8 common reasons you're struggling to sleep at night

Malia Jacobson and Victoria Joy
Photo credit: Unsplash

From Red Online

It's frustrating when you can't sleep; you lie there tossing and turning while the minutes tick by.

But you're not alone because lots of us can't sleep and, as a result, we are officially exhausted – a recent Aviva survey revealed that 37% of Brits don't feel they get enough sleep, far more than any other nation surveyed.

Women's brains are also wired to need more sleep than men and getting it can regulate our metabolism and prevent Alzheimer's.

Here, 8 of the most common reasons you can't sleep and how to rectify them.

CAN'T SLEEP: YOU'RE TOO HOT

According to Matthew Walker, sleep scientist and author of Why We Sleep (Penguin), thermal environment - that is, the temperature of your body and brain's surroundings - is the most underrated factor in determining quality and quantity of sleep.

And with central heating, air con, hygge-worthy bedding and cashmere loungewear, Walker suggests we're overriding the natural drop in evening temperature that alerts our brains to release sleep-inducing melatonin. Temperature is a key biological cue for sleep - between 15 and 19 degrees celsius is ideal - because a cooled-down body triggers deep slumber. Maintain a restful equilibrium by:

  • Investing in a fan to cool and soothe. Nothing fancy needed just a simple oscillating model on your bedside table
  • Sticking to lower thread counts (under 600) sheets as high thread counts are less breathable and cause sweatiness
  • Classic foam mattresses mould to your shape and can make you overheat. Newer options keep you comfortable with features like an open-cell foam, which pulls in cool air and contains gel beads that shift warmth away from the body

CAN'T SLEEP: YOUR PHONE ISN'T ON FLIGHT MODE

The bedroom is no place for tech, however much we love our phones and iPads. A Harvard study found that viewing handheld technology in the hour before bed delayed production of sleep hormone melatonin by 90 minutes and cut levels in half, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Try keeping your tech in another room - but if you really must use your phone as an alarm, switch everything to airplane mode so alerts won't disturb you.

CAN'T SLEEP: THE LIGHT IS TOO BRIGHT

Modern electric lights impede the efficacy of the 24-hour clock within our brains, says Matthew Walker, with evidence suggesting they can wind back your internal clock by two to three hours each evening. Counteract this effect by dimming the lights in the evening to prep your body for sleep.

CAN'T SLEEP: NOISE KEEPS WAKING YOU UP

An ambulance siren or car door slamming can easily jolt you out of a peaceful sleep. But certain noises can actually block these out and encourage a deeper snooze.

WHITE NOISE: The whir of a fan or the sound of rain creates soothing white noise – a steady buzz of ambient sound has been proven to help stop night-time waking and increase time spent asleep.

PINK NOISE: Research shows that a mix of high and low frequencies (imagine waves crashing on a beach) enhances deep, slow-wave sleep while improving memory and learning.

Photo credit: mikroman6

CAN'T SLEEP: YOU'RE HUNGRY

Overnight, your blood sugar dips as your body digests the day’s meals, but if it drops too low, you could wake up with a rumbling tum.

Snack right with this timeline: 9PM: Ninety minutes before bed, fill up with a 250-calorie combo of carbs, protein and fat. 9.30PM: An hour before bed, down 1tbsp of raw honey – it takes longer for your body to digest than processed versions, keeping blood sugar stable overnight.

CAN'T SLEEP: YOU NEED THE LOO A LOT

Too many night-time loo trips? Try cutting out caffeine after lunch – it is a diuretic with a half-life of six hours, so if you drink a Starbucks at 2pm, you still have the caffeine equivalent of four cans of Coke in your system at 8pm, making it tough for your body to wind down for sleep a couple of hours later. You should also slash salty snacks after dinner – they make thirst and loo trips more likely.

CAN'T SLEEP: YOU'RE STRESSED

If worries about work, money, kids and relationships keep you up at night, you’re not alone – 68% of us admit to losing sleep over our everyday stresses. This triggers a vicious cycle –the more you worry, the less you sleep, and the less you sleep, the more you worry. But help is at hand.

  • On your way to bed, jot down your top three stresses with an action item for each. Just acknowledging them in this way stops unproductive ruminating, allowing your mind to switch off.
  • Calm your muscles. Start at your feet and work upward, tensing and relaxing each area for a few seconds until you get to your head. This makes you aware of what strain and rest feel like throughout your body, and signals to your muscles that it’s time for sleep.
  • The pressure of a weighted blanket can trigger your brain to pump out soothing neurotransmitters, akin to getting a good hug.



Photo credit: Unsplash


CAN'T SLEEP: YOUR MORNING ROUTINE ISN'T HELPING

If your wind-down routine starts at 7pm, you’re about 12 hours too late. Researchers claim that what you do in the AM is key to a healthy circadian rhythm – which, at night, results in you drifting off faster.

  • Waking up within 30 minutes of the same time each day (weekends included) is even more important than bedding down at the same time each night – it helps programme your internal clock to shut off more easily when darkness arrives.
  • Gulp half a litre of water first thing in the morning to activate your brain and engage your circadian rhythm.
  • Get up and get your heart pumping – a new study found women who exercised for 45 minutes five mornings a week slept 70% better than those who didn’t.

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