People with insomnia live a cult-like existence where they begin to think that being awake at all hours of the night can give them so much more time to get things done and enjoy some peace and quiet that they might have never had before. (Trust me…I blog…at all hours of the night…trying to convince myself that I am doing something important while the rest of my family is sleeping their lives away).
But the truth is that these nights and nights of inability to sleep may be the result of underlying symptoms and lifestyles.
So before we can look at HOW to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, it’s important that we first take a look at the possible reasons WHY you’re not getting any sleep in the first place.
1. Aging...Insomnia becomes more common with age for many reasons—including the facts that noise and other changes in your environment are more likely to wake you and that you get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
2. Alcohol...Alcohol is a sedative that can make you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night and often causes awakening in the middle of the night.
3. Anxiety…Getting caught up in thoughts about past events, excessively worrying about future events, and feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities can make it hard for even the people who used to never have any trouble falling or staying asleep to sleep at all.
4. Caffeine…We all know that caffeine is a stimulant that can help us start the day feeling productive, but did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours?
And far too many of us, myself included, drink at least four cups of coffee each day…if not each hour.
A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people who drink at least this much caffeinated drinks a day are more likely to experience some level of insomnia at least a few nights each week than people who limit themselves to only one cup per day…(still working on that, or not(?!))…, so the effects are long lasting.
5. Certain Medical Conditions…Certain medical conditions can affect your sleep. These include…allergies, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Food…Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep, make you uncomfortable, and make it hard for you to settle down and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn.
7. Hormones...Hormone shifts during pregnancy, menstruation or menopause can make it difficult to sleep. During menopause, night sweats and hot flashes often disrupt sleep.
8. Light...Exposure to light from televisions and smartphones prior to going to sleep can affect natural melatonin levels and make it take longer for you to fall asleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.
9. Medications…Medications such as those taken for the common cold and nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, and depression can cause insomnia.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), medications that can cause insomnia in some patients include corticosteroids, statins, alpha blockers, beta blockers, SSRI antidepressants, ACE inhibitors, ARBs (angiotensin II-receptor blockers), cholinesterase inhibitors, second generation (non-sedating) H1 agonists, and glucosamine/chondroitin.
Not only that, but many over-the-counter medications — such as some pain medications, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products — contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
10. Napping…Taking even short naps in the afternoon may be helpful for some people, but for others they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
11. Non-traditional hours...Working irregular hours or working at home in the evenings or during the middle of the night can also confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
12. Psychological Issues…These include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and psychotic disorders.
13. Stress…Concerns about work, school, health, finances or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma — such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss — also may lead to insomnia.
14. Trying to “bank” sleep...Trying to “catch up” on lost sleep by sleeping in actually confuses your body’s circadian rhythm, or built-in clock, and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
15. Underlying Sleep Disorders…The two most common sleep disorders are RLS (restless legs syndrome), a neurological condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs, and sleep apnea, waking up briefly because your airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep. Having your airway obstructed during sleep apnea leads to pauses in