Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the simplest, yet greatest pleasures of life. But for many people, a good night’s sleep is a foreign concept; and it can end up affecting so many other aspects of your life.
But don’t worry, not all hope is lost! There may be some things you’re doing that’s affecting your sleep routine and quality, and you can absolutely try and fix them!
Here are 4 such things:
Before trying to get some shut-eye, you need to shut off – from technology, that is. A clinical psychologist at the Sydney Sleep Center, Dr. Rosemary Clancy explains why. She says that the blue light emitted from screens disrupts the melatonin production in a person’s body, which essentially keeps you from falling asleep.
“Blue light acts akin to the sun, by suppressing melatonin hormone production,” says Clancy in an interview with Coach magazine. “If you’re looking at a device late in the night, then the blue lightemitted from that device will have an effect on suppressing melatonin production.”
One way Dr. Clancy suggests you can rectify the situation a little is by switching to “night mode” in phones that come with it, or to download a blue light filter app.
She elaborates further: “If you’re watching YouTube, there’s always another YouTube video which comes up on the right hand side, so there’s a never-ending scroll of them.”
She says that we are overstimulating our brains at a time when it should be slowing down and getting ready for rest. She suggests reading a book instead of scrolling through your smartphone. “You’re constantly firing up your attention and reorienting a new stimulus, whereas if you’re reading a sustained narrative in a book, your attention starts to lull instead of continually perking up.”
Stressing Out About Sleep Routines
Having a sleep routine can be extremely helpful to falling asleep. An established routine will train your body into feeling sleepy during the same time every day (and help you wake up during the same time every day as well).
But when you’re constantly stressing out about missing on sleep, the anxiety actually keeps you from falling asleep! And once you associate your bedtime “routine” to lying awake unable to fall asleep, then it’s going to keep happening again and again.
Dr. Clancy says that “Once we start conditioning and associating the bed with lying awake for hours, then that association becomes entrenched and it’s very difficult to find your way out of that.”
She suggests that a good way to get a good and restful sleep is by not forcing yourself to go to bed, but only when you feel “sleepy”, not just tired. This way, you’ll fall asleep way faster.
Alcohol & Medication
Many people claim that having a glass of wine before bed helps them feel calm, but it actually ends up harming the quality of your sleep. This is because alcohol affects the REM part of your sleep cycle – the time when you experience the deepest sleep (and have vivid dreams).
Similarly, you might be tempted to just pop a pill to help you fall asleep, but many sleep prescriptive medication such as Xanax, Valium and Stilnox also have a similar impact. These may seem like they are helping in the short term, but pretty soon, you’ll be finding it almost impossible to sleep without them.
Dr. Rosemary Clancy says, “Anything in the hypnotic type of drug — which includes alcohol and sleep medication — suppresses your sleep and in the end, over time, will have a negative effect on you.”
Air Pollution & Allergies
Air pollutants can cause allergies and respiratory issues like blocked and runny nose, watery eyes, cough, etc. And as you can imagine, these don’t help in maintaining your quality of sleep!
Unfortunately, air pollution doesn’t only happen outside, but it can be inside your home too. Nasal congestion can be caused by dust, mold, pet dander, and more. One way to get rid of all of this is by cleaning and vacuuming your home frequently, and using an air purifier to get rid of all the contaminants in the room. You can also place some indoor plants that are known to purify air, such as aloe vera, spider plant, chrysanthemum, rubber tree, bamboo plant, peace lilies, and more!
“We have a number of clients with sleep difficulties which it seems is impacted by their allergy,” Clancy told Coach magazine. “These people might have a sensation of choking because of allergic response, they might be awake and trying to clear their sinuses, or uncomfortable during the night because of throat issues.”
She goes on to elaborate further why these issues affect sleep in particular. “Usually people stop breathing and their brain has to wake them multiple times during the night to tell them to breathe. If it’s waking them 100 times an hour then the quality of sleep is going to be very low. Air quality could very well affect this,” she says.
If you’re afraid you suffer from sleep apnea, Dr. Clancy says there’s one way to detect it. “If you snore and you wake up ‘headachy’, unrefreshed with a dry mouth, maybe a sore throat — and you have a lot of centrally located body fat — then that would be a warning sign to get you to a respiratory session.”