Lack of sleep can affect your productivity and overall quality of life. You wake up tired and have difficulty concentrating on your tasks. You feel moody all day and dread nighttime because of staying awake for hours or waking up frequently.
Conversely, a good night’s sleep is linked to high energy, better health, and happy life. Poor sleep quality is caused by certain factors and bad habits that may not be easy to break.
Here is what you need to know.
What Causes Sleep Problems?
If you spend your night tossing and turning, you have to review your lifestyle. Below are some reasons why you can’t sleep at night:
Certain medications interfere with one’s sleep. Over-the-counter painkillers that contain caffeine can disrupt sleep. Decongestants, steroids, medications for blood pressure, and antidepressants may also impact your quality of sleep.
You can talk to your doctor about changing drugs.
Initially, alcohol has a relaxing effect. However, indulging in excessive amounts before bedtime can cause frequent night waking.
It happens because alcohol impacts REM sleep and disrupts the sleep cycle. Furthermore, waking up to use the bathroom several times results in a less restful night.
Late Night Exercise
Exercise stimulates your nervous system and elevates your heart rate. It also raises body temperature. If you exercise within 3 hours of your bedtime, you will have a hard time falling asleep. It is because your body is stimulated and needs more time to prepare for sleep.
Having a late dinner can be too stimulating for your body. Digestion is a process that involves various body organs. It is harder for your body to relax when it needs to process the food you just ate.
Avoid big meals before bed. Have a snack that is high in protein instead.
Your body temperature decreases as you fall asleep. So, if your room is too hot or cold, you will have a hard time falling asleep. You might also wake at night due to overheating or feeling too cold. Experiment with your thermostat to find a comfortable temperature that helps you sleep through the night.
Poor Sleep Habits
Sleep problems can be caused by poor habits such as:
- Too much stimulation at bedtime through phones and other devices;
- Staying up too late;
- Drinking excess liquids at night;
- Eating greasy foods at night.
These habits cause late bedtimes and difficulty staying asleep as they interfere with your body’s ability to wind down.
Stress is a significant cause of sleep difficulty. You might wake up in the middle of the night and get caught up in unproductive worry. Your anxiety over certain situations may keep you up late.
Online therapy can help you acquire effective coping mechanisms to deal with stress. We discuss more on coping mechanisms later in this article.
If you regularly have problems falling or staying asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. Depression, anxiety, trauma, or life challenges can result in sleep problems. These sleep issues are chronic and debilitating.
Types of Sleep Disorders
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), there are 10 groups of sleep-wake disorders:
- Hypersomnolence disorder
- Restless legs syndrome
- Nightmare disorder
- Breathing-related sleep orders, e.g., sleep apnea
- Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep arousal disorders
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder
- Substance/medication-induced sleep disorder
Each disorder has unique symptoms. However, to know whether you have a sleep disorder, check whether you experience any of the following:
- Poor quality of sleep
- Not enough sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
How to Sleep Better: 5 Effective Self-Help Ways
Understanding what can cause sleep problems is the first step in solving your issues. Next, use the following coping mechanisms to improve the quality of sleep:
H3: Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise has been linked to longer phases of slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is a deep sleep that gives your body and brain a chance to rejuvenate.
Exercise can also stabilize mood and relieve stress, therefore improving the quality of sleep you get. Thirty minutes to one hour of moderate aerobic exercise per day is recommended.
Have a Consistent Sleep Schedule
If you have a habit of falling asleep early one night and going to bed at 2:00 am the next night, you risk your health. Research links irregular bedtimes to an increase in the risk of heart disease metabolic syndrome, obesity, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, an irregular sleep schedule interferes with the timing of your body’s internal clock.
A regular sleep time means falling asleep within the same 30-minute window. For example, if you fall asleep at 10:00 pm on some nights and 10:30 pm on others, you are within the parameters of your regular sleep time.
A regular sleep schedule allows your body’s internal clock to operate efficiently, signaling your brain when it’s time to slow down and sleep.
Have a Pre-Bedtime Routine
Before you get into bed, a few adjustments to your schedule can help your mind and body prepare to fall asleep quickly.
A pre-bedtime routine can involve several activities such as:
Disconnecting from Electronic Devices
Watching a movie or scrolling your Instagram feed for hours in bed is not doing you any favors. Electronic devices emit intense blue light that tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime.
As a result, your brain suppresses melatonin production and makes you stay awake. Avoid using electronics as much as possible in the evening.
Setting up a Good Sleep Environment
Dim your bedroom lights, set your thermostat to an ideal temperature, and light scented candles. It is easier to fall asleep in a dimly lit room. Furthermore, some scented candles with essential oils can have a calming effect.
Because you have your dinner several hours before bed, you might feel puckish. Wanting to snack can keep you awake and induce nighttime bingeing on unhealthy foods. Eating heavy foods before bed can cause indigestion, acid reflux, and disruptive trips to the bathroom.
As part of your pre-bedtime routine, snack on healthy foods that have high melatonin content. Such foods include cherries, grapes, strawberries, nuts, and oats.
Choose non-caffeinated beverages, especially teas with chamomile or lavender that are calming and sleep-inducing.
Unwinding with a Bath
Melatonin production is accompanied by a drop in your core body temperature. It is your body’s way of preparing for sleep. You can trigger a sleepy reaction by taking a warm bath about an hour before bedtime. Your body will cool down after and create a relaxed sensation that helps you fall asleep.
H3: Practice Relaxation Techniques
Stress, anxiety, and sleep problems are intertwined. You may go to sleep at a regular time each day but stay awake for hours because your mind is full of stressful thoughts. You can practice relaxation techniques to help you feel at ease:
Take a series of slow, deep breaths to enable a sense of calm. Inhale gently through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Count each breath or cycle of inhalation and exhalation.
Breath slow and steady while encouraging a non-judgmental focus on the present moment. As you inhale and exhale at a comfortable bed, observe your body and the sensations you have at the time.
Stay present without reacting to sensations and then let your body relax. This technique helps resolve rumination and anxiety.
Visualize a peaceful image from your past that feels relaxing. Breathe in and out while reflecting on the details of the image. As you experience the calmness of the mental imagery, allow your body to relax.
See a Psychotherapist
Online therapy can help you deal with sleep disorders and other issues that get in the way of a restful night. Counselors at Calmerry can help identify underlying problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety that make it hard for you to fall or stay asleep.
A psychologist can help you keep a sleep diary with information about your routines and behaviors. Assessing your diary, they will help you see how your habits impair sleep. Part of counseling is learning how to relax and release your mind to enable you to fall asleep.
Solving sleep problems requires introspection and proactiveness. Review your habits to identify causes such as poor food choices and too much screen time that may hinder sleep. You might need to work with a healthcare professional to identify problems that result in poor sleep.
The good news is that counselors at Calmerry are qualified to treat sleep disorders. They use various techniques to deal with unhealthy habits and help you acquire healthy ones to have a restful night and happier life.
About the Author
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counseling.
Follow Kate here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-skurat-5348381b9/