If you struggle to fall and stay asleep on a regular basis, you aren't alone. Chronic insomnia affects an estimated 60 million Americans every year, and while most cases of insomnia can be solved with simple lifestyle changes and a better nighttime routine, sometimes insomnia seemingly comes out of nowhere. So what gives? Below are seven of the most commonly overlooked causes for chronic insomnia—plus easy tips on how to conquer each.
Some medicines—like beta-blockers for high blood pressure and certain asthma medications—can cause insomnia. This also includes many antidepressants, as well as a slew of over-the-counter medications that have caffeine. Look at the side effects listed on your medicine bottles. If you suspect a medication you are taking might be to blame, consider either switching medications or adding in natural melatonin supplements.
Overuse of sleep medication
Your body builds up a tolerance to most medications over time, so if you regularly use sleep medication or have been using it for a long time, it could be more harm than help. Plus, studies show that sleep medication only gives an average of 15 minutes more of sleep, but tends to leave patients feeling groggy in the morning. Try swapping prescription sleep aides with natural melatonin supplements, which work with your body's natural chemistry to drift off to sleep. Combine this with a regular routine of gentle yoga or meditation before bed for even better results.
Night sweats have a myriad of causes, from intense workouts to thermostat wars and hormonal flux. Waking up with night sweats is one of the leading causes of sleep disruption. That’s because the average skin temperature is 91 degrees while the ideal sleep temperature is just 88 degrees—finding sleep products that not only moderate but optimize your temperature is key.
So to avoid the negative impact of persistent night sweats, invest in a mattress that offers advance cooling technology, including micro-encapsulated surface infusions—a cooling injection that adjusts to your sleep temperature throughout the night. Natural materials found in both pillows and sheets also offer greater breathability.
Undiagnosed sleep apnea
Doctors estimate that nearly 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed and untreated, making it one of the most common causes for poor sleep. Since many sufferers of sleep apnea don't actually snore, they often assume that they don't suffer from this common sleep ailment—but habitual snoring that suddenly stops is often a sign that sleep apnea has progressed in severity.
If you are overweight, suffer from fatigue even after sleeping a full night and find yourself waking during the night without cause, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. Good news for those that suffer from this syndrome, though—nearly all cases are completely treatable with lifestyle changes and a simple oral device.
Your diet has a profound effect on your health and sleep rhythm, and highly processed foods and sugary drinks are linked with insomnia and sleeplessness. One study at the University of Arizona found that those who drink high-sugar drinks are likely to sleep 5 hours or less a night! If you think your diet might have something to do with your insomnia, try reducing simple carbohydrates and heavily processed foods—and swap out caffeinated tea for tart cherry juice in the evenings. Cherry juice has naturally high levels of melatonin, which is one of the chemicals that makes you feel sleepy.
Untreated back pain
While back pain might not be keeping you from getting to sleep, it's likely that chronic back pain wakes you up intermittently throughout the night, pulling your body out of restorative deep sleep. Doctors call these periods of partial alertness caused by chronic pain "micro-arousals", which are often not enough to wake you fully, but will affect the natural rhythm of your sleep cycle. Try applying a heating pad and stretching gently before bed. An adjustable bed frame and a high-quality mattress with hybrid foam comfort can also help with back pain, since they reduce pain near critical pressure points and help improve circulation.
An old mattress
Even if you don't suffer from back pain now, it's important to invest in a new mattress every 8 to 10 years to avoid the unexpected consequences of poor sleep support. Even high quality mattresses break down over time, and core layers begin to provide less and less support. The consequence is a mattress that not only doesn't keep your spine aligned, but lets your hips and shoulders sink too far into the mattress, causing uncomfortable pressure point pain and poor circulation. This causes muscles to stay contracted during sleep, which simply doesn't allow your body to fully relax to enjoy restorative, deep sleep. You'll wake up feeling more fatigued, sore and irritable.
If you're in the market for a new mattress, consider hybrid mattress or quality foam mattresses, both of which provide critical spinal alignment support and pressure point relief—two key elements for better sleep.