Get A Better Night’s Rest: Overcoming Sleep Problems
Jake Comfort | Updated: April 2, 2021
Everyone knows that good sleep is essential to good living. Almost nothing beats the feeling of waking up in the morning and feeling well-rested and ready to start your day. However, there are lots of things that can get in the way of getting the best rest possible. That’s why we put together this helpful guide.
We’ll cover why it’s so important to get good sleep. Then we’ll look at some of the most common difficulties people face when it comes to falling asleep. We’ll discuss what happens when you get bad sleep and, finally, explain how to get the best sleep possible. Use this information to make sure you’re getting the sleep you deserve.
Why Sleep Matters
Sleep is a unique brain state. Every living thing requires sleep to survive. One of the most important things that regulates sleep is known as the circadian rhythm. This is the sleep-wake cycle we experience every day. When your circadian rhythm is properly aligned to your schedule you’ll fall asleep and wake up when you need to. When your circadian rhythm isn’t aligned properly you might feel tired or sleepy during the day or feel restless and wakeful at night.
Sleep isn’t just important for your brain. Your body uses the time you’re asleep to perform many vital functions. Hormones that aid in the healing of muscles and bones are released. Your body also regulates things like blood pressure, digestion, and body temperature while you sleep. Some of the most important things sleep helps include:
- Fighting infection
- Digesting food
- Processing and storing memories
- Cleaning toxins from the body and blood
- Repairing muscles and other tissues
The body uses the time you’re asleep to repair or remove damaged and dead cells. That means getting bad sleep can hurt the cell renewal process. This situation can result in serious medical issues the longer it goes on.
Sleep is also essential to energy and alertness. That’s why multiple studies show that a lack of sleep can cause fatigue, concentration issues, irritability, poor focus, weight gain, and diabetes. A lack of sleep can also cause low-grade inflammation. This causes the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers to increase.
Another reason sleep is important is that your body uses sleep to remove cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It increases fat deposits in the belly and around your internal organs. That’s not the only way a lack of sleep can impact your waistline. Lack of sleep boosts the levels of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone. That makes you crave carb-heavy and sugary foods.
A lack of sleep can also impact your performance at work. Studies show that people who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are far less productive than people who get enough sleep. This is an important fact, as 85% of workers say that they don’t get enough sleep. The result is $63 billion in lost revenue for companies every single year.
There are several factors that influence sleep. As a result, sleep difficulties can be the result of one or more causes. That means it’s important to understand all the different aspects of sleep and things that can affect it. The things that can affect sleep include physical condition, sleep environment, mental state, and more. Some of the most important aspects that affect the quality of your sleep include:
- Dark and light
- Changes in routine
- Stressful emotional states
- Screen stimulation from TV’s, computers, and smart phones
Medical conditions like chronic pain, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are some of the primary causes of poor sleep. This condition can lead to insomnia which can remain even after the underlying conditions are treated or resolved.
Another major cause of sleep difficulty is poor diet. Stimulants like sugar and caffeine cause your body to be in an alert mode. Consuming sugary or caffeinated foods and beverages in the afternoon and evening can make it hard to fall asleep. Moreover, the impact from having stimulants before bed can last beyond a single night. That’s because these substances can disrupt your circadian rhythm. The more your circadian rhythm is disrupted, the harder it is to rest and get back to a stable sleep schedule.
You should also consider the environment you’re in when you’re looking for things that might be causing you to have a hard time falling asleep. A bedroom that is bright and noise can make it difficult to fall asleep. Another common barrier to sleeping soundly is bedding that is excessively warm. An uncomfortable mattress can also be a major barrier to getting the sleep you need.
There are several ways to tell if you need a new mattress. However, one of the best indicators is how you feel when you wake up. If you wake up with joint or muscle pain, then your mattress might be the issue. Your mattress can also be the cause if you aren’t getting the high-quality sleep you need because you’re tossing and turning at night.
A new mattress can also be a great solution if you’re too hot to sleep comfortably at night. Many older mattresses don’t have the modern technology and features that you get with the latest quality mattresses. That means a new mattress could help you sleep cooler at night.
What Happens When You Get Bad Sleep?
There are several negative impacts to getting bad sleep. Poor sleep affects your brain as well as your body. Some of the most important mental processes can be disrupted by a lack of sleep. That’s because a lack of rest interrupts the communication between brain cells. The electrical activity that helps create a normal perception of time slows down. That’s one of the reasons it seems like days drag on forever when you don’t get the rest you need.
This situation also affects your decision-making skills. The brains ability to translate perception into conscious thought is delayed as the communication between brain cells weakens and takes longer. That means delayed decision-making and reaction times. This phenomenon is why studies show that the affects of poor sleep can be as dangerous for people as driving drunk.
Getting poor sleep can also affect your emotional health. Studies show that lack of sleep leads to decreasing function of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that helps process emotional information. The amygdala is especially important in processing emotional information that is negative or threatening. As a result, a person who hasn’t gotten the rest they need is more likely to perceive an experience as a negative event, instead of a neutral or positive event.
Experiencing more things as negative events can make it even harder to sleep. It increases the amount of stress hormones in your body and keeps your mind racing at night. In this way, a lack of sleep can become a vicious repeating cycle that’s increasingly difficult to break.
Getting bad sleep isn’t just bad for your brain, it’s also bad for your body. As previously stated, your body undergoes many important processes while you sleep. It’s essential for repairing muscles and other tissue. It also impacts your ability to process food and can cause you to gain fat around your belly and your organs. Even a single sleepless night can disrupt glucose metabolism and fat storage for months to years later.
One of the biggest impacts that a lack of sleep can have on your body is disrupting your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm isn’t controlled by a single body-clock. Rather, there are lots of little influences and events that affect your circadian rhythm. Knocking your body out of rhythm can create a series of cycles that make it hard to get back to a regular sleeping pattern.
How to Get Better Sleep
The important thing to remember is that you can take steps to improve your sleep. That means you don’t need to live a sleepless life full of tired days. One of the best ways to get better sleep is to look for and eliminate sources of sleep disruption.
Your bedroom is a great place to start looking for sources of sleep disruption. Make sure your room is as dark as possible when you go to bed. That includes shutting off lights and closing any curtains to keep light from outside away. You should also avoid using a computer or smartphone while in bed. That goes for watching TV as well.
The basics of getting a good night’s rest are known as sleep hygiene. Some of the key aspects of sleep hygiene include:
- Reduce consumption of foods that can disrupt sleep like sugar and caffeine
- Avoid alcohol before you go to bed
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only. Don’t use it for any other activities
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. A consistent sleep schedule is essential to maintaining your circadian rhythm
- Turn off all screens at least one hour before bed. If you need to use a screen when you’re in bed or about to go to bed, then try to wear glasses that block blue light, as blue light sends a signal to your brain that it’s daytime and time to be awake
- Keep your bedroom as cool, dark, and quiet as possible. This will minimize the disruptions that can cause you to stay awake or sleep poorly
However, improving your sleep isn’t all about things to avoid. There are also several things you can do to help you get the rest you need. One of the most effective ways at regulating your circadian rhythm is exercise. Even something as simple as a 30-minute walk or workout 3 times a week can go a long way toward regulating your circadian rhythm and improving your sleep efficiency.
Some people suffer from insomnia. Insomnia happens when you have problems sleeping at least three nights a week. For some people these symptoms will last three or less months. In that case, then the condition is just known as insomnia. However, if insomnia symptoms last more than three months then you might have insomnia disorder.
Insomnia disorder can’t be cured simply by better sleep hygiene practices. It’s important to talk to a doctor if you have insomnia disorder so you can get the best advice and treatment possible. One treatment that has been shown to be effective in fighting insomnia disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
CBT works to modify your actions and thoughts. It’s used for several mental health disorders and has been proven to be effective for insomnia. Even better, CBT has been shown to improve outcomes for all forms of insomnia, regardless of the severity and duration of symptoms. It can even help with insomnia symptoms that stem from other mood disorders.
Get the Rest You Deserve
As you can see, there are lots of different factors that affect the quality of your sleep. Make sure you follow good sleep hygiene to get the best possible results. If you’re still having problems falling asleep, then you should talk to a certified medical professional CBT may be one option to help you get the rest you need.
Getting the right amount of sleep is important. Use the information in this guide to gain a better understanding of how you’re sleeping and what you can do to get better sleep.
Eti Ben Simon, Losing Neutrality: The Neural Basis of Impaired Emotional Control without Sleep, Journal of Neuroscience, September 2015
Asher G, Sassone-Corsi P., Time for food: the intimate interplay between nutrition, metabolism, and the circadian clock, Cell, Mar. 26, 2015
Bajaj JS, Thacker LR, Leszczyszyn D, Taylor SA, Heuman DM, Raman S, Sterling RK, Siddiqui MS, Stravitz RT, Sanyal AJ, Puri P, Luketic V, Matherly S, Fuchs M, White MB, Noble NA, Unser AB, Wade JB., Effects of obstructive sleep apnea on sleep quality, cognition, and driving performance in patients with cirrhosis, Clinical Gatroenterology and Hepatology, Feb. 13, 2015
Honma K., Circadian rhythms in body temperature and sleep, Japanese Journal of Clinical Medicine, Dec. 7, 2013
Boyle LN, Tippin J, Paul A, Rizzo M., Driver Performance in the Moments Surrounding a Microsleep, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Mar. 1, 2008
Seung-Schik Yoo, The human emotional brain without sleep — a prefrontal amygdala disconnect, Current Biology, Oct. 23, 2007
Edinger JD, Wohlgemuth WK, Radtke RA, Marsh GR, Quillian RE., Cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of chronic primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial, JAMA, Apr. 11, 2001
Cohen DA, Wang W, Wyatt JK, Kronauer RE, Dijk DJ, Czeisler CA, Klerman EB, Uncovering Residual Effects of Chronic Sleep Loss on Human Performance, Science Translational Medicine, Jan. 13, 2010
Mullington JM, Simpson NS, Meier-Ewert HK, Haack M., Sleep Loss and Inflammation, Best Practice & Research: Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Jan. 18, 2013
LeGates TA, Fernandez DC, Hattar S., Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep and affect, Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, July 15, 2014