If you’re up at night and wondering why you can’t sleep, there may be some surprising causes. You know what I’m talking about. When your family is down for the count, the house is silent, you aren’t too hungry or too full, not any more stressed out than normal, did not have that afternoon cup of coffee, and still you can’t sleep.
As we all know well, sleep is a vital component of our health. Too little sleep can make us more vulnerable to illness, weight gain, and it can harm our brain function and emotional wellbeing. Putting it bluntly, it makes us tired, sick, heavy and cranky.
Believe it or not, sleep deprivation increases your risk of mortality by 13%. It also harms the economy when workdays are lost due to the effects of sleep deprivation. Experts say that increasing nightly sleep from under six hours to between six and seven hours could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy.
Let’s go beyond the obvious reasons why you can’t sleep, such as too much caffeine and exercising before bed to look at the less obvious causes of sleep deprivation. After all, sleep is critical to our emotional and physical health, not to mention making us far less cranky during the daytime.
Here are 8 reasons why you can’t sleep, and they may just surprise you:
I told you these reasons may surprise you! The global temperature is rising, which resulting in nights that are warmer. In hotter climates and in the summertime, this can mean some very uncomfortable evenings. It’s more challenging for the body to sleep in hotter temperatures, and particularly difficult for people who are older. Experts predict that by the year 2050, climate change will cost millions in additional nights of insufficient sleep per year.
This can be worse for people who can’t afford to run air conditioning. Though air conditioning only does further damage to the environment, anyway.
Another surprising reason why you can’t sleep may have to do with air quality. Air pollution affects your breathing and lung function. High levels of air pollution are known to cause upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may impact the brain areas that control sleep.
Consider getting a plant in your home that may improve air quality. Also, purchase and use items made without toxins and chemicals, which can harm the air quality in and around your home.
Your clock is broken
Your internal clock, that is. We all have biological rhythms, known as circadian rhythms, that function on a daily time scale. It’s what makes us feel tired at night and awake during the daytime. However, people who have circadian rhythm sleep disorders have malfunctioning biological rhythms, so their internal clocks are essentially broken.
Make sure that your environment is as conducive to nighttime sleep as possible, such as room darkening blinds or shades, shutting down your devices, and removing anything that emits light.
Your brain is one-sided
Our brains are made up of a left and right hemisphere, which generally they work together. Yet when they become imbalanced, there can be effects such as insomnia. For example, when someone undergoes trauma or a major stressor, the brain can become unbalanced. Researchers have been studying whether listening to gentle music may encourage the regions of the brain to align.
It has also been found that visually creative people, who are thought to be more right-brain dominant, report having disturbed sleep and more difficulties in functioning during the daytime.
You’re addicted to your smartphone
Your handheld device may be one of the reasons why you can’t sleep. Just having a device in the bedroom, even without using it, can increase the likelihood of poor sleep. Device usage kicks the sleep deprivation up a huge notch. Longer average screen-time is associated with less sleep and poorer sleep quality, especially when smartphones are used close to bedtime.
This is particularly concerning for millennials and those in Generation Z, 1 in 5 of whom say that they regularly wake up in the night to send or check messages on social media. This goes for your young kiddos too, by the way. Children using smartphones and tablets at bedtime have over double the risk of a disrupted night’s sleep than children without access to those devices.
Shut down your smartphone and take devices out of the bedroom at night.
There’s a significant link between loneliness and poor sleep quality. When people are distressed because they think their social relationships are inadequate, it may initiate a heightened stress response that makes it challenging for the body to relax. Not surprisingly, lonelier people report feeling more tired and unable to concentrate during the daytime.
Your eating habits suck
One of the main reasons why you can’t sleep may be found on your plate. People who eat less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar have lighter and more disrupted sleep. More fiber means more time spent in the deep sleep stage, while a lower sugar intake means less arousal from that deeper sleep. While a high fat diet is clearly associated with sleep problems at night, exhaustion during the day, and a higher likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea.
Try to be more mindful of what you are eating if you have difficulty sleeping. Cut out the sugary drinks and snacks and consume more nutrient dense foods instead.
Your smoke before bed
You don’t need me to tell you that smoking isn’t healthy, but smoking before bed can be the reason why you can’t sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant and can keep you awake. In fact, cigarette smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep. And with the comfy new bedding you could buy with the $2500+ you would save from quitting, you’d certainly get a better night’s rest!
So the next time you’re wide awake and wondering why you can’t sleep, consider whether one of these reasons may be the cause.
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