Here are some common culprits for a lack of zzzzzs.
Sleep deprivation can hinder memory, increase weight gain, double your risk of heart disease, and impair your emotional regulation (yes, you’re grumpier). Meanwhile, sleeping more may lead to a reduction in craving for sugary food, and make you a better parent. Here are some common culprits for a lack of zzzzzs.
Coffee. Drinking a cup of coffee, soda or any other caffeine-containing product less than six hours before bedtime can seriously disrupt sleep, notes a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Study subjects were given a 400 milligram dose of caffeine (about 2-3 cups of coffee) at zero, three and six hours before bedtime – probably enough to give anyone the jitters – but possibly the amount of coffee many of us drink during the late-afternoon lag.
Tip: Skip coffee when bedtime is less than six hours away, or after 5 p.m.
Your smartphone. Short-wavelength blue light is emitted by TV screens, smartphones and other screens, and suppresses two sleep-friendly body responses: the natural ability to reduce body temperature in preparation for sleep, and the production of melatonin, associated with normal sleep cycles. When study subjects were exposed to computer screens between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., the blue light exposure reduced evening shut-eye by 16 minutes, and “significantly reduced the production of melatonin,” along with interfering with the normal lowering of body temperature.
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Tip: Change your screen’s evening setting to a warmer hue along the red spectrum, or a blue-light filter. Or better yet, turn it off.
Stress. Whether due to genetics or a temporary situation, stress can impact sleep. Having a bad workday can also lead to insomnia, particularly re-living rude behavior you experienced or negative events.
Tip: Those who can decompress after a stressful day (doing yoga, listening to music or going for a walk) slept better than those who didn’t. Recent research indicates yoga music can reduce pre-bedtime anxiety levels.
Heat. In the evening, your core body temperature drops, which encourages sleepiness. If home temperatures or bedding are too warm, your core temperature stays high, and interferes with a good night’s rest. “Temperature swings that cause you to cool down and heat up result in more tossing and turning,” says Blake Garfield, general manager at Bedrooms and More in Seattle.
Polyester and down-filled bedding tends to amplify heat issues, he notes.
Tip: Set your thermostat to between 60 and 67 degrees, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. If you’re routinely hot in the evening despite the thermostat change, consider bedding (duvets and bedding toppers) that incorporate breathable wool, which wicks away heat and moisture.
Your mattress. Without flipping and maintenance, beds start to lose firmness and support. One study found that when individuals receive a new medium-firm mattress – after sleeping on a mattress that’s around 9.5 years old – their sleep quality improved, along with an alleviation of back discomfort. Another study noted that back pain increases when sleeping on inexpensive foam mattresses.
Tip: Flip and rotate your mattress to distribute wear, Garfield suggests. While double-sided mattresses are not available in every store, double-sided mattresses, which are the same on both sides are typically slept on 3 times as long as their one sided counterparts.“With continuity of comfort, you see better long-term value and better quality of sleep,” Garfield says.
Shifting bedtimes. While eight hours per night is great, recent research indicates the time you head off to slumber also matters. Adults who don’t go to bed and wake up in a regular manner tend to face higher risk of depression, high blood sugar, heart attack and stroke within 10 years. Irregular sleepers were also drowsier during the day and less active.
Tip: Slip between the sheets at the same time every evening – and rise and shine at the same time, every morning.
Counting to-dos. Staring at the ceiling, thinking about the birthday present you need to buy tomorrow or the report due on Friday? Recent research indicates that writing down tasks (versus attempting to keep them in your head) helps clear your head for sleep.
Tip: Write down a list of tasks coming up in the next few days before going to bed; afterward, shut the lights off without any additional distractions to go to sleep.
Your genes. Specific genes may trigger insomnia in adults, along with depression, and type 2 diabetes, according to studies conducted on twins and more than 33,000 U.S. Army soldiers. Genetics may also influence worrisome thoughts that feel relentless or uncontrollable – which can lead to insomnia, and then to worsened symptoms.
Tip: Don’t reach for the pills right away. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a recommended insomnia treatment, says the American College of Physicians. CBT addresses the emotions, thoughts and behaviors which contribute to insomnia. While typically undertaken in a therapist’s office, research has shown that at least one online cognitive-behavioral program (Sleepio.com) can help, too.
Of course, other factors may be at play, including sleep apnea or other medical conditions, so see your family physician for additional suggestions. Because if you snooze, you definitely don’t lose (except maybe weight).
Over the past 45 years, Bedrooms & More has become the Pacific Northwest’s bedrooms destination store. There’s no hard sell. No wheeling and dealing. Just good people helping good people create the safe, relaxing bedrooms they want.