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Sleeping is one of the most important things that we do each day. Sleeping allows us to recharge, repair, and heal from the stresses of everyday life. However, not everyone gets enough sleep every night.

Everyone has had the occasional sleepless night, but what happens when “occasional” becomes “the usual”? If sleep difficulties persist, you may be suffering from insomnia or one of many other sleep-disrupting issues. Insomnia is a term that describes the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and it can come in many forms. However, there are also several other sleep-interrupting causes and habits that can be just as powerful in disrupting your sleep schedule. In this blog, we’ve accumulated a number of resources to help you identify your sleep problems and, hopefully, overcome them!

girl covering her face

Physiological Causes

Hunger

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 actually wake you up, so grab a high-protein snack an hour or so before bed for a better night’s rest.

Drinking

You’re pretty sure a glass of wine relaxes you and helps you get to sleep, but, while that may be true, you metabolize the alcohol while you’re asleep. This process may actually wake you up, or at the least will keep you from getting the deep, restorative sleep you need. Drinking should stop a few hours before you plan to go to bed.

Caffeine

Did you know that caffeine has a half-life of 10 hours? That means half the caffeine from the latte you had at lunch is still with you after dinner. Add in an energy drink or a soda and you may just have a hard time getting to sleep. Additionally, it takes your body longer to process caffeine as you age: that dessert coffee you used to be able to handle when you were twenty may end up ruining your night when you’re forty. Try to limit your caffeine intake, especially after your morning pick-me-up.

Diet

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 from the University of California found that those who consume even one high-sugar drink a day are likely to sleep 5 hours or less per night! Try reducing your consumption of simple carbohydrates and heavily processed foods, and try swapping in tart cherry juice in the evenings. Cherry juice has naturally high levels of melatonin, one of the chemicals that makes you feel sleepy.

Medication Side Effects

Some common 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 use caffeine to speed up intake. Look at the side effects listed on your medicine bottles. If you suspect a medication you are taking might be to blame, consider talking to your doctor about switching medications or adding in natural melatonin supplements.

coffee fast food pills

Overuse of Sleep-Aids

Your body builds up a tolerance to most medications over time so, if you regularly use sleep aids, it could be more harmful than helpful. Additionally, studies have shown that most sleep aids only provide an average of 35 more minutes of sleep and tend to leave patients feeling groggier in the morning. Try swapping prescription sleep aids with natural melatonin supplements, which work with your body's natural chemistry to help start sleep.

Night Sweats

Night sweats have a myriad of causes, from intense workouts to thermostat wars or 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.

To avoid the negative impact of persistent night sweats, invest in a mattress that offers advanced 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.

Anxiety and Racing Thoughts

For many that suffer from chronic insomnia, anxiety and racing thoughts are at the root of the issue. It might sound counter-intuitive, but simply trying to go to sleep is a leading cause of racing thoughts. These thoughts can flood the mind in a variety of ways. For some they can be so severe, feeling as though a movie is playing in their mind making it impossible to fall asleep.

To conquer the issue, we recommend disassociating your bedroom from the anxiety that's keeping you awake. Keep the lights off and move to another room if/when anxiety hits. Employ breathing exercises, journaling, and calming music or white noise until your thoughts settle. Once you're more relaxed, move back to the bedroom to doze off.

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 suffer from fatigue even after sleeping a full night and find yourself waking during the night without obvious cause, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. Good news for those that suffer from this syndrome—nearly all cases are completely treatable with lifestyle changes and/or a simple oral device.

Untreated back pains

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.

night sweats anxiety back pain

Environmental Causes

Noise Distractions

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, not 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. Try using a white-noise machine or leave your ceiling fan running to help distract from sudden sounds, which will help your brain relax and let your body drift off to sleep.

A Cluttered Sleep Environment

A cluttered bedroom leads to a cluttered mind: stress is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to sleep loss. 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!

Light "Pollution"

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. Not only is the issue in the light itself, but 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, glowing alarm clocks, and remaining hallway lights under a doorway can keep you awake.

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 alert and awake.

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, causing uncomfortable pressure point pain and poor circulation. This causes muscles to stay contracted during sleep, which doesn't allow your body to fully relax to enjoy deep, restorative 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.

fan messy room old mattress

Habitual Causes

Thinking 8 Hours Is The Gold Standard

The whole “8 hours” thing is just a number. 8 hours may work for you, or you may benefit from less or more –and it’s totally natural! If you get your best rest sleeping for 9 hours, stick to it! If you wake up totally refreshed after six hours, you may be getting just the right amount of sleep for you! The best way to figure out your ideal sleep time is to sleep without an alarm for as many days as you possibly can – long enough to go to sleep and wake up on your own time clock to determine the amount of sleep that works for you and your body. Trying to force 8 hours and only 8 hours may actually work against you.

You Wake Up So You Get Up

Some sleep gurus think if you’re not asleep, you shouldn’t be in bed, but this isn’t necessarily true. If you are relaxed and at peace, stay that way until you drift off to sleep. However, if you do get up because you’re not peaceful, stay away from things that will stimulate you and tell your brain it’s wakeup time. No bright lights, no devices, and no posting, because that’s going to keep you awake. If you’re trying to rest, then rest in every sense of the word.

You Go To Bed Whenever

A lack of routine will cause insomnia. It may have been many years since you had a bedtime, but it’s never too late to bring it back. Set a reasonable time – not too early, not too late, and set aside the hour before bedtime to give yourself a wind-down routine. For the first 20 minutes, tie up loose ends. Send out the last email. Walk the dog. Pick up the family room. For the next 20 minutes, get ready for bed with good hygiene: brush your teeth and take a warm shower or bath. For the last 20 minutes, soothe yourself: meditate, try gentle yoga, or pick up a good book (and use a dim book light). Having a set routine will help your body adjust to a set bedtime and will reset your internal clock.

girl sleeping in bed

Helpful Hints

Get Out of Bed

If you can stay relaxed, it’s okay to stay in bed. However, if after 20 minutes you’re still awake and restless, get up! It’s not time to turn on the computer or check the smartphone or turn on the TV. Go to a quiet spot and keep the lighting dim. Read something light – especially even something you’ve read before – or just listen to some soothing music. Don’t let your bed become a place of anxiety, and return to it only once you’re ready to sleep.

Get Rid of the Clock.

Do you know that some new clocks actually come with a display you can turn off? They know that watching the clock – and the light the display gives off – isn’t conducive to a good night’s rest. Invest in one of these, or dim the light on your existing clock. If it doesn’t adjust, turn it towards the wall. Put your robe over it. Whatever it takes, quit watching it! It will only make you more anxious and wider awake.

Turn Off the Lights

We’ve talked about not watching the clock and the light it gives off but, when you’re trying to get back to sleep, light is your enemy. Keep lights as dim as possible throughout your home. If you go to the bathroom, use a night light instead of turning on a bright overhead light – ditto if you go to the kitchen for a glass of water. The less light, the more likely you are to be able to fall back asleep if interrupted.

Use Visual Exercises to Relax

The more you worry about getting back to sleep, the harder it becomes. Try a visualization technique to relax. Practice deep breathing; breathe slowly and regularly from the stomach. You can add visualization – let your mind take you to your favorite place. Imagine the beach you love and the sound of the waves, or a mountaintop with wind whispering through the pines. Use these techniques to quiet your mind and begin resting.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, get help. Start by keeping a sleep diary. See if you see a connection between those restless nights and what you eat or drink, or if there are common daily stressors that precede nights when you don’t sleep well. You may find a pattern you can break. You can also take that diary to your doctor and see if he or she finds a link. Be sure to ask your doctor if any medications you take could be adding to the problem.

Remember: you aren't alone! Insomnia affects nearly 60 million Americans, but it doesn’t need to be a permanent problem in your everyday life. With any luck, this guide has gotten you thinking about the many possible factors that are impacting the way you sleep and has pointed you in the right direction for transforming your tossing and turning into restful nights. If your old mattress is the culprit, visit any of our showroom locations, or visit us online at brooklynbedding.com, to find the mattress of your sweetest dreams!

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