We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in bed, all cozied up… teeth brushed, pajamas on, eyes shut, and then… nothing. You’ll toss and turn for what feels like hours and when you finally start to snooze, something snaps you out of your much needed sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation found that out of over 1,000 people, 66% reported they weren’t getting a good night’s sleep every night.
So, why can’t you sleep?
You can’t breathe properly.
The air in your bedroom is important to sleeping better. It should work with your body as it naturally drops your internal temperature when you sleep. However, changes in season as well as where you live can inhibit your body from properly regulating its temperature. Because your body temperature drops, a cooler sleep environment works best. So how does air quality come into play? Humidity.
In the warmer months, the humidity is at its peak. Your body naturally regulates itself through perspiration, but with all that water in the air, self-regulation can be a struggle. That humidity can also contribute to other sleep issues caused by mold growth and allergies.To deal with this excess moisture, consider using a dehumidifier which will reduce and maintain the water in your bedroom’s air.
The opposite is true too! According to the National Sleep Foundation, dry air can contribute to "irritated nasal passages, sneezing, stuffy noses, and cracked lips, and may even increase suffering from colds and other viruses."; Your bedroom’s air will be the driest during the winter months or if you live in an arid climate. With the help of a humidifier, you can add that much needed moisture back into the air for a peaceful night’s rest.
As you fall asleep, your body’s temperature will drop lower than its normal 98.6 degrees. This natural process is what makes you feel drowsy and stay asleep. In fact, once you’re in the REM cycle (rapid eye movement), your temperature-regulating cells hit the snooze button too. During this portion of your sleep cycle, your body’s temperature is determined by your bedroom. So how can you prepare for this? Wearing the right layers.
If you’re like many Americans, your pajamas are probably some combination an old shirt and gym pants. While these pajamas are comfortable for lounging around, what you wear to bed can often lead to overheating. Your body’s natural response to overheating is perspiration. If that sweat can’t leave your skin because your clothes aren’t the right material or there are just too many layers, you will wake up. According to Sleep.org, wearing cooling pajamas “that [lower] skin temperature by one degree Celsius can reduce middle-of-the-night arousals and early morning waking.” Cooling or wicking pajamas work by pulling excess moisture away from your skin as you sleep. This process means you can sleep peacefully and won’t wake up soaked in sweat.
Wearing too many layers shouldn’t be exclusively applied to your clothes; your bedding can make a big impact too. Everything from the material of your mattress to the pillowcase you use can help you regulate your body temperature. Usually picking natural materials such as cotton are a great choice as well as specially developed wicking materials if you suffer from night sweats.
Your internal clock is out of whack.
Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour clock that helps you regulate your sleep/wake schedule. The circadian system is meant to keep you synchronized with your outside environment. As the day comes to a close and the sky begins to grow darker, your body will naturally release a sleep hormone called melatonin. Too much artificial light from lamps, TVs, phones, and other devices can inhibit melatonin production and keep you from feeling sleepy. In fact, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that “exposure to room light before bedtime suppressed melatonin, resulting in a later melatonin onset in 99% of individuals.”
Restore your body’s natural melatonin production by shutting off your electronics and television at least one hour before bed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 72% of people use their smartphone right before bed and 71% have a television in their bedroom. It’s tempting to unwind with your favorite TV show or scroll through the latest Facebook posts in bed, but these bad habits are directly connected to a poor night’s sleep. You should also avoid harsh lighting and use a dawn simulator clock to mimic the sunset. These devices will gradually grow dimmer over 15-60 minutes to help your body jumpstart its melatonin production. Inversely, these types of clocks can also serve as a natural alarm clock; they will mimic the sunrise by intensifying their light over time. If you prefer to keep it low-tech, a sleep mask will keep out any ambient light that could be chasing away your much needed zzz’s.
There are too many distractions
When your head hits the pillow, you just want peace and quiet, right? You totally deserve it, but that would be a perfect world. The reality is that many of us have less than ideal sleep environments. Someone like your spouse or kids could still be roaming around the house. You could live in a busy area with noisy traffic and neighbors. You could even have a hard timewinding down from the day and you can’t stop thinking about that thing left on your to-do list.
According to World Sleep Society, environmental noise can decrease your sleep intensity which will cause you to wake up more often and can even increase your stress hormone production. Disruptions in your sleep cycle mean you won’t feel rested when you wake up, even if you managed to get close to a full night’s rest. What’s more, the long-term impact of noise-related sleep issues may include heart attack and increase medication intake.
Combat environmental noise with ambient noise that calms you and prepares you for sleep. The most popular types of ambient noise are usually sounds found in nature such as ocean waves, rainfall, and thunderstorms. Sound conditioners or white noise machines are devices that are usually programmed with these sounds ahead of time. The programmed sound conditioners are great for those who want a no-fuss, plug and play solution. If you would like to experiment with different types of ambient noise, a sound conditioner that is compatible with your smartphone or mp3 player would work best. With these devices, you can download or stream the perfect soundtrack for snoozing.
If you’re suffering from a lack of sleep, there are natural sleep aids available to help you finally get a better night’s rest. Assess your sleep environment as well as your bedtime routine to identify the bad habits and environmental issues impacting your sleep. Experiment with different safe sleep aid solutions and find the right mix for your unique needs.