Can’t Sleep? 5 Surprising Reasons Why
Your street is too bright.
A new study found people whose neighborhoods are well-lit — particularly in urban areas — have more trouble falling asleep and sleeping undisturbed than those who live in small towns and rural areas where outdoor lighting is less intense. “Light is an important factor of sleep hygiene,” explains Yelena Chernyak, PhD, clinical psychiatrist at Indiana University Health. “Our bodies release hormones when it’s dark to promote sleep, while bright light prompts the releases of hormones that can inhibit sleep.” Due to this, she recommends blackout shades or heavy drapes on bedroom windows to block as much outdoor light as possible when snoozing.
Your bedroom is too warm.
Research shows we snooze best in a cool environment, says Chernyak. If you’re turning up the thermometer before bedtime to make things nice and cozy, consider setting it back to around 68 degrees, which is the ideal temperature for sleep, she advises. It’s also a good idea to wear lightweight pajamas and use several thin layers of bedding, rather than one thick, heavy blanket, so you can add and subtract layers during the night.
You ate too late.
As tempting as it sounds, a bedtime snack can keep you awake. “If your body is busy digesting, it can’t also be busy sleeping,” explains Chernyak. Her advice: Have your last big meal of the day three or four hours before bedtime. That way a light snack before bedtime isn’t likely to be disruptive. Just don’t wash it down with a lot fluid, or you’ll need to get up for a bathroom break in the night.
You’re sipping saboteurs.
You’d think opting for decaffeinated coffee or tea in the evening would allow you to have your hot drink and sleep well too. Unfortunately, decaffeinated coffee is only about 75 percent caffeine free. “Sensitivity to caffeine is a personal thing. Some people can tolerate more than others, says Chernyak. “But to be safe, I recommend most people cut off caffeine intake at noon,” she adds. And there’s no question alcohol can put you to sleep. “It’s sedating,” explains Chernyak. “But if you drink a lot in the evening, it interrupts the architecture of your sleep. You’re more likely to wake in the middle of the night and not be able to drift off again.” A glass of wine with dinner shouldn’t be a problem, she adds. “Just don’t turn to alcohol as a way to help you sleep.” Turn to a relaxing activity, like reading or listening to music, instead.
Be mindful of your bedmates.
You might want to kick your dog or cat out of bed if you allow your pet to sleep with you. “There’s no research to show sleeping with an animal is a major sleep disruptor,” says Chernyak. “But it stands to reason if your dog takes up half the bed or your cat is in your face at two am, you aren’t going to sleep soundly.” Instead, enjoy a snuggle with your furry family member before bedtime — then show him to his own bed before you hit the sack yourself.