Topics covered today:
- How trouble sleeping can ruin your life
- How much sleep do I need?
- 6 habits that are ruining your sleep
- Caffeine after lunch
- Drinking alcohol at night
- Eating large meals before bedtime
- Quit smoking already
- 9 easy fixes for your sleep troubles
- Essential oils
- Reduce fluid intake later in the evening
- Lower the temperature
- Create a bedtime routine
- Stick to a sleep schedule
- Keep naps short
- Exercise regularly
- Turn off all lights
- Drown out your trouble sleeping with white noise
I remember having trouble sleeping as a kid.
Those were the days when I would just lay awake and let my imagination run wild.
Some nights, I stayed up thinking about the solar system. Others, I spent worrying about how I could make friends at school.
Those were my younger days, before my stresses and anxieties started compounding with my trouble sleeping.
Once college came around, everything changed. I realized that I absolutely hated the civil engineering and electrical engineering that I had experienced. That, compounded with other life events that occurred at that time, drove me deep into depression for about a year.
When it came to sleep, I was completely out of luck. I found myself lying awake, during most nights of the week, unable to fall asleep until just moments before the sun rose back up.
I had no idea how I could improve my troubled sleeping.
Being the on-and-off stoner college kid, that I was at the time, self-medication played a big role in how I got myself through that phase. I would be willing to try whatever it took to knock me out and keep me asleep throughout the night. As I slowly started re-gaining more control over my mind and emotions, I realized that medication was not the answer that I needed.
We often take a good night’s rest for granted. Just like exercise, we’ll put it off until we find time for it. Unfortunately, your trouble sleeping at night can compound into many consequences, later on down the road. You’ve probably noticed it too. Whether you’re hanging out at the bar late at night or cleaning up after a large family visit, you know that work never gets any easier the next day.
Although the true purpose of sleep is still debated among scientists, we’ve reached a pretty solid consensus that humans need sufficient sleep to function properly. We also understand that not getting enough sleep can be seriously damaging to the body. Here are a couple conditions that result from short term lack of sleep.
- Lack of alertness: As little as missing 1.5 hours of sleep can cause a lack of alertness throughout your day.
- Impaired memory: Sleep deprivation makes it harder for you to accomplish tasks throughout the day.
- Relationship stress: We all have experienced feeling cranky after a poor night’s of rest, but what we might not consider is how that lack of sleep is affecting our relationships.
- Quality of life: By not meeting daily sleep needs, we become less likely to participate in activities that promote healthy living such as exercise, socializing, and proper nutrition
- Greater likelihood for car accidents: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that lack of sleep accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year. In fact, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
If that isn’t enough persuasion to get you to sit down and rethink your sleep behaviors, here are the more serious complications that can happen to your body once sleep deprivation becomes a long term habit.
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Lower sex drive
- Skin aging
- Weight gain
Binging on Netflix doesn’t sound so appealing anymore does it?
The amount of sleep that everyone needs varies on an individual basis. However, the National Sleep Foundation is always working to keep us updated on how much sleep we all need. This is the latest version of their recommendations, broken down into age groups.
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Since many of these sleep recommendations fall within a pretty generous window, the sleep foundation has also recommended individuals to ask themselves a few questions to determine what their perfect number is.
- Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
- Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
- Are you experiencing sleep problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you feel sleepy when driving?
Now that you have a pretty good idea of how much sleep you need, let’s talk about how you’re going to meet your sleep requirements in terms of both quality and quantity.
Using electronics late into the evening
This is probably a common problem for most of us. I know that some of my own trouble sleeping comes from electronics use late into the evening.
Unfortunately, the impacts that electronics have on sleep go far beyond distractions. The blue light emitted by most electronic devices suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone that is crucial in helping our bodies fall, and stay, asleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you get off electronics at least one hour before you plan on sleeping. This gives your body time to relax and unwind without the unnecessary stimulation from electronic-generated blue light.
I heard Arianna Huffington speak about how we have become way too reliant on technology nowadays. She understands, very clearly, that many of us suffer from trouble sleeping, due to overuse of electronics, and recommends leaving electronics as far from your bed as possible.
That isn’t a bad habit to take up. As a culture, we have let so much of our work and personal lives get tied up in social platforms that cellular activity has adopted many of our stresses with it.
Just by laying hands on your phone, you could bring up all the anxieties and stress that are brought out by unfinished business from work or an ongoing conversations on social media – the worst thing to help relax before bed.
A couple cups of coffee can seem like the easiest way to stay awake and focused throughout your day, but that coffee won’t be doing your sleep any favors. Just because you don’t feel the effects of the caffeine, doesn’t mean it’s cleared out of your system.
A study, from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, was able to show that even having coffee 6 hours prior to bedtime negatively impacted the participants’ quality of sleep. Even after the participants reported no feeling of caffeine left in their bodies, the impact on their sleep was still present.
I tend to be on the sensitive side of caffeine, so I’ve cut coffee out of my routine to avoid trouble sleeping. Instead, I look to less-caffeinated options, like green tea.
Alcohol is definitely an evening favorite that people use to unwind from work and get ready for bed. In fact, 20% of adult Americans choose to use alcohol as a sleep aid.
Little does that 20% know, alcohol has shown to cause our body’s circadian rhythm to function irregularly for over 24 hours after consumption. Not only that, but a drink before bed can severely impact your body’s ability to shift into a much needed REM sleep phase.
If you find that you have trouble sleeping after your regular nightcap, you might want to try cutting that out or switching it for something a little different.
Whether you’re coming home from a night out, or just finishing up late at work, you might want to think twice before grabbing that late night snack.
By late night snack, I mean anything past 7 PM! Eating late at night can cause a whole host of different problems, including increased levels of insulin, fasting glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. If that isn’t enough bad news for nighttime meals, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that eating in the evening has shown to directly reduce the the quality of sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping after a large meal, try to arrange for all of your meals to be eaten prior to 7 PM. Not only can planning your eating schedule save your body from a whole bunch of suffering, it gives you the ability to choose what foods you will be eating.
You probably don’t need any more reasons to quit smoking, but I’ll tell you anyways. Trouble sleeping is just one, of many, harmful side effects that smoking can have on the human body. Here are a couple sleep-related conditions that can result from tobacco usage:
- Disrupted circadian rhythm
- Sleep apnea
- Restless sleep
Although many of these smoking-induced conditions improve after quitting smoking, they never seem to result back to the levels of non-smokers. If you haven’t quit already, this would be a great time to do so.
If you’re still smoking, stop.
You should be well aware of all the horrible effects that smoking has on your body at this point. If this offends you, good. You could stop reading my blog or stop smoking.
This is one of the topics where you should consult your doctor before making any decisions off what you learned on the internet.
That prescription that you got from your doctor, or even the cold medicine that you found in your local pharmacy, can be the culprit behind your trouble sleeping at night. According to Webmd, these are a couple of prescriptions that you might want to keep an eye on if you’ve been struggling with falling asleep:
- Some high blood pressure medications
- Hormones such as oral contraceptives
- Steroids, including prednisone
- Respiratory inhaled medications
- Diet pills
- ADD and ADHD drugs
- Some anti-depressants
- Pseudoephedrine, including the brand Sudafed
- Drugs with caffeine, including the brands Anacin, Excedrin, and No-Doz, as well as some cough and cold medications
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines
If you suspect that your trouble with sleep has to do with your medications, ask your doctor to figure out what might be the best action for you.
I put together a handful of easy strategies, that you can implement right away, to fix your trouble sleeping. I don’t recommend that you try all of them at the same time. Start with 1-3 that you’re interested in, and build up from there.
As someone who experienced periodic insomnia throughout my life, this has to be one of the most effective tools that I have tried. Essential oils don’t just smell great, they can affect the mind and body in a ton of positive ways. One of which, is better sleep through increased relaxation and reduced anxieties. Here are a couple essential oils that help promote better sleep quality – my favorite is definitely lavender:
- Roman Chamomile
- Ylang Ylang
When it comes to essential oils, I recommend you try to play around with a couple of different blends to see what works best for your sleep needs.
Ever have to get up in the middle of the night to pee? Ya. As someone who regularly is consuming 1-2 gallons of water a day, I’ve learned that I need to use the bathroom a lot. If I don’t begin limiting my fluid intake as the evening progresses, I’m almost guaranteed to get up for a bathroom run.
Now, this isn’t a recommendation for you to drink less water, but try to have a cutoff point in the evening. I notice that if I can cutoff my water intake about 90 minutes prior to bedtime, I’m much less likely to be waking up in the middle of the night in need of the bathroom.
Body temperature and environmental temperature are two important factors to sleep quality.
You know exactly how it feels to be sweating under those blankets on warm summer nights, and freezing under the same covers when winter rolls around. California just can’t seem to make up it’s mind, can it? The ideal room temperature for sleep falls at around 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you don’t have access to running the air conditioning all night, give these a try:
- Keep a window open
- Turn on a fan
- Sleep naked
- Sleep closer to the floor
Creating a regular bedtime routine enables you to take full control of how you fall asleep. As much as we enjoy it, staring at a screen is definitely not going to help us improve our quality of sleep, in the slightest. Instead opt for some other options to help you relax and unwind as the night wraps up.
A couple activities that I would recommend are:
- Listen to relaxing music
- Read a non-work-related book
- Practice breathing techniques
- Drink un-caffeinated tea
- Have sex
- Journal about your day
- Clean up and prep for tomorrow
- Take a warm bath
The human body run on an internal clock, called the circadian rhythm. This clock tells our body when it’s time to eat, sleep, and a whole bunch of other human behaviors. The problem is, when we create too much deviation from our internal rhythm, our bodies have trouble signaling the right time to perform required tasks.
If you’re someone who has a constantly changing sleep schedule, day by day, then your body may not be able to keep up with that constant change. This can impact the quality of sleep you have, because your body will be trying to send out signals that aren’t properly lined up with your schedule.
By setting your own sleep schedule, you’ll get the benefit of working with your body to signal tasks at the appropriate time, but also you’ll be able to better guarantee a full night’s rest – as long as you stick to that schedule! If you ask me, more sleep is definitely a big win for anyone.
It’s 2 PM and your eyelids are starting to feel heavy. You’re not alone. Our bodies are programmed to feel sleepy, sometime in the early afternoon, and to make matters worse, a morning coffee and poor choice of lunch will only add to that sleepiness.
There’s no doubt that a quick nap will help boost your energy and get you back to peak performance. Just make sure to keep that nap short, 20-30 minutes, to avoid affecting your sleep later on that night.
If you’re looking to bump up energy levels midway through the day, see how you react to taking a caffeine nap.
This strategy includes consuming caffeine right before taking a quick 20 minute nap. The caffeine that you have will kick in just about at the same time you wake up, so you’ve got to make sure that you’re ready for nap mode, as soon as you down that drink.
A study, done by the Hiroshima University, showed that a caffeine nap was the most effective way to boost performance levels out of the five methods: 20-minute nap only, 200 mg caffeine plus 20-minute nap, 20-minute nap plus bright light upon awakening, 20-minute nap plus face-wash, and no nap.
One of the biggest sleep myths out there is that exercising before bed can negatively affect your sleep. Not only does exercise show great improvements to energy levels throughout the day, it also seems to have a positive effect on quality of sleep in active individuals. In fact, a moderate intensity workout program has shown to be able to improve quality of sleep by 65%.
However, if you have trouble sleeping at night, the story might be a little different.
People who face insomnia will need to be a little more committed to exercise in order to see the results. Cases of insomnia can stem from neurological differences in the brain. These differences can make it difficult to adapt to potential added stresses that exercise can create. But by maintaining a consistent exercise routine, the stress response in these individuals can be greatly reduced, which leads to improved quality of sleep and better stress management in the long run.
Light plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm, the clock that signals our bodies when it’s time to sleep, wake, and perform countless other tasks. When we allow our bodies to be exposed to light at the correct times of day, our circadian rhythm functions much more efficiently.
On the other hand, irregular exposure can affect the time and amount of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, that our bodies produce. This can make it harder to fall asleep when bed time rolls around.
Although any light can inhibit the body from producing melatonin, blue light is the worst of the offenders. Unfortunately, blue light is also the primary light that is emitted from our electronic devices, such as: smartphones, tablets, TVs, and computer screens.
Harvard researchers showed that blue light emissions can delay the speed, that melatonin is released, by twofold. That can severely impact the quality of sleep for individuals who are in front of digital devices, in the evening, on a daily basis.
You’ve probably experienced poor sleep, at one point or another, due to loud noises. Whether it’s from your partner snoring too loud, sleeping near a freeway or airport, or just trying to sleep in on Sunday, while the kids are playing tag outside the door. What you might not these noise disturbances can cause various cardiometabolic, psychiatric, and social conditions over time.
An effective way to avoid letting noise get the best of your sleep is with a white noise emitting sound machine.
White noise is just a steady stream of sound that can help mask the noises, which may otherwise get in the way of your sleep. Although the research on white noise machines and sleep are still limited, many people find that having some sort of white noise can greatly improve the quality of their sleeping – including me!
When it comes to trouble sleeping, our individual habits and behaviors can have a huge impact.
We always have the choice to set ourselves up for success, but many of us choose to sacrifice a good night’s sleep for instant pleasure. Take a moment today to think back on how many nights of poor sleep you’ve had in this past month. Each of those moments were wasted opportunities for you to wake up energized and focused to conquer your day.
Whether you’re trying to achieve that next promotion at work, take better care of your kids, or squeeze out every opportunity you have in life, take moment and reflect on just how much more you can accomplish with a little more attention to sleep.
Comment below and share how you plan to kiss your trouble sleeping goodbye!