Why You Can’t Sleep: The Top 10 Sleep Stoppers
Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things you can do for your health. Sleep heals your mind and body. The problem is, a lot of people don’t get enough of it.
The CDC reports that 1 in 3 American adults are sleep deprived. Why? According to Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health, it’s all about lifestyle and the shifts in our habits over recent years.
“As a nation we are not getting enough sleep,” Giles says and he lays out some simple reasons you may not be sleeping. Things like T.V., tablets or phones before bed; going to bed at random hours — they’re all culprits. These small sleep sins have a BIG impact on your sleep quality (a negative one).
We dug a little deeper and investigated 10 deceptively simple things (like the ones that Dr. Giles mentioned) that stop people from sleeping well each night. We call them sleep stoppers. They’re the reasons so many of us can’t fall asleep or wake up feeling refreshed.
We bet they’ll sound familiar.
If you aren’t getting deep restful sleep every night, if you’re waking up every morning wishing you could just get a few more hours of sleep, it might be because of 1 or more of these 10 sleep stoppers.
1. Sleeping In
Sleeping in might seem like the easiest solution to a night of tossing and turning, but it actually makes the problem worse. When you sleep in it throws off your body’s natural sleep cycle. We all have an internal clock and this popular morning pastime is an easy way to throw yours out of whack. The prospect of just a little more sleep lures you back into bed, but it doesn’t leave you feeling more rested, it only ruins your chances of falling asleep properly later that night.
The prospect of just a little more sleep lures you back into bed, but it doesn’t leave you feeling more rested, it only ruins your chances of falling asleep properly later that night.
My Suggestion: Develop a sleep schedule and stick to it. I’ll talk about why this important in the next point, but the key thing you need to do is commit to falling asleep and waking up at the same time every night/morning (yes, even on weekends).
2. A Sloppy Sleep Schedule
A few things here…
First, when you go to bed and wake up at different times it disrupts your body’s internal clock, throwing off your ability to power-down fast. This leaves your mind and body sluggish throughout the day and wired throughout the night.
Second, the things you do before you fall asleep (like staring at your phone or eating) have a heavy hand in how well you sleep. The things you do when you wake up will also determine how well you transition from rest to action. Simply implementing the right routine can help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling refreshed.
My Suggestion: You don’t just luck into the perfect sleep; great sleep relies on consistency, it takes a little prep before bed (easy stuff).
Try it out.
A sleep schedule/routine is paramount to getting quality rest every night. Not only should you be falling asleep and waking up at the same time, you also need to help your body and mind prep for the power-down every night. Start two hours before bed and do some things that will get you into the right space so that when you finally do hit the hay,
Start two hours before bed and do some things that will get you into the right space so that when you finally do hit the hay, you fall asleep fast.
3. Eating Late (but don’t go to bed hungry either)
This one you’ve probably heard, but there’s a bit of a twist. Eating right before bed fills you up with energy and forces your gut to go to work breaking down the food. This may not stop you from falling asleep, but it will stop you from getting a quality sleep. With your stomach working overtime, you’ll be restless. Tossing, turning, you name it.
Here’s where it gets a little more complicated, though…
You don’t want to go to bed hungry either, that can ruin your sleep too. The fact is that hunger pains and stomach growls can wake you up. In fact, people trying to lose weight are more likely to lose sleep too, according to Peter Hauri, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the Mayo Clinic.
My Suggestion: Make sure you eat your dinner no later than 3 hours before you head to bed. If you get hungry between supper and bedtime, eat a SMALL high-protein, low-carb snack (like a hard boiled egg) to tide you over.
Bodybuilding.com agrees. They suggest this small, high-protein snack before bed: “Like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt is high in protein and packs a calcium punch. Boost the healthy fat content of this low-fat snack with some flaxseeds. Together, these deliver a steady dose of fiber, protein and omega fats!”
4. A Dusty Sleep Space
A messy room can be a breeding ground for dust mites and other unwanted air pollutants. These unwanted friends hide in your bed or tuck themselves under your nightstand. You could be sharing your sleeping quarters with millions of them. At night, these dust mites sneak into your sinuses, provoke your allergies and make it harder for you to breathe.
My Suggestion: Keep a clean room and dust regularly. Vacuum under the bed and open the windows as often as possible to let the fresh air in; better air flow is important for a low-dust room. Dust mites also live inside your mattress and collect over time. Dispose of mattresses and pillows that are more than ten years old. Regularly clean and wash your bedding. Use hypoallergenic mattress covers and pillow covers underneath your sheets and pillow cases.
Dust mites also live inside your mattress and collect over time. Dispose of mattresses and pillows that are more than ten years old. Regularly clean and wash your bedding. Use hypoallergenic mattress covers and pillow covers underneath your sheets and pillow cases.
5. Noise Sensitivity
Noise is a problem that most people deal with every night. Stop me if this sounds familiar…
- The sound of a car out on the street wakes you up.
- There are dogs barking or raccoons wreaking havoc outside.
- Even a ticking clock drives you mad.
The problem isn’t noise, the problem is consistency. It’s the inconsistency of noise that can wake you up and leave your mind restless in the dead of night.
My Suggestion: If you suffer from this problem, you know how impossible it is to completely get rid of all the noise. Your best bet is to turn on a fan or download a white noise app. This noise will drown out the others and fade into the background of your subconscious.
Or, as techilicious.com suggests, try using pink noise: “Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That’s what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. “
According to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, pink noise reduces brain wave complexity and induces more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality. People tend to find pink noise more calming than white noise because it is more variable.
6. Blue Light Before Bed
Watching T.V. or staring at your cell phone too close to your bedtime makes it hard to fall asleep. According to Scientific American, “The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength”. It also affects us for a longer period of time after the light source is turned off.
My Suggestion: Turn off or turn away from any screens at least 1 hour before bed (ideally as many as 3). Unplug; read a book, listen to an audio program, chat with your spouse or go for a walk.
For those who can’t bear to be away from their devices, there are some free programs and apps that reduce the amount of light (or shift the color) your screen emits depending on the time of day. More research is needed, but if the app is limiting the amount of light you’re exposed to at night, it may just help you sleep better.
7. Alcohol or Drugs
Many people automatically turn to alcohol or medications when they have trouble sleeping. These 2 things may knock you out but they don’t get you the deep, natural sleep your body and mind need. Sleeping pills and alcohol both also have an unwanted side effect: they sap your energy throughout the day. Using alcohol or pills as a sleep remedy will often leave you feeling sluggish when you wake up. And, of course, I don’t need to tell you that they can be damaging to your health in other ways too, not to mention habit-forming.
My Suggestion: If you’re someone who has tried all the tricks and you feel like you need something stronger that goes to work faster — try this natural sleep solution.
A lot of times people turn to pills for their sleep problems but that doesn’t always get to the root of the issue. What’s causing your sleep troubles? Is it stress? Aches and pains? These can all be solved in seconds. Getting more of THIS natural mineral helps you fall asleep faster and wake up refreshed.
8. A Busy Brain
A busy mind is the enemy of deep restful sleep. When your thoughts are scattered it disrupts your ability to power-down. Even when you eventually do shut off, your mind runs wild, ruining your chances of entering sleep stages 4 and 5 (where you get the most restful sleep).
My Suggestion: Focus. Count sheep, count backward from 100, list as many things as you can that start with the letter ‘B’ or sing the alphabet in your head if you have to. Whatever you need to do to reign in your thoughts and relax.
Try your hardest to resolve conflicts and finish tasks before you lay down at night. This will help clear your mind. If you want to go one step further, learn meditation and practice before bed.
9. Napping Wrong
Everyone loves a good nap and napping can have a really positive effect on your sleep, but it can also ruin your chances for a good night’s rest. Napping at the wrong time of day can stop you from falling asleep at a reasonable time later on, throwing your internal clock off.
My Suggestion: Try to take naps that last 20 minutes to an 1 hour, tops. Never nap for more than 90 minutes and avoid napping late in the day (after 4:30 p.m.).
10. Your Dog/Cat/Iguana
As much as you love your furry friend and as much as the research says that cuddling with your pet is good for your health, do it during the day. Pet owners report poorer quality of sleep when they let their pets sleep in their beds at night. The main reason is movement. Pets have weird sleep schedules, so they often end up jumping on and off the bed or rolling around. Pets also bring unwanted dust and allergy provokers into the bed via their fur.
My Suggestion: Try putting a crate or a small pet bed next to yours. This way they still get to be with you at night and you get to catch a few extra zZz’s.
3 Super Sleep Stoppers
These 3 sleep stoppers are possibly the worst. One of them can even be deadly. The good news is they can easily be treated. They stem from a common mineral deficiency that ruins your sleep in some sneaky ways.
This deficiency affects 80% of American adults and that number is only growing. The symptoms are never-ending, sleep is only the tip of the iceberg.