Over one-third of all adults find it difficult to fall asleep on a weekly basis, and many more wake up throughout the night. One-half of adults suffer from insomnia at least one night every month.
Struggling to get a good night’s sleep is a too-common problem. The problem is that your body will suffer over time if the underlying issue is not addressed. Chronic health problems have been linked with inadequate sleep, when it occurs night after night.
If the notion of a good night’s sleep has become a foreign concept, here are a few insights.
What are the Signs of Poor Sleeping Habits?
Signals which should immediately raise a red flag according to Claire Dunkley, registered nurse and owner of Cluzie Clinic:
- It takes over 30 minutes to doze off after you get into bed.
- You wake up throughout the night.
- When you awake in the middle of the night, you require 20 minutes or longer to fall back asleep.
- You experience fatigue throughout the day.
- You are hungrier than normal and have likely gained weight.
- Black circles have appeared under your eyes.
- You feel irritable, anxious, stressed or depressed.
According to Natasha Zervaas from Green Secrets, A night of high-quality sleep will keep you feeling energetic throughout the day, even if you got less than the recommended seven to nine hours. On the other hand, those who believe that they have slept for nine hours or longer may still feel lethargic if the quality of sleep was poor.
Anyone who experiences at least one of these symptoms could be suffering from a sleep disorder. So, what are some of the main reasons why so many of us seem to find a good night of rest elusive from time to time?
A Look at the Reasons Behind Poor Sleep
Although it is common for infants and toddlers to wake up during the night, adults should get approximately eight hours of rest.
Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Talbot advises that there are many factors that can contribute to poor sleep, sometimes several at once. Poor sleep can be environmental (due to noise, or waking to small children), internal (due to pain, medication, discomfort or organic issues such as sleep apnoea), or psychological. Psychological causes include depressed mood, anxiety, stress, worry, and chronic insomnia.
Some other common causes include:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a relatively common condition that causes your airways to narrow while you’re relaxed and sleeping. “Apneas” or pauses in breathing can occur multiple times an hour, so the body does not obtain the required amount of oxygen. Other signs that OSA may be present include choking and loud snoring. Apnea can cause an arousal that wakes a person which then takes minutes our hours to fall back asleep.
Restless legs syndrome is another common culprit. As you may have guessed, this condition is characterized by painful or tingling sensations in one or both legs. As a result, it can be difficult to fall and remain asleep. A sleep specialist can often treat with mild medication.
Delayed sleep phase disorder is another possible cause of difficulty sleeping. In this situation, your body’s natural 24-hour biological clock becomes disrupted. You have greater difficulty falling asleep until extremely late in the evening — or you may find it challenging to wake up in the morning.
Barring the disorders mentioned above, poor sleeping habits are often the results of mental or emotional stress. If a spiral of stressful thoughts remains pervasive during the overnight hours, they will inevitably impact the quality of rest that you can expect. This tends to cause sensations of stress and anxiety to increase; leading to a snowball effect.
Other scenarios that could be associated with sleeping problems can include physical issues (such as lower back pain, fibromyalgia or arthritis) or any medications that you may be required to take. It is wise to speak with a physician if you feel that these are contributing factors.
Surprisingly Serious Effects
Poor sleeping habits can cause a plethora of health issues, some seemingly unrelated to one another. Mental and emotional effects will inevitably add up over time. These include slower reactions (such as when driving a vehicle), difficulty when concentrating, and a lack of motivation. Some examples of emotional effects are anxiety, depression, feelings of profound sadness, and apathy. Of course, these will vary from individual to individual.
From a physical point of view, sleeping is just as important. Our bodies require time to recover during the overnight hours. A lack of rest can therefore lead to increased levels of physical stress as well as the release of hormones such as cortisol. Furthermore, poor sleeping habits have been associated with lower levels of immunity for quite some time. This is one of the reasons why those who cannot remain asleep will often become sick on a more frequent basis.
Weight gain can often be correlated with bad sleeping habits. Not only do many individuals tend to eat more (particularly late-night snacks), but lower levels of energy throughout the day make it more difficult to engage in healthy physical activities such as running or aerobics. Interestingly enough, those who suffer from obesity are more likely to be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
There is even a growing body of evidence which suggests that poor sleeping habits can lead to serious long-term effects such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even dementia. This is why getting to the root of the problem is obviously crucial. What are some modern options to consider?
What Solutions are at Your Disposal?
The first point to address involves changing your everyday habits. For example, avoid stimulants such as caffeine before heading off to bed. Other suggestions include:
- Turning off any electronic devices such as laptops which are known to emit blue light, which keeps the brain awake.
- Making certain that your room is dark, free of distracting noises and comfortable.
- Try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. This helps to put your body on a fixed schedule.
- Perform personally relaxing activities in the evening. Examples include (but are not limited to) meditating, stretching, reading a book, or burning incense.
- Avoid drinking any type of alcohol at least three hours before you plan to fall asleep, as alcohol can be stimulating.
Many experts also recommend keeping a daily journal. You can record the way you feel and any activities that you perform. You will also be able to more accurately appreciate your sleeping habits. This could represent an invaluable tool in the event that you require a professional diagnosis.
Martine Barclay, Sleep Psychotherapist & Executive Coach at Redefine Your Edge adds, “As a Sleep psychotherapist and Coach, I would focus on breathing techniques and managing the anxiety, even if they don’t present as anxious people. In the many cases when clients are struggling to sleep and have tried all of the sleep hygiene recommendations, there is something deeper going on. Often the mind and body are disconnected metaphorically, and they need to reconnect and communicate better with one another.”
Tahlee Rouillon is a meditones music composer and found of Seekers’ Sanctuary. She recommends listening to sleep frequencies that correlate with your sleep state: “When you have a good night’s sleep, you naturally cycle through Theta and Delta brain waves. This cycle usually lasts about 5-6 hours, giving you a deep and restorative sleep.
If you have had a poor night’s sleep, it means you haven’t had a good cycle of Theta and Delta brain waves.”
What About Professional Testing?
Getting to the root of a sleep problem is the focus of sleep testing. A doctor will begin by performing a medical history and physical evaluation — which will determine whether you might benefit from medications or lifestyle changes.
An at-home sleep test can help determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea. This form of sleep testing is very easy, involving simple monitors you will wear while sleeping in your own bed — providing sleep specialists with a wealth of information about your breathing, oxygen level, and other biological metrics.
The sleep experts with Millennium Sleep Lab will evaluate your sleep test results to diagnose your sleep problem — and to help you get the treatment you need for a good night’s sleep.
Be Sure to Adopt a Proactive Stance
Chronic sleeping problems will simply not go away on their own. It is important to seek professional advice to understand the root of your sleep problem, so you can get the good night’s sleep your body requires to recharge — every single night. Our MSL sleep experts are happy to discuss your situation and get you started with at-home sleep testing.