Sleep keeps us healthy and helps our brains function properly. It also helps to repair and re-energize our bodies. However, thousands of us are still struggling to switch off and get the recommended hours of sleep needed for good health. Sleep experts at Bed Kingdom have revealed five reasons you may struggle to fall asleep and how to establish a better sleep routine.
1. Don’t eat before bed
Eating a meal, or even snacks, before bed could keep you awake at night. Eating food at night can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), meaning your body won’t be shutting down to fall asleep.
Digesting food late at night can also keep you awake. When we eat late at night, the muscles that digest our food must keep working when they should be resting. This can delay your ability to fall asleep and prevent you from getting a deep, restful sleep that you need to feel refreshed the next day.
Make sure to eat your final meal at least two to three hours before bed. It’s also beneficial to try and eat your meals at the same times every day. Consistent mealtimes mean that your body’s circadian rhythm can work more efficiently, resulting in better sleep.
2. Darken your bedroom
When it is dark, our bodies produce melatonin. Commonly referred to as the “hormone of darkness,” melatonin helps us to fall asleep by regulating our body temperature and putting us into a state of restfulness.
Our bodies naturally produce more melatonin when it is dark, so having bright lights in your bedroom can reduce melatonin production, meaning you’ll feel wide awake. Even if you do manage to fall asleep, you may not get enough REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that the body needs.
Make your bedroom darker by using blackout blinds or curtains. Light from the sun and moon, as well as streetlights, can enter the bedroom through windows, making it difficult to sleep. Close your bedroom door if you get any light from the hallway, or use an eye mask, and make sure to stow away any electronics when it comes to nighttime.
3. Know your stress triggers
Many people who are experiencing stress in their lives have a hard time falling asleep. High-stress levels can make falling asleep extremely difficult, which can, in effect, cause more stress due to limited sleep. Problems at work, financial worries, or relationship issues can be reasons why stress is keeping you up at night.
Knowing your stress triggers can be vital to getting the rest you need. You may be able to find ways to get rid of any stresses, like asking for help if tasks get to be too much or dropping some of your responsibilities when possible.
Regular exercise could help combat stress-related insomnia, as can avoiding caffeine and sticking to a strict sleep schedule. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may also help to reduce stress. By identifying irrational thoughts and replacing them with more positive ones, you may be able to change your behaviors and ultimately sleep better.
4. Limit your alcohol intake
While consuming alcohol might make you tired, it can affect your sleep quality and cause you to wake up more often than usual.
Sleep is separated into two types: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep, and alcohol can affect both. REM sleep is the deepest and most restorative sleep, and drinking alcohol can reduce the amount of REM sleep you have at night, causing you to feel tired the next day.
Drinking alcohol before bed can also worsen sleep apnea. This common disorder occurs when the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. Alcohol can work as a muscle relaxant, meaning that this problem can worsen when you sleep.
Stop drinking at least four hours before bed, and drink lots of water to flush the alcohol out of your system before bed.
5. Switch off your screen
Screen time before bed can stimulate the brain, making you will feel wide awake when it is time to doze off. Your mind will stay active even after scrolling through social media or checking your emails before bed.
The light from the screen can also repress melatonin levels, which tell your body when it’s time to sleep. The light from a screen too close to your face can also be bad for your vision.
Try to stop using your electronic devices at least one hour before bed. Reading an actual book (not on a device), taking a bath, or even going for a walk are better ways to wind down just before you sleep.
Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and wellbeing. For an adult, between seven and nine hours each night are recommended. If you need support or further advice on your sleep schedule, speak to your general practitioner or a health professional.