It’s perfectly normal to have a bad night’s sleep every once in awhile, especially if you’re getting used to a new routine. However, if you’re lying in bed at night and routinely staring at the ceiling until the early morning or tossing and turning until the wee hours, unable to get the rest your body craves, it might be time to take control of your sleep.
There’s a difference between occasional sleeplessness and insomnia. Insomnia is defined by experiencing disruptions in how you feel or function because you aren’t sleeping well or sleeping enough, and it’s something you experience consistently, not just from time to time. If you’re dealing with insomnia, talk to your healthcare provider.
Sleeplessness, on the other hand, might look like:
- You find it difficult to fall asleep
- You lie awake for long periods of time
- You wake up several times during the night
- You wake up early in the morning
- You don’t feel refreshed when you get up
What causes sleeplessness?
Stress is a noted negative for a number of reasons, but the effects it has on your sleep can be, well, stressful. Furthermore, high levels of stress can mess with sleep — it’ll take you longer to doze off and break up sleep cycles. Losing sleep can interfere with the body’s stress response system, leading to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which then further disrupts sleep.
Poor sleep schedule
Nine o’clock one night and midnight the next can mislead your body. Going to bed at inconsistent times can disrupt your circadian rhythms — your physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hr cycle. But with our busy lifestyles, it’s not uncommon to fall off track.
Caffeine and alcohol
Drinking alcohol screws up sleep, no matter your age or gender. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant that causes your brain activity to slow down. It has a sedative effect that can make you sleepy, but drinking has been linked to even poorer sleep quality. Drinking alcohol before bed can even increase the active suppression of REM sleep during the first two cycles. It might be time to cut that nighttime glass of wine!
Screens before bed
Melatonin is the natural hormone in your body that causes sleepiness. Being on electronic back-lit tablets and cell phones that emit short-wave length enriched light (blue light) before bed disrupts the whole natural production of this very necessary sleep component. Turn your devices on night mode or skip them entirely for 30-60 minutes before bed.
What can I do about it?
Stick to a consistent routine
If inconsistent bedtimes are your downfall, try hitting the hay 10-15 minutes closer to a goal bedtime each night to make falling asleep a little easier. Trying to mandate an official bedtime for yourself right out of the gate might lead to even more internal fussiness and inconsistency.
Put the screens away
Try decreasing your daytime and nighttime electronic use or making your bedroom a screen-free zone. Even watching TV before bed is frowned upon; your go-to big screen can have negative effects on your sleep, too. Keep screens designated to the living room and enjoy a more zen, pro-sleep space.
Moderate to vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. Even better, physical activity can also help you snap out of daytime drowsiness.
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