June 03, 2021 · 3 minute read
June 03, 2021

What Should I Do If I Can't Sleep?

3 minute read

Remember a time when you simply crawled into bed and dozed into a good night's slumber feeling rested and refreshed the next day?

Those were the days.

What's up with all this tossing and turning when all you want is to be asleep? Is it age? Stress? The effects of a pandemic?

A lack of sleep does more than make you feel sluggish. Chronic insomnia and related sleep problems are linked to various health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

Read this list of 7 reasons why you're not resting, and find ways for better sleep.

    1. Sleep apnea
    2. Sleep hygiene
    3. Diet
    4. Restless Leg Syndrome
    5. Depression
    6. Stress
    7. Lack of exercise

1. Sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by an obstruction of the upper airways that causes repeated pauses in breathing while sleeping. The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring, gasping for air in the middle of the night, fatigue, waking up with a dry throat, excessive daytime sleepiness, drowsiness, trouble concentrating. All these symptoms contribute to a lack of sleep.

What to do?

If you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, contact your health care provider, and they might suggest to consult with a sleep specialist and a few lifestyle adjustments, such as sleeping on your side or losing weight. Your doctor might also suggest an oral appliance or a CPAP machine that blows air into your airways to keep them open at night. If you are in need of a CPAP machine check out our wide selection here.

How can CPAP therapy help me?

2. Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to good sleep habits that can improve your sleep health. According to the CDC, it’s important to practice good sleep habits, but if your sleep problems continue or if they interfere with how you feel or function during the day, you should talk to your doctor. You have more control over your quality of sleep than you might think and if you're affected by insomnia or jet lag, readjusting your sleep habits might do the trick.

What to do?

  • Consistency: a misaligned circadian rhythm can negatively affect sleep in many ways. Adhere to the same sleep schedule, including on the weekends.
  • Sleep environment: set your bedroom for bedtime. Make sure it's quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Some people find it helpful to have a white noise machine in the background.
  • Limit screen time: avoid electronic devices with blue light, such as TVs, computers, and social media or smartphones, before bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals and stimulants: avoid eating and consuming caffeine and alcohol before bedtime or taking unsupervised over-the-counter medication or natural sleep-aids such as melatonin.
  • Exercise: engage in physical activity during the day to fall asleep more easily at night.

3. Diet

photo of a balanced diet

The food you consume can have a big impact on your sleep. Foods that cause heartburn, large meals that leave you feeling full and ultimately contribute to obesity, a risk factor for sleep apnea, caffeine that keeps you wide awake, and stimulants like alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns.

What to do?

Make it a habit to eat dinner at least a couple of hours before bedtime, and keep the meal light. Avoid spicy, fatty foods, sugar, as well as alcohol and caffeine. Also, don't drink too many fluids before bed. Having to get up to go to the bathroom constantly can disrupt your good night's sleep, too.

4. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes uncontrollable movements in the legs at night and doesn't let you get enough sleep. It's often linked to hormonal changes early in life and during pregnancy and thus most common in women and can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. 

What to do?

Exercise, leg massages, warm baths, and reduce tobacco and caffeinated beverages. Also, seek medical advice about medication that can help your condition. 

5. Depression

clipart of woman with depression

Depression can compromise your sleep quality; even if depression causes you to sleep, you might wake up feeling sluggish. Some antidepressants can also interfere with sleep.

What to do?

Consult your primary care doctor or mental health specialist for help, which may include medications, therapy, mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, or discuss the side effects of your current antidepressant.

6. Stress

clipart of man who is pulling his hair out from stress

Stress often impacts regular sleep. Plenty of challenging situations can keep us awake at night, and before we know it, we're locked in a cycle of rumination that fuels our sleeplessness.

What to do?

Create the conditions for a restful night's sleep and establish a sleep routine with wind-down time. Do a quiet, relaxing activity before bed that doesn't involve a screen, such as sleep meditations, progressive muscle relaxation, talking to a friend or family member, or read a book.

7. Lack of Exercise

Movement or any form of physical exercise allows you to release tension and calm down. This will benefit not only your sleep quality but your overall health.  Avoid stimulating your body too close to bedtime; aim to exercise at least 3 hours before you plan to sleep.

What to do?

Engage in an exercise routine that you enjoy and can maintain as a habit which will also contribute to your overall wellness. 

What to do now?

There are many things that can impact your quality of sleep. If you are struggling with getting a good night's rest, call your doctor who can work with you to try to identify a cause and recommend optimal treatment, especially if your sleeping problems are severe, long-term, or worsening.

Written by Gabriel Garcia

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