GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP IS THE SINGLE MOST PRODUCTIVE THING YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR TIME…
Still, a huge number of people are suffering from insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, and sleep deprivation. Some of this can be attributed to lifestyle: If you’re working a lot, and not taking the time for yourself, you want to squeeze as much out of the day as possible. I know I’m guilty of shaving off sleep hours to pack more in! But other assaults on your sleep may be things you don’t even know to look for.
This list talks you through the top reasons you’re not getting enough sleep, and what to do about it.
- It’s too light
You might not even know how much light and light pollution gets into your room. If you’re someone who checks your phone before going to bed, that’s a huge problem.
LED screens are designed to mimic natural sunlight, which is super confusing for your brain.
When your eyes are exposed to light, it lowers the amount of melatonin that is produced during sleep. Your brain thinks light = morning. Melatonin affects your overall sleep, and helps you to stay asleep for longer, so over time, the more you expose your eyes to light at night, the less you’ll benefit from a good night sleep. If you live in a city, that means buying heavier curtains too, to protect yourself from the light pollution outside.
- You’re trying to do too much at night
Working right up til bedtime doesn’t give you a chance to wind down and relax, which is an important part of sleep. Top sleep experts warn everyone about “sleep hygiene.” It’s a real problem for thousands of people who struggle with insomnia or bad sleep habits. One of the first suggestions for good sleep habits? Get into a routine that signals bedtime. No strenuous workouts 3 hours before bed, no big meals just before going to sleep, no stressful work assignments. Instead, focus on clearing your mind with meditation, relaxing with a cup of herbal tea or a lavender bath, getting ready for bed, and reading or doing something else relaxing before you turn in.
- You’re thinking too much
Sometimes, when you lie awake it’s because your brain is trying to solve a problem. Your anxious mind may leave you teetering on the edge of sleep for hours, unable to settle, or even waking you up out of sleep. The Sleep Research Program at Duke University Medical Centre has an interesting solution to this problem. They suggest you get up, but keep the lights off, and wander to another room. The change of location will have an effect on your brain, and then you’ll be able to go back to sleep!
- Drinking Before Bed
Wait, is that right? Alcohol makes you sleepy, doesn’t it? Well, sort of. Alcohol is a depressive, which means it slows you down and makes you sleepy, but it also disrupts your natural REM cycle, which means you never sleep as deeply as you need to, and you wake up feeling sleep deprived and groggy. Not just from the hangover! Try and keep the before-bed drinking to a glass or two of wine. Anything more than that will affect your sleep.
- The Room Is Too Warm
When you’re sleeping, your body temperature drops. Your body and brain need to cool down for real, restful sleep. So if your room is too hot and stuffy in summer, you should be getting a fan, or air conditioning, to avoid disrupting your natural sleep cycle. Try to keep the air conditioner or fan on low though. You don’t want it getting too cold!
- You’re Hungry
So, there’s a lot of conflicting info out there about when and how much to eat at night. A big meal before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle, and even cause heartburn. But not eating enough during the day can cause hunger pains that will wake you up, or keep you awake when you should be sleeping. The best thing to do is make sure you’re eating enough during the day. If you prefer to eat large meals, make sure you get all of them long before the 3 hours before bed. If you’re someone who prefers smaller meals, try and eat something light before bed, and stay away from acidic or sugary foods. And no caffeine!
- You’ve Got Company
Listen, I love my pets. My fuzzy little buddies are my best friends, and they go everywhere with me. Except to bed. Animals don’t sleep like we do, and they always make sure to get all the sleep they need. But they don’t understand things like “no snoring” and “That was just a car.” A survey by the Mayo Clinic shows more than half of dogs and cats owners admit their pets are disrupting their sleep. Dogs and cats should have their own beds in the house, so they can feel snug and secure, and stay out of yours! That said though, Mayo clinic also published a study that concludes it CAN be beneficial to sleep with your dog. So just try changing your sleep circumstances, and note what happens.
- Health Problems
These are simple ways to solve your sleeping problems at home, but some sleeping issues may point to serious health concerns. Snoring, for example, is often a sign of sleep apnea, or other obstructed breathing during sleep. You may want to talk to your doctor, or book an appointment with a sleep lab to make sure that if you’re a snorer, it’s not pointing to a more serious problem.
9. Restless Leg Syndrome
Another common sleep thief is RLS. Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that triggers abnormal sensations in your legs as well as an irresistible urge to move your legs. It occurs at all times of the day, but tends to be worse when you’re tired, so it can have a serious impact on the quality of your sleep.
If your symptoms are severe, there are treatment options available that you can talk to your doctor about. If they’re more on the mild side, there are simple things you can do to reduce the symptoms. Drink a lot of water, avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol completely before bed, and try to get daily exercise, and minimize time spent sitting in the afternoons and evenings.
Getting enough sleep seems like a small thing, but if you don’t, it can cause serious problems with concentration and productivity, dampen your mood in a big way, and even cause health problems. If you’re noticing a problem with sleep, try some of these tips for a restful night. If they don’t help, seek out a sleep clinic in your area for more advice!
Related feature: What His & Hers learnt from Christiano Ronaldo’s sleep coach.