By Deane Alban
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
You consolidate memories while you sleep, so lack of it will affect your ability to remember what you learned the previous day. Every day you lose brain cells, but every night you have the opportunity to create new brain cells provided you are getting enough uninterrupted sleep.
Since 60 million Americans complain of sleeping difficulties, that’s a lot of new brain cells not being created!
Some reasons people can’t sleep are largely out of their hands, such as having a physical or psychological health condition that causes insomnia. But most of us can’t sleep because of choices we make during the day. Here are 18 reasons you can’t sleep that are under your control.
The average half-life of caffeine is around 5 hours so even if you stop drinking hours before bedtime, there is still some lingering in your system. The effects of caffeine can last for up to 14 hours! So if you drink caffeine, drink it early and stop by noon.
A nightcap might relax you before you go to bed, but it won’t help you sleep. Alcohol causes nighttime arousals — up to 15 – 25 per night. You probably won’t remember them because the times awake are too short to be remembered, but these awakenings will prevent you from getting the deep sleep you need for brain repair and a feeling of alertness the next day.
Ditto on smoking. Smokers also awaken 15 – 25 times per night too. Nicotine seems like it relaxes, but it is actually a stimulant.
Taking Over-the-Counter Medications
Many over-the-counter medications can cause insomnia especially if they contain alcohol or caffeine. Read the labels of all your OTC meds and take accordingly.
Going to Bed Hungry
The usual advice is to not eat a few hours before going to bed, but some people (such as moi) can’t sleep if they are hungry. This is particularly a problem if you eat dinner many hours before you go to sleep or are active in the evening and burn up the calories from dinner.
Going to Bed Full
Conversely, going to bed on an overly full stomach can lead to heartburn and indigestion — not exactly conducive for a good night.
Drinking Too Many Fluids
Here’s another one that gets worse with age — having to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. Try to minimize fluid intake from dinner on.
Being Stressed Out
Being stressed during the day is one of the biggest reasons people can’t sleep. It’s a mean trick of the brain that as soon as your head hits the pillow, worrying thoughts immediately get moved to the forefront.
Exercising in the Evening
One of the metabolic triggers that helps you get to sleep is the slight lowering of our body temperature. But exercise in the evening elevates it for a few hours leading to insomnia in some people. Lowering your bedroom’s thermostat helps to overcome this.
Keeping Irregular Hours
Not going to bed and getting up roughly the same time every day can lead to disrupted sleeping patterns. While this is a choice for most people, for others like shift workers or travelers who frequently change time zones, this is an ongoing challenge.
Being a Couch Potato
The less you do during the day, the harder it can be to fall asleep. Your body was meant for motion. A day of being a couch potato will leave you lethargic but not genuinely tired for sleep.
Sleeping with a Partner
A partner who has insomnia and tosses and turns will keep you awake too. If they snore, they keep you awake while they snooze soundly. It’s so unfair.
Sleeping With Pets
Pets toss and turn, scratch, shed, and snore and can as disruptive as sleeping with another human!
Keep Your Bedroom Too Warm
Your body temperature slightly lowers in preparation for sleep. Having your bedroom too warm will thwart that process leaving you too warm to readily fall asleep.
A late-night action movie can leave you too stimulated to sleep. It takes a while for your brain and body to calm back down to its normal pre-sleep state. But even if you are boring yourself with infomercials, the act of watching any TV will keep you awake. The light exposure reduces your production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.
Having Electronics in the Bedroom
Light disrupts sleep by halting melatonin production, but the blue light emitted from electronics is particularly disruptive to sleep.
Sleeping With Your Cell Phone
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted from mobile phones delays your ability to reach the deeper stages of sleep. It’s also suspected of causing brain cancer. One survey found that 44% of those who sleep near their cell phone, check for messages in the middle of the night! If your cell phone is this tempting, move it out of your bedroom.
Using Your iPad
Two hours of iPad use before you go to bed can reduce your melatonin levels by 22%. iPad use is even worse than watching a big screen TV or looking at a computer monitor because they emit shorter wavelength radiation and are held closer to the eyes.
Sleeping Well: Sometimes It’s a Choice
So how did you do? How many of these sleep disruptive activities are you guilty of?
Before you say “I just can’t sleep no matter what I do“, make sure you aren’t making any of these common sleep mistakes!