Five Surprising Reasons You Aren’t Sleeping
We’ve all been there. Tossing and turning, staring at the clock; frustration amounting, we curse everything we can think of that’s keeping us up. The inability to fall or stay asleep is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans each night. Over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids are becoming more and more popular as people try to combat the demon known as insomnia. However, ensuring yourself a much-needed night of sleep may be easier than you think. Here are five easy-to-fix reasons we have trouble sleeping.
You’re a late night snacker or boozer.
When you eat or drink right before bed your body is too busy digesting and processing to focus on the restorative aspects of sleeping – mainly detoxifying and regenerating the cells. Even if you are able to fall asleep on a full belly, the quality of sleep will not be nearly what you need. Similarly, alcohol before bed also disrupts the sleep cycle. A drink at night may help you fall asleep, however once the alcohol is metabolized you’ll become restless and often wake up. Just as with eating, when the body has to focus on metabolizing alcohol the true benefits of sleep are put on the back burner. Try to abstain from eating or drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.
Healthy omega-3 fatty acids that is. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are the building blocks of cellular membranes and consist of 20% of the brains gray matter. EFA’s are absolutely crucial to both cellular and cognitive health. When the brain is deficient in EFA’s, neurotransmitters (chemicals that relay signals from one area of the brain to another) don’t communicate properly. Serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine are all involved in the wake/sleep cycle. If you are lacking in the omega-3’s communication is compromised and insomnia will likely result.
Your cortisol levels are off-kilter.
Cortisol is a stress hormone made by the adrenal glands. When the body is living according to its natural rhythm cortisol levels are high in the morning and gradually lessen as the day goes on. However, when you are stressed, the body’s physiological response is to dump cortisol into the bloodstream. Over time, this reverses the levels of cortisol in your body, meaning you will have more of the stress hormone in your blood later and later into the night. When your cortisol levels are high your mind and body can’t relax (it’s a stress hormone remember!) making it very difficult for you to unwind and fall asleep. If you feel that your cortisol levels are contributing to your sleep deprivation find a way to calm your mind. It may sound too easy but meditation, breathwork, reading a good book – even listing off all the things you’re thankful for, can do wonders for a crazed (and restless) mind.
You’re on drugs.
Medications either stimulate or inhibit the brain. Over-the-counter painkillers and prescriptions may contain caffeine or another stimulant making it difficult to sleep. Excedrin, Midol and Anacin are all culprits, as are beta-blockers. The worst? Antidepressants. SSRI’s like Paxil, Lexapro and Prozac release a constant stream of serotonin that can disrupt sleep for many people. If you feel a medication you’re on is messing with your sleep cycle talk to your doctor. There may be alternatives or perhaps you can adjust your schedule so you’re taking medications at different times. There are also many natural ways to relieve nearly everything that someone has a prescription for. Talk to a naturopath, homeopath or holistic nutritionist for more information.
Inflammation is caused by processed foods, air pollution, stress and a myriad of other factors. Aside from being linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, it can also keep you up at night. Inflammation is associated with a slight but measurable increase in body temperature. We need to cool down to sleep but inflammation prevents your body temperature from dropping. Combating inflammation through an anti-inflammatory diet (lean proteins, omegs-3 fatty acids, whole grains, fruits and vegetables) can work wonders on this sneaky sleep-stealing culprit…an extra bonus, it can also drastically decrease your chance of illness and help you live longer.