10 Reasons You Can't Sleep

Find out what’s messing with your rest.

 10 Reasons You Can't Sleep

We hear it all the time: Make sure you get enough sleep every night in order to improve your physical and mental health. Although we know what we need to do, it is admittedly very hard for many people to reach this goal each and every night. Even worse, on the nights when we decide to make sleep a priority, the precious hours of shut-eye can be more difficult to obtain than we would like, leading to even more frustration and sleepless nights.

There are a number of sleep stealers—secret and not-so-secret—that are important to pay attention to in order to get great sleep each and every night. Here's a list of the most common sleep stealers that I see with my patients on a daily basis. Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can help prepare your body for sleep and greatly enhance the chance that you'll get a great night of quality zzz's. 

1. Your room is too warm. Many people like to create a cocoon-like environment to sleep. Although it might feel nice to be warm and cozy at night, having a room that is too warm (or cold!) can cause multiple awakenings at night, leading to more disrupted and less refreshing sleep. The ideal bedroom sleeping temperature range is between 55 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit; however, most people find that in the upper 60s is best. If you have a radiator that's hard to control, consider opening up your window before you go to sleep (yes—even in the winter), and leave it open a crack throughout the night.

2. You had a bit too much to drink. This pertains to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Let's face it, drinks equal liquid, and liquid at night means having to use the bathroom when you’re trying to sleep. Plus, alcohol consumed close to bedtime can also make your sleep lighter and more broken throughout the night. Even though alcohol might make you sleepy, the quality of your sleep is poorer overall. Limit all liquids within three hours of bedtime.

3. Look in your medicine cabinet. Certain medications can greatly impact your ability to fall and stay asleep at night. Some over-the-counter painkillers, such as Excedrin and Midol, contain caffeine, so make sure to check the ingredients listed on the box. Certain medications for blood pressure, decongestants, steroids and asthma medication can also impact your sleep. Most commonly, many antidepressants—SSRIs in particular, including Paxil, Prozac and Lexapro—release serotonin on a continuous basis and can be very alerting for patients. Talk with your doctor if you think your medications are impacting your ability to sleep well. Sometimes, a change in when you take them, such as switching to taking them in the morning, can make a big difference. If that doesn't work, your doctor might be able to recommend another medication that doesn't impact sleep as much.

4. Your gym session ran a bit too late. Working out within three hours of bedtime can be too stimulating for many people. Exercise wakes up the brain and also warms up the body, which can interfere with sleep. The best time to exercise to help you fall asleep is between four to six hours before bedtime. If that's too difficult to do, consider exercising in the morning. The bright light can also help wake you up and reinforces a good, regular sleep-wake cycle.

5. You took a shower too close to bed. Good sleepers tend to have a slight drop in their body temperature just as sleep starts to happen at night. Poor sleepers don't have as much of a drop in body temperature. While taking a hot shower or bath just before bedtime sounds like a good idea, it can actually warm up your body even more. The key is timing: It’s best to take a hot shower or bath one and a half to two hours before bedtime, which can help facilitate the cooling off process that the body is meant to do before sleep.

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