You’ve tossed and you’ve turned, and now you’re left staring at the ceiling. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to drift off to sleep or stay asleep all night, and doing so is absolutely crucial to a happy, healthy and productive life. Sleep provides necessary time for your body and mind to reset and recharge for the day ahead — but what if it is becoming increasingly elusive? We’re looking at eight of the most common reasons for poor quality or interrupted sleep and talking with Shanna Rooks, marketing director for the Sleep Services Center at Brookwood Baptist Health, about what to do when faced with these sleep obstacles.
8 Changes You Can Make to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Blue Screen Time
We know it’s bad, but we all do it: a late-night browse through Instagram, one last glance at Twitter before turning out the lights or even just watching one more show to wind down before bed. But this blue screen time is totally counterproductive to getting the rest you need. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted from the screen suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This late-night use of electronics can also delay the onset of REM sleep and reduce the total amount of REM sleep, which leads to sleepiness the following morning and can add up to a chronic deficiency in sleep.
Instead, Shanna suggests cracking open a book before bed! Do some journaling, listen to music or take a warm bath. Putting that phone away is a difficult change to make but one that can make a huge difference in your sleep quality and therefore overall health.
Late-Night Snacks and Alcohol
A nightcap and a bowl of ice cream, and then you’re off to bed — the perfect recipe for quickly drifting off to sleep, right? Though a full belly and an evening tipple may encourage you to fall asleep faster than you would otherwise, the National Sleep Foundation says it can actually result in interrupted sleep throughout the night. Nightmares, additional trips to the bathroom and an interrupted circadian rhythm all can be the results of drinking alcohol late at night. “Alcohol is a depressant, and though people think it helps them get to sleep easier, the quality of sleep is poor,” Shanna says. Heavy snacking can lead to reflux or heartburn that will keep you up at night. Shanna suggests paying attention to your habits and making note of which foods affect you.
Perhaps instead, sip on a warm cup of decaffeinated tea and enjoy a light snack before diving under the covers.
Caffeine Late in the Day
If you’re habitually struggling to get drowsy and fall asleep, caffeine could very well be to blame. While your daily cups of coffee, tea or soda can fend off morning grogginess, continued use throughout the day often leads to sleep problems at night. “A Starbucks at eight o’clock at night is really not a good idea, so just discontinuing caffeine earlier in the day should help,” Shanna says. “After dinner at five or six in the evening, you really shouldn’t have any more caffeine.”
It’s easy to find caffeine-free alternatives in the evening! Sip on water flavored with lemon or lime and avoid chocolate in your light evening snacks.
A New Baby
Sometimes life throws temporary, unavoidable interruptions to a healthy sleep schedule at you, and a newborn baby is definitely one of them. But there are ways to cope and still get some of the sleep you need between diaper changes and feeding sessions. The “sleep when the baby sleeps” adage is good advice for new moms especially. The laundry can wait, the dishes will get done eventually, instead grab a nap while the little one snoozes — you won’t be sorry!
If you’re sleep deprived, as most new parents are, Shanna says your body will crave REM sleep, so if you can get a full two-hour nap while the baby naps, you’ll likely wake up feeling like a new person!
Children & Pets in the Room
Room sharing with infants is common and even recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but when sharing the room or bed with pets and children starts to impact your sleep, it’s time to make a change. “Even if you don’t realize it, sharing a room with little ones can cause your sleep to be lighter all night long, which can leave you feeling drowsy the next day,” Shanna says.
If snuggles from a pet are more of a nuisance than a comfort, make a cozy bed for them to snooze in elsewhere in the house. And when you’re comfortable that your baby can safely sleep in their own crib in their own room, make that transition — slowly if necessary. You’ll all sleep better and will be happier people (and pets) for it!
When you’re lying awake at night because your mind can’t shut off, either replaying all of the things that happened that day or anticipating everything you need to do tomorrow, stress is likely the culprit. “Temporary insomnia is pretty dependent on stress,” Shanna says. The American Sleep Association says that as much as 40 percent of adults worldwide experience insomnia in the course of the year, and one of the main triggers is stress.
“We do suggest something that’s going to calm the mind closer to bedtime so that they don’t have the stress of the day running through their head after they lie down,” Shanna says. “No heavy exercise late at night but a short yoga routine or something may help them relax.” If the insomnia persists for more than six weeks, Shanna suggests talking to your doctor and perhaps having a sleep study performed.
Health Issues Leading to Increased Urination
Up all hours of the night for trips to the bathroom? It’s more than just an inconvenience and detriment to your sleep; several serious health concerns could be to blame. “A lot of times increased urination is associated with sleep apnea or diabetes,” Shanna says. “Health issues that cause increased awakenings can be a real problem.”
If you’re consistently waking up five or more times in the night to make a run to the restroom, you should consult your doctor.
Uncomfortable Mattress or Pillow
Another common sleep issue is general discomfort while sleeping, much of which can be attributed to the incorrect mattress or pillow. “Whether you have joint issues or just want to be more comfortable while catching some Zs, it’s important to shop around and find a sleeping setup that suits you,” says Shanna.
And if your mattress is starting to sag or feel uncomfortable, it may simply be past its replacement date. Most mattresses are only expected to be in their peak condition for five to 10 years, so if you think yours might be past its prime, it’s high time for a new one!
“The best thing you can do to improve your quality of sleep is to establish and stick to a healthy routine,” says Shanna. Just as you set a routine for a baby at bedtime, you should maintain a routine for yourself to trigger your brain to relax and recharge. Eliminating some of these common issues and being mindful of your sleep habits can set you sailing toward sweet dreams.
This article is sponsored by Brookwood Baptist Health. To learn more about the Sleep Services Center at Brookwood Baptist Health visit brookwoodbaptisthealth.com.