Sometimes it’s something small. Sometimes it’s something quite momentous. Many things could be causing us to stay awake or to not sleep well at night. What are some of these things that keep us from our slumber? More importantly, what can we do about it? Here is a list of some of the more common reasons that people don’t sleep well, and a few tips for how to tackle them:
- Circadian rhythm - If your circadian rhythm, also known as your internal clock, gets out of whack, this could cause you to not sleep well. Make sure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day as much as possible to keep your rhythm in check.
- Urination - Though this can just be a sign that you drank too much too close to your bedtime, having to urinate during the night could be caused by medicines or even a bladder infection. Frequent urination could also be a sign of diabetes, so make sure to have regular checkups with your physician to prevent or monitor this. Making sure not to ingest liquids close to bedtime is also helpful.
- Caffeine and foods - Stimulants such as caffeine can keep you awake. Watch your caffeine intake throughout the day but especially close to bedtime. Even foods that have no caffeine content (for example, spicy foods) could make you not sleep well. Be careful what you consume throughout the day, and be even more conscious of this as it gets closer to bedtime. Tracking what you eat might also be helpful. If you have a bad night’s sleep you can look at your food log from the day before. See if something you ate might be the culprit that kept you awake, and adjust accordingly.
- Heartburn - The American College of Gastroenterology estimates that one or more times each month, over 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn. Stay away from acidic, fatty, or other foods that could trigger acid reflux. If you suffer frequent heartburn, sleep elevated to keep the acid down in your stomach and prevent it from traveling up to your esophagus, and make sure you discuss frequent heartburn with your doctor.
- Menopause - If you are going through menopause, there are hormonal imbalances and changes to your system which can cause general pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating including night sweats. A natural part of getting older, these changes could cause you to not sleep well. Make sure to sleep in comfortable clothing and stay cool at night. Make your bed as comfortable as possible, which you can do easily by just changing your pillow and sheets.
- Anxiety, depression, or panic attacks - Having a few worries is normal. It’s when these worries start to interrupt your daily life that you should consider consulting with a medical professional. If you suffer from one of these disorders, it may be what is keeping you from getting your rest, and you and your doctor can come up with a plan to counteract this.
- Pain - If you are just experiencing general pain, try taking an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) before bed. You might have arthritis, fibromyalgia, or another condition causing you to ache and in turn keeping you from getting good sleep. Your doctor can adjust your pain medication. She may recommend using something available over the counter, or possibly she will give you a prescription for a sleep aid.
- Medical conditions and diseases - Poor sleep could be caused by common medical conditions such as asthma or allergies. It could also be caused by something a little more serious, so make sure you see your doctor regularly for regular physicals. If you don’t visit your doctor, you risk undiagnosed diseases lurking in the background. From thyroid disease to kidney disease to heart failure, some things could be going on with your body that are causing you to not get your ideal sleep.
- Sleep disorders - Restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are two of the more common disorders that keep people awake at night. If you think you suffer from one of these conditions, discuss treatment options with your doctor so that you can go back to getting your best zzz’s.
- Distractions and lack of comfort - Sleeping in a room with too much light or noise isn’t as conducive as sleeping in a dark, quiet room. If the pillows aren’t the right density or the sheets don’t have the right amount of softness, you might not be sleeping as well as you could. Consider adding an eye mask or earplugs, if necessary, and make sure you have the most comfortable pillows and sheets to help you get a great night’s sleep.
Many things that keep us up at night are easily treatable. We can prevent some things, while others take a little more effort, or maybe it’s something we don’t have any control over. At least if we are aware of what keeps us up, we can be as proactive as possible. After all, in 1597 as Sir Francis Bacon wrote in his book Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy, “Knowledge is power.”