Why You May Be Having Trouble Sleeping
Approximately 30% of all Americans complain at one time or another of suffering from insomnia. So, what is it and how do you know if you are having trouble sleeping?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, researchers are looking into the idea that insomnia is essentially the brain not being able to stop being awake.
What to Know About Insomina and Having Trouble Sleeping
The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) defines insomnia as “the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep because of one or more of the following: difficulty falling asleep; waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep; waking up too early in the morning and unrefreshing sleep.”
It may occur once in a while (transient insomnia), on and off (intermittent insomnia) or constantly (chronic insomnia).
The body functions best when it has seven to nine hours of undisturbed sleep a night. According to NCSDR researchers, people with chronic insomnia are more difficult to diagnose than those who have occasional bouts of insomnia.
For those people, not being able to fall asleep and not being able to stay asleep all night, this could be the result of an underlying medical or psychiatric issue such as:
- Certain medications
- Endocrinological problems
- Low back pain
- Sleep apnea
- Neurological disorders
- Restless leg syndrome
- Chronic pain
If you’re afflicted with any of the above, you should check with your doctor, or a physician who specializes in sleep disorders, for ideas on how you can improve your sleep patterns.
Transient and Intermittent Insomnia
For the rest of the millions of people who suffer from transient or intermittent insomnia, the reasons are usually one or more of the following:
- Environmental noise
- Extreme temperatures
- Change in the surrounding environment
- Sleep schedule problems such as those due to jet lag and medication side effects
- Unhealthy habits
Making some changes to your routines and what you eat and drink will likely cause a major positive difference in your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Other Reasons for Not Being Able to Fall Asleep
Here are some non-medical reasons you might be having trouble falling and staying asleep and what to do about them.
We have become virtually addicted to gadgets. You and your cell phone or laptop are probably joined at the hip, but those gadgets are not doing your sleep health any good.
Learn to turn your gadgets off an hour before you are ready to go to sleep. Both your body and mind will be grateful, since they both need a chance to wind down.
Power naps can be a good thing, but if they last more than 20 minutes, they will most likely disturb your nighttime sleep. If you feel sleepy, particularly in the afternoon, take a brisk, short walk, drink a glass of cold water or take a few minutes and call a friend.
Any pain, particularly lower back pain, may not keep you awake, but it may disturb your sleep. If you are a side sleeper, try putting a pillow between your legs to help keep them aligned. If you are a back sleeper, put a pillow under your knees to get some relief.
Your Bedroom Environment
So many people litter their bed with books, newspapers, or even a laptop and they work while watching television. Your bedroom is supposed to be a place where you can totally relax, so ditch the book, newspaper and laptop. Turn the lights down low and use your bed for sleep.
If your home or your bedroom are either too cold or too hot, it could be why you are having trouble sleeping. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine put forward the idea that you should start “thinking of a bedroom as a cave: it should be cool, quiet and dark!” Research studies have consistently shown that when people with insomnia sleep in a cooler room, with temperatures around 65F, they sleep a whole lot better.
When You Eat
I have always loved to dine “continentally,” but I have found out that it could be one of the reasons I do not sleep well. Every doctor I have spoken to has told me not to eat heavy foods or big meals too late and by late, they meant stop eating at least an hour before going to bed. The reason? Heavy foods overwork and overburden your digestive system.
Drinking alcohol can make you feel sleepy because it is a sedative, but after the first blush wears off it disrupts your sleep during the night. Research studies have also shown that you will make more trips to the bathroom if you drink anything in the last two hours before going to bed and if you are making frequent trips during the night, it is often harder to go back to sleep.
Is there anything better than starting the day with a good cup of coffee or cappuccino? But overdoing it throughout the day can cause a problem. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that people who consumed four or more cups of caffeine daily were more likely to experience insomnia a few nights a week. The answer is enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning or very early afternoon, allowing at least eight hours for it to get out of your system.
Making a few lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep. Give it a try!