It’s happening again: you’re trying to fall asleep and something is keeping you awake at night. You might know what is keeping you up, or maybe you have no idea. While there can be a number of factors influencing your sleep, it helps to solve these problems for a better sleep. Sleep plays a crucial part in your metabolism, memory, learning, immune function, and other vital areas.
- Back Light: Watching TV, Checking your phone, using the computer—all these activities can actually keep you up at night. Not because you’re on Pinterest for hours, but the light suppresses you melatonin production. Melatonin, a hormone made in the pineal gland, controls your internal clock. Light affects the amount of melatonin produced, which is why it’s advised not to use these devices before going to bed. Your need melatonin to feel groggy and sleepy, and light actually suppresses your melatonin production. However, instead of completely avoiding the Kindle Fire or iPad, simply turn down the brightness and hold the device at least 14 inches away from your face.
- Big Meals: Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid the call of McDonald’s late at night, but it may be disrupting your sleep pattern. Including big meals, drinking a large amount of fluid can keep you up at night and send you on multiple trips to the bathroom. This is a relatively simple fix: avoid eating at least two to three hours before going to sleep. If you need food, try and pick a healthier snack like almonds, yogurt, or an apple.
- Intense Cognitive Activity: According to a study done by the University of Pennsylvania, measures of fatigue and sleepiness increased about 60% after intense cognitive activities. Additionally the study found it took an extra 30 minutes for people who had completed mentally difficult tasks to fall asleep after they were in bed. To help your brain wind down, listen to quiet music or read a book before going to sleep.
- Thinking Too Much: This common problem has even cropped up in a Supertramp song, “But at night, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep…” It could be money, relationships, or work that’s occupying your thoughts late at night. It’s hard to avoid pondering a little as you drift in and out of the beginning stages of sleep. If your thoughts are too distracting, get up and walk to a different part of the house, keeping the lights off as you go. This movement helps these pressing thoughts to subside. This also prevents you from associating bed and sleep with anxious thoughts. If these worries continue, try and write down your thoughts in a notebook by your bed.
- Partner Snores: This is an obvious problem, but one that can be detrimental to your health. Buy ear plugs if you can; however, for parents with young babies this is not a viable option. Try and sleep in another room for a while and see if this improves your alertness (and your mood) the following day. This will help your partner see this is a serious issue affecting your health. Consult a doctor about what your next step should be.
- Too Much Light: Even the glow from your alarm clock can be distracting. Some alarm clocks allow you to turn down the brightness, but sometimes even this isn’t dark enough. Cover the front with a book or turn the alarm clock away from you. Invest in some curtains or blackout shades if your blinds aren’t coverage enough and that street light is burning your retina. Another easy fix is a sleep mask, which you can easily purchase at the local drug store.
- Pets Be Gone: Boot your dog or cat out of your room at night. If they bother you at night, try placing them in another room or crate. Pets can be disruptive to your sleep by taking up room on the bed or by making noise in the room at night. If your cat is bent on scratching the door until you let it in, try to use double sided tape on your door. Your cat won’t enjoy the stickiness, and you can sleep better at night.
- Reduce Allergies: Allergies to dust mites are another common reason you might be staying up at night (most likely sneezing). Reducing the number of dust mites in your bed can help you sleep better at night. Keep your bed clean by regularly washing your sheets, pillow covers, and bed spread. Vacuum the mattress occasionally as well.
- Uncomfortable Mattress: According to the National Sleep Foundation, 92% of Americans say a comfortable mattress is pivotal to sleeping well, but only 60% say their mattress is more comfortable than one in quality hotel room. Investing in a quality mattress or air mattress can make all the difference in your sleep at night.