Our advice is expert-vetted and based on independent research, analysis and hands-on testing from our team of Certified Sleep Coaches. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.Reviews ethics statement
If you've ever found yourself tossing and turning in bed, desperately trying to sleep, you're not alone. This could be a sign that you have insomnia, which is one of the most common sleep disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While countless individuals live with this disorder, there's hope for improved sleep. But if it continues to go unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your overall health.
We'll explore the things many people do before bed that can contribute to insomnia and what can be done to ensure every night is a restful one.
Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that influences the natural sleep-wake cycle. As a result, when stress levels are elevated, it can be challenging to unwind, leading to sleep disturbances and insomnia.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 55% of Americans find themselves stressed during the day. Unfortunately, this stress doesn't disappear at night, so if you too are dealing with high amounts of stress, you'll want to learn to manage it. Your best course of action is to practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. Additionally, regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever that can improve sleep quality.
The Mayo Clinic identified an irregular sleep schedule as a cause of insomnia. Without a consistent schedule, you disrupt your circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle, hormone production and other physiological processes over a 24-hour period.
If you have an irregular sleep schedule, you'll confuse your body's internal clock. This can prevent melatonin, the sleep hormone, from being released at the appropriate time, making it harder to fall asleep and wake up at a reasonable time. To establish a sleep routine, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This will allow your body to adjust to a consistent sleep pattern so you can get to sleep easier and experience a healthy, restful sleep.
An unbalanced diet can impact many aspects of your health, including your energy levels, weight, mood and sleep quality. Foods and drinks high in sugar, stimulants or spices can ruin your rest because this type of diet leads to inadequate intake of magnesium, tryptophan and vitamins, which may affect melatonin production and serotonin levels, contributing to insomnia.
Prioritizing a well-rounded diet with sleep-promoting nutrients supports a healthier sleep-wake cycle and overall improved sleep quality. Instead of sugary, salty snacks and caffeinated drinks, opt for sleep-friendly food choices like whole grains, leafy greens, bananas and nuts to improve your sleep.
Moving your body can improve your life in many ways. And since physical activity and sleep are intertwined, it should come as no surprise that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect your sleep. This is because insufficient physical activity can hinder the body's natural sleep-regulating mechanisms and processes.
Regular exercise promotes better sleep quality, aiding in the regulation of circadian rhythms and reducing insomnia risks. You don't have to do an intense workout, but incorporating low-impact exercises into your routine, such as walking or gentle yoga, can promote better sleep quality. However, you want to be careful not to engage in exercise too close to bed. Physical activity can raise your core temperature and release endorphins, so Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends people avoid working out 1 to 2 hours before bed.
The ambiance of your sleep environment should be considered as a factor when you're battling insomnia. A few factors that can disrupt your sleep are noise, light and temperature.
To optimize your sleep and ensure you get a good night's rest, address these three factors. Maintain an ideal bedroom temperature of 60 to 71.6 degrees F. Minimize noise disruptions with fans or white noise machines and noise-blocking curtains. Aim for a darker room at night to promote relaxation and better sleep. Since these adjustments align with the body's natural temperature fluctuations and circadian rhythms, they foster an environment conducive to restful sleep.
Your mind may not be ready for bed when you are, especially when you engage in mentally stimulating activities before bedtime, such as overthinking or playing video games. You may not be able to shut off your brain, but you can put it at ease.
You want to be in a restful, calm state, so opt for a nighttime routine with calming and soothing activities like reading a book, practicing relaxation exercises or journaling to clear your mind and prepare for sleep. Consider using your smartphone to create a bedtime routine. Apple's Wind Down feature allows you to create a routine with presleep activities starting 15 minutes to 3 hours before bed.
Exposure to blue light
Daytime exposure to blue light is often welcome because it gets you up in the morning and stimulates you throughout the day. However, when electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit blue light at night, this exposure suppresses melatonin and disrupts your circadian rhythm, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Basically, if you love to scroll before bed, you could find yourself too stimulated and unable to sleep. Consider reducing your screen time before bed. And if you do struggle to put your phone down, activate night mode to lessen the effects of blue light or invest in blue light-blocking glasses.
Insomnia cannot always be solely attributed to lifestyle habits. In fact, certain medical conditions and medications can be the underlying cause of insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, antidepressants or cold medications may interfere with your sleep. Or if you suffer from chronic pain, heartburn, diabetes or cancer, you may find it difficult to get a decent night of rest.
It doesn't hurt to take a look at your behavior and make adjustments, but if you suspect that a medical condition or medication is affecting your sleep, consult a healthcare professional for guidance and potential solutions.
Too long; didn't read
Insomnia is a common issue with various causes, including stress, irregular sleep patterns, unbalanced diets, sedentary lifestyles and environmental factors. Engaging in stimulating activities before bed and certain medical conditions or medications can also contribute. Thankfully, identifying the cause can help you get one step closer to improving your sleep health. From there, you can make these simple changes and experience many nights of restful slumber.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.