Insomnia: Here’s Why You’re Having Trouble Falling Asleep At Night
Ever wondered why you’re having trouble falling asleep at night or sleeping through the night without having to wake up every half hour? For many, falling asleep seems to happen with little or no effort. Falling asleep should probably be the easiest thing to do on the planet whether you’re on the bus, train, or like many of us, in a boring lecture. Nothing beats the feeling of drifting off to dreamland after a hectic day. The problem now is that not everyone that hopes for a good night’s rest achieves it when they hit their beds. Why does this happen? Well, this condition is termed ‘insomnia’ and it could be caused by so many factors.
Sleep is good for the body and it’s nature’s way of giving your body time to do what it couldn’t possibly do when you run around during the day. Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. Experts say sleep is necessary to initiate the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels. During the day when we carry out vigorous exercise and do all sorts of running around, we expend energy. A lot of cells wear-out and die-off, we may get injured, muscles tire out and our body sources for more energy from the body reserves constantly converting stored biomolecules such as fats and glycogen to act as fuel.
All these and much more happens to you during the day so your body needs time to make much-needed repairs and that happens while you sleep. Hence, the chronic inability to sleep (also known as Insomnia) can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s efficiency. Researchers say sleep improves memory and can even determine whether or not one lives to a reasonable old age. I could go on forever about the benefits of sleep but let’s save that for another article. Here we need to know what’s causing your inability to sleep and how to eliminate it.
Reasons You’re Having Trouble Falling Asleep
1. Bright Light in the Bedroom.
The lighting in your room is a very important factor that affects how much you sleep or if you’ll sleep at all. According to Family Physician, Dr. Morenike Orelaja, many people are so taken up with living in a well-lit environment that they carry this craze right into the bedroom. I personally have grown friends who can’t sleep with the lights off. She says bright lights in the bedroom are a sure path to sleeplessness as the night wears on and is sure to cause you problems falling asleep.
While I blame The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, and a bunch of other horror movies for my occasional sleeping with my lights on, some people put on a light show in their bedrooms, turn on the Tv, and still expect to have quality sleep. Even if you leave just the Tv on at night, it’s almost certain that you’ll wake up in a matter of minutes/hours because the light from the TV reflects onto your eyes.
Bright light affects the way your brain decodes messages because your brain thinks it’s already dawn and it’s time to wake up. During sleep, the pineal gland in the brain secretes a hormone called melatonin, which causes sleepiness and regulates sleep patterns and the pineal body does this in the dark (when minimal light energy falls on the retina of the eyes).
However, when you sleep with the Tv or lights on, it mimics sunlight and sends wrong signals to the brain. That’s why I always advise people to put off the light as the last thing when going to bed. That way, your body gets the message that it’s time to sleep and it shuts down effortlessly.
2. Psychological Issues
If you’ve done Number 1 and you still can’t sleep effortlessly, then you may have trouble falling asleep if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or chronic stress. Psychologists warn that most people suffering from anxiety disorder or depression will have trouble sleeping as their minds are always busy and they often get lost in their thoughts. It’s important to know that the fear and nervousness you feel before going to bed when you think you’ll not be able to sleep effortlessly worsens the condition. Not being able to sleep makes you anxious, being anxious makes it impossible to sleep. An exhaustingly futile cycle. If you have emotional issues, anxiety or depression, please seek professional help as soon as possible.
When health professionals warn that smokers are likely to die young, the average smoker starts to wonder why he hasn’t died yet. But then, the effects of nicotine, a confirmed stimulant, cannot be ignored. On average, most smokers undergo nicotine withdrawal as they sleep. It’s a simple process. Just as you can’t eat, drink or do anything while you are sleeping, in the same way, you can’t smoke while asleep (except you have serious smoking issues and need help). As such, it’s like you’re depriving your body of its regular supply of nicotine. Consequently, your body craves this stimulant; and since the brain regulates the sleep process, it is not unusual for your brain to wake you up 15 times at night to satisfy this craving. That’s why you see addicted smokers waking up at night to get a fix. It’s not just because they love to smoke under the moon, they have trouble falling asleep. That’s why it is important to quit smoking while you can; and if you’ve never smoked before, please don’t start.
4. Eating Protein Too Close to Bedtime
Proteins have never been easy to digest by the body and unlike its carbohydrate cousins that get acted upon by digestive enzymes right from the mouth, protein digestion begins in the intestine where proteases are released by the pancreas to break them down to individual Amino acids and short peptides. Thus, Nutritionists contend that protein requires a lot of energy and time to digest, and when you eat protein-rich foods very close to bedtime, it keeps your digestive engine running while you’re trying to sleep. Somehow, sleep and protein don’t go together. It’s preferable to eat carbohydrates in the evening and also avoid eating too close to bedtime. Eating protein too close to bedtime could trigger an ‘episode’ for those suffering from Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBS). Read more about IBS and it’s symptoms here.
You’ll have trouble falling asleep at night if you consume too much caffeine, sugary foods, late-night alcohol consumption, and certain medications that can affect the sleep process.
5. Listening to Loud Music To Sleep.
Here I go again, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of music (good music). While it may sound cool to fall asleep listening to Tame Impala’s – ‘Sun’s Coming Up’, listening to loud energetic music could disrupt your sleep process. If for some strange reasons you needed your stereo speakers booming to drown out any noise from your room when you have a guest over, always remember to turn it off before bed.
Habits To Help You Sleep Better.
1. Use The Bedroom Only For Sleep and Sex. Don’t work, watch Tv, or use your computer or smartphone. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep and sex so that when you get in bed, your brain and body get a strong signal that it’s time to nod off or be romantic.
2. Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing, read a book, drink a warm cup of caffeine-free tea, take a bath, or listen to a lullaby. When you’re sleepy, go back to bed. For me, reading a book knocks me out harder than when Mike Collins ﬂoored Pat Brownson in 1947.
3. Move Bedroom Clocks Out of View. You can use an alarm clock, but make sure you can’t see the time when you’re in bed. It only further worsens your anxiety.
4. Recreate the Hollywood movie, ‘A Quiet Place’, in your bedroom. It’s crucial that you make your bedroom as quiet as possible, dark, cool. Noise, light, and heat can interfere with the sleep process.
5. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule. Go to bed and get up at the exact same times every day, including weekends, even if you’re tired. This will help you get in a regular sleep rhythm. When it’s time, your brain immediately starts alerting your body and you shut down easily.
6. Avoid Stimulating Activity Before Bedtime. Stressful situations before bedtime include vigorous exercise, making big discussions or arguments; watching Tv, working on your computer, or playing video games.
7. Don’t Read From a Back-lit Device. If you use an eReader, opt for one that is not backlit, i.e. one that doesn’t require an additional light source. OLED displays are probably the best in this aspect.
8. Limit Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening, as it interferes with the quality of sleep. Quit smoking or avoid it at night because nicotine is a stimulant.
There you have it, everything you need to know about why you’re having trouble falling asleep and possible solutions to adopt. Try these and you should notice a significant effect on your sleep quality. If insomnia persists after these, then you need to see a doctor for professional help.
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