Not So Sweet Dreams: 6 Things That Could Be Preventing You From Getting Sounder Sleep

Let’s put insomnia to rest. Try these lifestyle switch-ups for a better night’s sleep.

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If you constantly feel like a solid night’s sleep is just out of your reach, you’re not alone. As many as 35 percent of adults report dealing with insomnia for short periods of time, while 10 percent deal with chronic, long-term insomnia. For a healthy, happy lifestyle, good sleep is simply non-negotiable. Sometimes it feels like you’re doing everything to promote relaxation before climbing into bed, but still can’t get restful sleep and the culprits causing insomnia aren’t always as obvious as drinking too much caffeine. These six unsuspecting culprits might be preventing you from getting sounder sleep.

1. Too Much, Too Late

We all know exercise is important for good health and contributes to restful sleep, but exercise can actually prevent sleep if you’re getting active too close to bedtime. Exercise really gets your heart rate going, which increases alertness, making it difficult to settle down and doze off when it’s time for some shut eye. If you suspect your workout is keeping you awake at night, try a new routine. Morning workouts present a unique advantage since you can burn more fat on an empty stomach. However, what is most important is finding a workout time you can stick to, so any time up until a couple hours before bed is just fine if it works for your schedule.

2. Made to Move

Of course, don’t give up exercise altogether. If you’re not sleeping well it might be because you’re not active enough. Exercise has so many positive effects on the body, like helping to reduce anxiety and regulating circadian rhythms. In general, regular aerobic exercise has been found to improve sleep in people who deal with long-term insomnia according to research published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

3. Middle-Aged Madness

Hormones can have a huge impact on sleep. During perimenopause and menopause, women’s bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is known to encourage sleep, which explains why so many women begin to experience sleeplessness as they enter menopause. In addition to this, there are other changes during menopause that can influence sleep, such as changes in mood, hot flashes, and concerns about the future that can cause you to toss and turn.

4. You’re a screen queen.

Devices with screens emit blue light. This light has been found to mess with melatonin, suppressing how much of this sleep-inducing hormone our bodies produce and increasing overall alertness according to research published in PLOS One. So, if you’re playing with your smartphone or pulling a second shift on your at-home computer, these devices might be to blame for your poor sleep habits. Generally, it is best to avoid screens for the two hours before to bed. Opt for a book or journaling instead.

5. Depression’s making you drowsy.

There isn’t always a physical explanation for why we can’t sleep. Sometimes our emotional state is to blame when we’re having trouble dozing off or waking frequently during the night. Both anxiety and depression can prevent you from turning your brain off before bed, and worries about tomorrow can make it difficult to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, talk with your doctor about options for coping with these mental health conditions.

6. Caffeine, cookies, and candy—oh my!

We all know that caffeine can keep you awake at night, but it isn’t as well known that our diets can influence our sleep habits. Recent research indicates that people who aren’t sleeping enough are often consuming too many calories and aren’t eating a diet that is nutritionally diverse, which highlights the importance of committing to proper nutrition. It can be discouraging when changing your habits during the day and right before bed hasn’t had a positive effect on your sleep habits. If you’re still struggling to get to sleep at night, there are a few things you should remember. First, make sure you’re not spending too much time in bed staring at your ceiling. Get out of bed, read a book, or journal for a few minutes before trying again. Second, considering incorporating a mindfulness habit into your daily life (the free guided meditations hosted by UCLA are a good place to start). Lastly, if none of your efforts are helping, consider seeing a doctor to discuss alternative options for promoting restful sleep so you can shake off the fog and get back to living your life.