemingly not enough hours in the day to get all we want done achieved. But what cost does this come at?
Stimulants, like their name implies, causes a distinct (and sometimes pronounced) recruitment of our nervous system, via the actions of excitatory neurotransmitter and hormones, such as epinephrine (or adrenalin) and the stress hormone cortisol.
The result is a constant stream of “fight or flight” readiness, so we can react faster to stimuli, but at the cost of inhibiting our natural relaxatory influences. This is why if you drink too many stimulant beverages, and within the hours close to bed, you will be unable to sleep.
The good news from all this?
The potency of stimulants typically wean very fast- meaning that a single cup of coffee which was enough last week, is unlikely to give you the same kick 2 weeks from now – but to be quite safe, avoid all stimulant based products at least 3 hours before bed.
- Not Sleeping In The Dark
Many people consider sleeping with the lights on to be completely normal, since many of them don’t experience problems from such a practice.
However, one of the inhibitory neurotransmitters produced in our brains – melatonin, is broken down in the presence of light.
You have probably heard of melatonin before, but if you are unsure what it does, it actually helps initiate sleepiness, and regulates our natural circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). People who work night shifts, or sleep in rooms with the lights on are much more likely to develop insomnia from the dysfunction of this important brain chemical.
- You Underestimate The Importance Of Silence
Too many people assume that once they are asleep, nothing from the outside world can bother them. And while this is true to an extent – as many people sleep extremely deep. But staying asleep may not be the main problem.
The problem could be getting to sleep in the first place. Enter white noise to the rescue – an ambient sound of consistent pleasant frequency that is soothing and oftentimes enough to overpower the clatter of traffic, music blaring or dogs barking.
White noise can mimic soothing rain falling, the sound of waves crashing and gentle ocean breeze, or many other things that you may find soothing. If silence is impossible otherwise, try a white noise machine or audio clip on your PC.
- Not Sleeping On A Suitable Mattress
If there is one thing that is universally underappreciated, it’s your mattress. But why is this so? Think about it; your mattress is in theory the essence of a good bed.
Without it, you would be sleeping either on wood or a metal frame, and that is unlikely to offer you restful sleep. But are all mattresses the same? No sir. In fact, second only to not changing your mattress often enough, is the misconception that all mattresses are created equal.
For example, your primary sleeping style is important when choosing a mattress. If you sleep mainly on your back, a mid-support mattress is best, as it offers stability and is soft enough to contour to your spine.
On the other hand, if you sleep mainly on your stomach, opt for a firmer one, as there would be nothing worse than sinking into a soft foam mattress while lying on your stomach.
- Making Your Bedroom An Entertainment Centre
The bedroom should be the one place in your home where there are no distractions – including your phone, computers and television.
Many people choose to unwind in bed by switching on the TV or scrolling endlessly through their newsfeed on their mobile device. This is bad, as it takes away from time you could be sleeping, plus the extra light can affect melatonin production.
Even worst is if you fall asleep with the television on, as the blaring sound and flashing lights can make for a poor sleep experience even though you may have believed you got several hours of rest in.
- Not Unwinding Sufficiently
If you work later hours, you may just rush to bed upon reaching home without giving any thought to unwinding. The way our circadian rhythms are structured is that our metabolism slows as the day goes by, and relaxatory neurotransmitters get amped up the further we go.
But not allowing this natural progression will lead to a poor restorative sleep experience. For one, cortisol production may still be elevated from the stress of your job, then trying to sleep while it still is may prove a difficult experience.
Cortisol is one of the most common culprits of poor sleep and causes of insomnia. Try to sneak in a few minutes of meditation two times a day; one session before lunch, and another before bed.
Meditation is not a hoax – it is being accepted as a proven technique by doctors all over the world for its stress reduction capabilities and benefits on health.
- You Eat Large Meals Before Bed
Food takes time to be digested. During the day, this is practically unnoticeable as you carry on your day and the foods are broken down and utilized. However, at night, digestion slows along with metabolism and most other body processes.
The result is food remaining in your stomach for longer periods of time. Consequently, if you attempt to lie down on a full stomach, acid reflux, discomfort and not being able to sleep are common occurrences.
Eating a meal with a high fat content is even worse, as fat stalls absorption of other macronutrients even further.
If you feel hungry before bed, and must have something, just try a handful of nuts. The content of the amino acid tryptophan will also help you sleep easier, giving it a perfect double whammy.
The Final Say
Pretty simple right? Sleep is a primitive response programmed into our bodies. It should not be difficult, but as commonly occurs, we tend to make things harder for ourselves. Apply some of what you have learned, and get back to enjoying sleep the way it was supposed to be!
About The Author
By Kate Corr, The Founder of Best Mattress Expert, a blog dedicated to helping people choose the best mattress brand. Check out www.bestmattressexpert.com to learn more about Kate.
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Also published on Medium.