If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you haven’t been sleeping well and you’re trying to figure out how to get better sleep so you can have better days.
There are a ton of reasons why you may not be sleeping well at night, including the type of medication you’re on, your age, the temperature in your bedroom, underlying health conditions you may not be aware of, and even sharing your bed with your partner or furry friends.
If you really want to narrow down the culprit, you’re going to have to examine your life and daily routine to see what stands out—especially at night.
Here are some of the most common reasons why you’re not sleeping well:
It’s Your Lifestyle and Habits
Your lifestyle and habits are the first places you should look when you notice that you’re more tired during the day than you are at night.
Let’s take a closer look at the most common lifestyle culprits of your sleep disruption:
- Drinking alcohol within four hours of going to bed. Sure, a little nightcap might help you relax and doze off but drinking too much before bed can disrupt your REM sleep. It can also cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night.
- Eating before bedtime. Eating before laying down not only promotes heartburn but can also affect your quality of sleep. This is especially true for foods high in sugar, fats, and carbs—but overall, eating before bed kicks your digestive system into overdrive making it difficult for your body and mind to rest.
- Too much caffeine. Did you know that caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours? That means only half the amount of caffeine you consume gets eliminated during that time. The rest stays in your system, keeping you up at night.
- Strenuous late-night exercise. Your lifestyle doesn’t need to be filled with unhealthy habits to mess with your sleep. A sweat-dripping cardio session that increases your heart rate and body temperature within a few hours before bedtime can keep you awake much longer than intended.
You’re Stressed Out or Depressed
Stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the most common causes of temporary or long-term insomnia—making insomnia a symptom of a much larger issue rather than a mental illness itself.
Your daily activities may be there to distract you from some of these things, but once your head hits the pillow your mind starts racing and it’s not usually thinking about good things. And, according to The Sleep Foundation, sleep and depression are bidirectionally linked.
In other words, poor sleep can contribute to the development or worsening of depression while depression makes it more likely for individuals to develop sleep issues.
There’s Too Much Light
We get it—scrolling through social media and binge-watching your favorite shows in bed is like comfort food for the soul. Unfortunately, the blue light emitted from these screens messes with your circadian rhythm by suppressing your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone otherwise known as melatonin.
The same goes for other lights as well, including outdoor patio lights, your partner’s reading lamp, and even the numbers on your digital alarm clock.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Keep in mind that not all sleep issues can be helped naturally, i.e. sleep apnea, chronic pain, neuropathy, and other medical conditions. In these cases, you’ll need to consult with your physician on what you can do to improve your sleep.
Here are some top tips to improve sleep naturally:
- Cultivate a sleep schedule. That’s right—give yourself a bedtime that allows for 8 hours of rest, and stick to it with little variation on the weekends. Make sure you’re waking up at the same time every day too as this will help reprogram your sleep-wake cycle. If you have a hard time falling asleep at your designated time, supplements like melatonin may help.
- Be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking. Avoid heavy meals and alcohol within at least four hours before bed. Limit your caffeine intake to before noon to give your body enough time to eliminate it, and try and kick your cigarette habit if you have one as nicotine also acts as a stimulant.
- Exercise at the right times. Physical activity is actually conducive to a good night’s sleep—just not late at night. Get your exercise earlier in the day, and if you must expel energy before bed, limit it to a relaxing walk rather than a half marathon.
- Create an environment for sleep. Set your bedroom up so it’s cool—but not cold— dark, and quiet. Try and eliminate your exposure to light two hours before bed, swapping your screen time for a good book or relaxing bath.
- Try to manage your worries. We know it’s hard, but try to resolve your stresses and calm your mind before you jump into bed. You can do this by meditation, keeping a journal, getting organized, and determining your priorities for the next day, etc.
Breaking old habits and starting new ones can seem like an endless battle, especially when it comes to your sleep patterns. However, once you get into a healthier sleep routine you’ll wake up fresh and energized and ready to take on the day.