Sleep is one of life’s sweetest pleasures. But unfortunately, many people have trouble getting the rest they need. From what you eat before bedtime to your stress levels, sleep is heavily influenced by factors within and outside your control.
Taking a sleeping pill is relaxing and sounds like a great idea. But it turns out it makes things worse. Find out why people can’t sleep, and learn how to get better sleep with a few simple changes to your lifestyle.
Why Sleep Is Important
Let’s face it. You can’t function without sleep. And when you don’t get enough rest, your mind and body start to wind down. You might yawn more frequently and feel drowsy throughout the day. It’s like a warning sign telling you that you’re crashing.
Sleep is an essential part of life, and we all need it to survive. But why is sleep so important? Here’s a quick recap on why sleep is so essential.
Helps brain function
Did you know that sleep does more than rest your eyes? When you sleep, your brain processes information, consolidates memories, and solidifies learning. Without adequate sleep, you could be setting yourself up for cognitive decline.
Keeps emotions in check
Sleep is an important regulator of emotions, helping us control our moods and impulses. Just a few days of limited sleep irritate even the most even-tempered person. How often has sleep deprivation turned you into a crankier version of yourself?
Reduces disease risk
Did you know that a lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even death? You read it right! Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of a range of health problems.
When you’re tired, your immune system is compromised, which is not good. As it turns out, sleeping fewer hours than usual is a surefire way to make yourself sick. If you have trouble sleeping, your immune system is weakened, making it harder for your body to fight off infections and colds. Even a night of bad sleep can make you more likely to catch a cold.
Inflammation is a big word that refers to your body’s reaction to injury. When you’re sleep-deprived, the body releases stress hormones that cause inflammation. This is a problem because chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Keeps weight under control
Missing a few hours of zzz can make you start craving ice cream, pop-tarts, and fried chicken. The reason is simple: Skipping sleep makes your body think it’s starving. When you’re sleep-deprived, the body releases stress hormones that make you crave sugary and fatty foods. This is why it’s hard to resist late-night snacking when you haven’t slept well in days.
So why is sleep so important?
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Not only does it give your body a chance to recharge, but it also gives your brain time to process and consolidate memories.
As you age, your brain starts to lose the ability to regulate itself and maintain normal function. Sleep is important for this regulation and can help improve your brain health. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, particularly the difficulties with memory, thinking, and problem-solving that comes with it.
You may have heard that lack of sleep can affect brain function for a short time. But did you know it could also contribute to cognitive decline later in life? In fact, lack of sleep is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Why Can’t You Fall Asleep
Can’t fall asleep? You’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with insomnia and find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Why can’t you fall asleep? There are many reasons why it may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the most common:
The effects of chronic stress on health are well known. The more you worry about your job or family, the less delighted and energetic you feel at all times. And if this stress lasts for a long time, it can even cause serious physical problems and worsen some current health issues.
If you’ve found yourself frustrated trying to fall asleep at night, your body may be experiencing chronic stress. Stress can negatively impact sleep patterns by increasing cortisol levels in the body, leading to disrupted sleep cycles and difficulty falling asleep.
If you’re under a lot of stress, it’s important to take steps to reduce it. Taking time for yourself and practicing relaxation techniques can help you feel more peaceful and reduce stress in your life.
Scientists today have gathered reams of data about the role that dopamine plays in regulating sleep and wakefulness. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s pleasure centers. It has been linked to feelings of reward and motivation, which may explain why it plays an important role in regulating sleep patterns.
Using our phones before sleeping can increase dopamine levels and make it harder to fall asleep. It’s also possible that the blue light emitted by our devices may suppress melatonin production, a hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythms. When we use our phones before bedtime, we expose ourselves to a lot of blue light and suppress melatonin production.
There are many reasons and causes of insomnia, but one highly overlooked is learned behaviors. Learned behaviors can be anything from watching TV, reading a book, or playing games before bedtime. People often use these activities to fall asleep, but they can actually cause insomnia in the long run.
Disrupting Circadian Rhythms
Our bodies have an internal clock that works based on light and dark. When it’s light outside, it knows it’s daytime; when it gets dark outside, it knows it’s time to shut down. However, we expose our brains to light way past our bedtimes, and this messes with the natural rhythm.
The lights in our computers, phones, and TVs tell our brains that its day time and release cortisol at the wrong time. Cortisol is a stress hormone that increases alertness and makes it hard to fall asleep.
This can be especially damaging for people who work night shifts or have irregular sleeping schedules. It’s also important to note that our circadian rhythms are closely tied to melatonin, another hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycles. Melatonin is released by the brain when it gets dark outside.
Moreover, eating late meals can also confuse the body. It can put your body’s normal sleep process at odds with the stomach’s needs for digestion. Digestion not only disrupts your sleep but also contributes to a higher potential to have reflux, which can also interrupt your rest.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder characterized by an overwhelming urge to move one’s legs. It is usually accompanied by unpleasant sensations, such as tingling, itching, and burning. The urge to move the legs is usually worse when resting or relaxing. This is why it tends to occur at night when people lie still in bed.
You may not know it, but your gut has much to do with your sleep. When you have a gut imbalance, it throws everything off balance on the cellular level. Without the right balance of microbes in your gut, you’re going to have a tough time sleeping.
Moreover, a healthy gut flora is necessary to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects about 1 in 3 adults. It’s characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, which can disrupt the quality of your rest and make it harder to fall asleep.
Hormones play a crucial role in our ability to sleep at night. The changes in these hormones cause insomnia in many women. Female hormones regulate the sleep-wake cycle, which is why women are more likely to have sleeping problems than men. Moreover, women undergo hormonal shifts during their monthly cycles and after giving birth, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
People often turn to alcohol as a way to fall asleep faster. We may drink a glass or two of wine before bedtime as part of our pre-sleep routine. It may help you fall asleep initially, but it disrupts sleep later in the night.
Alcohol causes poor sleep quality and reduces time spent in the deepest stages of sleep. The effects are most pronounced for those who have a high tolerance for alcohol and drink heavily.
We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and makes you more alert and awake. When you consume caffeine, it speeds up the messages between your brain and body. The result is a jolt of energy to get through the day! However, caffeine stays in your system for a significantly long period. So, if you consume caffeine in the morning, it will stay with you until late afternoon or evening.
Maybe you’ve been blaming your sleep problems on everything under the sun: stress, kids, illness, and too much caffeine. But what about your water intake?
If you’re drinking too much water before bed, it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. Why? Because your body needs time to process all that water. So, it’s not uncommon for people who drink a lot of water before bedtime to experience frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. This can cause you to get less zzz than you need and feel groggy in the morning.
So, if you’re getting up several times during the night or waking up feeling exhausted after only getting a few hours of rest, consider cutting back on how much water you drink before bedtime.
How To Sleep Better
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are some things you can do to help yourself.
In conventional medicine, you are told that there is one thing for everything, a pill for depression or insomnia. But in functional medicine, you have to treat the whole person– look at what’s causing their body to go haywire so that you can treat it from the inside out instead of just using medication.
Here are some tips that can help you sleep better:
Look At Inflammation In The Body
If you’re struggling to get good quality sleep each night, there’re a host of reasons why and the first step is figuring out what’s keeping you awake. And that information can be found by analyzing inflammation in the body and then correcting any problems that cause inflammation.
Make The Right Decisions
To sleep well at night, you need to start thinking about it during the day and make the right decisions before bedtime. If you fill your day with stimulating activities and then expect to fall asleep, it won’t happen.
Make Your Bedroom A Sanctuary
Your bedroom is your sanctuary, a place of rest and relaxation. It should be a place where you can unwind after a long day. It should be dark, quiet, and clean. Ideally, it should be free of distractions like televisions or other electronics. Getting rid of anything that could potentially distract you from sleep will help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Look At Your Schedule
If you want to sleep better and wake up refreshed, look at your schedule. Be sure you have some sort of transition- whether reading a book, writing in a journal, or taking a bath. This will help you slow down and think about how your day is coming to an end.
Sleep is a precious commodity—we all need it to function at our best. But several factors conspire against us, making sleep all but impossible. We want to help you find the root causes of your poor sleep and then work with you on solutions that will help you overcome them and get the rest you deserve.