Trouble falling asleep? You aren't alone. Insomnia affects nearly 60 million Americans, with causes ranging from health issues to more mysterious sleep conditions and causes. So what can you do to fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep for longer? Check out these 5 common causes for insomnia, and what you can do about each of them.
Anxiety and Racing Thoughts
For many that suffer from chronic insomnia, anxiety and racing thoughts (more colloquially referred to as the inability to "switch off") is the root of the issue. It might sound counter-intuitive, but simply trying to get to sleep is often a cause behind the racing thoughts. According to the Sleep Research Program at Duke University Medical Center, you may even be going in and out of a light sleep even though you feel as if you are completely awake—and controlling your thoughts in such a precarious level of consciousness is even harder.
To conquer the issue, experts recommend disassociating your bedroom with the anxiety that's keeping you awake. Keep the lights off, and simply move to another room when anxiety hits. Employ breathing exercises, journaling and even listening to calming music or white noise until your thoughts settle. Once you're more relaxed, move back to the bedroom to doze off.
It's a common misconception that sound sensitivity is the cause of insomnia. The reality is a little different—it's the change in sound that wakes you, rather than the sound itself. There's a reason you might be able to doze off with a consistent hum of speech or even the ambient sound of a television. Since inconsistency in sound is what's actually disruptive, the fix might be adding sound rather than removing it—but making sure its a consistent source of sound. Try a white-noise machine or leave a ceiling fan running to help distract from sudden sounds, and help your brain relax and your body drift off to sleep.
We all know the old adage about not eating a large meal right before we go to bed. However, research has indicated that those who are dieting may have more interrupted sleep. Hunger pangs can wake you up, so grab a high-protein snack (like a hard-boiled egg or a little cheese) for a better night’s rest.
A Cluttered Sleep Environment
A cluttered bedroom leads to a cluttered mind. Stress is the biggest culprit when it comes to depriving us of sleep, so if your bedside table is stacked with clutter or your laundry hamper is overflowing, it’s going to be hard to relax. The best way to get out ahead of the problem is to tackle it in the daylight hours—with a serious cleaning effort to get your bedroom in order. Need help? Check out our 8 tips for bedroom spring cleaning!
Even if you keep your bedroom dark with black-out curtains and all the lights turned off, light pollution can still contribute to your inability to drift off to sleep. What's the cause? Not only is the issue in the light itself, it's the type of light that's keeping you alert and awake. Next time you're getting ready for bed, look around your bedroom to see just how much ambient light is still there when the lights are off. Charging electronics, alarm clocks glowing, the glow of hallway lights under a doorway... even those little bits of light can keep you awake.
Plus, if you tend to surf social media on your phone in the minutes or hours before sleep, try setting it to a "night shift" mode. This will change the glow of your phone to reduce blue tones, which research shows are the types of light that keep our brains more alert and awake.