Sleep is an essential part of healthy living; it boosts creativity, productivity, mood and energy levels. We spend a third of our life sleeping, but still, we are frequently unable to get a good night's sleep or feel refreshed in the morning. It is worth thinking about why this is? Even though you might think it is beyond your control, there could be many simple reasons for this occurring. Below we outline five ways you could be sabotaging your sleep and how you can fix them.
NOT STICKING TO A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE & SLEEPING IN ON WEEKENDS
So you're one of those people that thinks a bit of sleep deprivation isn't a big deal, right? Wrong! You should have learned in your high school science class (if not common sense) that regular sleep-wake patterns and habits are imperative for the proper functioning of your body and mind. Going without sleep or sleeping irregular hours can result in serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and chronic fatigue. Our circadian rhythm controls when we go to sleep and when we wake up, and having a consistent schedule for going to bed every day helps change that rhythm to feel refreshed when it's time for work or play.
EATING TOO MUCH OR EATING CLOSE TO BEDTIME
If you're overeating right before going to bed, then you need to fix this habit or else it will sabotage your efforts in other areas. Why is this? Eating late can make you feel full and, in turn, make you have difficulty falling asleep because of the discomfort from overeating. This overindulgence can leave you feeling sluggish and unhappy, potentially destroying your quality of life for days after. The reason for this is the human body has an internal clock. This clock regulates many of our bodily functions, allowing us to stay aware of our surroundings and get the most out of our day. Studies show that when food is consumed later in the evening, it alters hormonal signals and contributes to gaining weight because cortisol levels remain elevated all night long. So, avoid consuming any food at least three hours before bed, as your body will not be able to burn it all until you wake up.
Why do we have the urge to snack or overeat at night? Besides being the time that most people wind down from the day and relax and reach for a snack, it's also your stomach producing ghrelin. Simply put, ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates the brain to tell the body it's time to eat. The more ghrelin released, the hungrier we feel. Ghrelin levels rise before meals, stay high while eating, and are highest during the hours before bedtime, which tricks your brain into thinking you're hungry at night. Your stomach also releases a hormone called leptin when you're full. Leptin signals to your brain that you've had enough to eat, and it's OK to stop releasing that ghrelin. In a state of sleep deprivation, the body counteracts with the release of ghrelin, making you feel hungry. The mechanisms behind this effect have been studied recently. Results have shown that elevated glucose response after evening meals may lead to changes in metabolism, resulting in a slower rate of fat oxidation. Since lean body mass comprises a more significant percentage of total weight at night than during daytime hours, any decrease in fat oxidation would increase overall body fat percentage. Instead of snacking late at night, try drinking a large glass of water with lemon to satisfy that urge. In turn, getting enough protein at dinnertime can significantly decrease the urge to snack as protein is a slower metabolized source of energy.
DISTRACTIONS & SCREEN TIME
To put it bluntly: You're spending way too much time on your phone and not enough time getting good sleep. Whether you're scrolling through Twitter, playing video games or watching infotainment videos after bed, these distractions are ill-affecting your ability to get a restful night of sleep. In fact, NASA says, your devices are adversely affecting your circadian cycles and keeping you awake at night. Forgetting the obvious health benefits to better sleeping (improving memory retention, creative thinking, physical strength), not to mention the reduction in stress levels, better sleep will also decrease your chances of sickness (cold, flu), obesity and other ailments that can be held at bay by getting a good eight hours nightly. The internet is filled with a tremendous amount of distractions for its billions of users. Users often get sidetracked from whatever they had initially set out to do, from social media platforms to streaming services.
NOT GETTING ENOUGH LIGHT DURING THE DAY
One of the first things you might do to help your sleep is to ensure you're getting enough light during the day. Light is something that our sleep sensors require in order for us to wake up and enter into a sleep-like state. They do their job like a dimmer switch and change until they get just what they need. During the day, when you look at something bright, it turns the light sensors on; in turn, when it's time to go to sleep, your system will start shutting down those sensors so that they are getting progressively less light all day long until eventually, it's time to go to bed. When you sleep at night, your body releases melatonin, a hormone responsible for letting your body know that it's time to rest. It can also make you sleepy during the day. Studies have shown that people who work in excess of 15 hours a day don't get enough light exposure, thus disrupting their natural circadian rhythm. This is one of the most common ways someone can sabotage their sleep.
YOU'RE TOO HOT
Night sweats are a common cause of poor sleep quality. In addition, it can have negative effects on your health and well-being if left untreated for an extended period of time. An easy way to improve your sleep at night is by lowering your body temperature. Research indicates that reaching REM sleep requires your body to be at lower temperatures—which is why it's recommended to keep your room between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep quality. Research also suggests too much heat at night can increase the number of times you wake up at night. The temperature in your bedroom plays a crucial role in how you sleep and how easy it is for you to fall asleep in the first place. Do you suffer from night-sweats and toss and turn? Are you going through menopause? Maintaining a comfortable temperature can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting enough sleep. The right pair of cooling pajamas can help you feel more comfortable, which can lead to better sleep. Find a pajama designed to help regulate body temperature and eliminate bacteria and night sweats.
Lao Tzu once wrote, "You have the right to be happy, pursue your dreams and fulfil your destiny, with balance and harmony in all areas of your life." Sleep is vital to balance, harmony, health, well-being, and mental acuity. The science behind sleep is straightforward: our bodies repair and restore themselves during sleep. If you're struggling to sleep soundly at night, it's crucial to figure out what's causing these issues in the first place. By addressing these problems one by one, you should be able to work towards a solid sleeping routine that will help you feel refreshed and balanced every day. Since your bedroom is one of the most important places in your home to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, it's one of the top targets for this common form of self-sabotage. We must learn how to make our bedrooms into a haven of good sleeping habits to enjoy a refreshing rest without interruption so we can stay brighter and healthier. A quality sleep program should address everything from bedding quality and mattress comfort to cooling pajamas, room temperature and potential home hazards. The more you sleep, the more productive you will be during the day. All it takes is a little effort because, at the end of the day, your health and well-being are worth it.