If you struggle to sleep or struggle in your sleep, know that you are not alone. Common causes of sleeplessness impact more than a third of the US population. In fact, the situation is so grave that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has termed sleeplessness as an epidemic.
A survey by Consumer Report reveals that in a survey of 4,023 American adults, 27% had trouble catching the recommended amount of sleep or staying asleep most of the nights. A surprising 68% or around 164 million US adults experienced napping problems at least once weekly.
Restlessness is not a problem that can be put on the backburner since it does not culminate in a few yawns only. The long-term effects of wakefulness are severe. These include the increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular health concerns to name a few. Sleeplessness also correlates with gain in additional pounds.
On top of it, a lack of sleep can be dangerous too, as drowsy driving leads to 44,000 injuries, 72,000 accidents, and 800 deaths in 2013. The AAA Foundation further confirms this, as it confirms that sleepless drivers are behind the wheels of 328,000 annual crashes. Of these 6,400 are fatal crashes, and 109,000 crashes causes injuries.
The epidemic of less sleep is so dire that Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids. Natana Raj, a BBC research analyst in Wellesley, Mass predicts this number to go to $52 billion by 2020.
If you fall among people who have trouble falling asleep, it is essential that you point out the main culprit and remove it from the picture. In this regard, an overview of common sleep problems along with their solutions is presented below:
Blue light from your phone
Nearly, 95% of folks use their smartphone before they head to bed. The survey also indicates that these people check their smartphone immediately if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Furthermore, an IDC Research reveals that 80% of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. These statistics clear up one thing for sure and it is that our smartphone addiction knows no bounds. However, it is crucial for you to sketch boundaries if you have trouble falling asleep. There are thick chances that you are unable to sleep due to the blue light that smartphones and other electronic gadgets emit.
This blue light messes with the internal biological clock that regulates your sleep. The clock detects daylight and nighttime and separates both to encourage sleep in the dark hours. The blue light from your phone, however, confuses the clock into thinking that it is bright daylight instead of night. This explains why your body sweeps sleep under the rug and makes you active before bed or in the middle of the night.
Studies consider this artificial light responsible for disrupting the internal sleep clock by 4-6 time zones. There is only one thing that you can do to combat this issue: eliminate your phone from the picture. To this end, you should:
- turn off your phone before bed so that you don’t get tempted to use it when you cannot sleep
- put it on silent or vibrate so that any sound or beep does not derail your sleep
As you rise up the age ladder, it is quite possible that you experience insomnia or a dearth of sleep. Roughly, 24% of the senior population complain about insomnia. Research holds medication taken in this phase of life responsible for sleep problems.
Apart from the medications a person is on, several health conditions can make it difficult for an individual to fetch zzz. Some of these conditions include urinary problems, osteoarthritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
Some of these health conditions might not even be diagnosed but they can still culminate in sleep issues. It is essential to track symptoms and talk to your doctor if signs like sleeplessness persist. To beat this common reason behind lack of slumber, you should:
- try to maintain a regular bedtime
- take a warm bath before bed as it relaxes the body
- avoid afternoon naps as they disturb your sleep schedule and make it difficult for you to sleep at night
Alcohol also sits at the helm of sleep troubles. It depresses the nervous system temporarily. Later, it is metabolized rapidly to yield an active or excited system. Even if people consider the drug as a means to fall asleep, they do not realize that it the same drug that keeps them awake for hours later on.
Alcohol also promotes poor quality of sleep so that it not only affects the quantity but also the quality of your sleep. It blocks REM sleep that is a restorative sleep, critical for energizing you. About 20% of Americans have alcohol before bed and if you tend to do the same, then you need to limit the drink for improved sleep.
To beat this typical sleep culprit, you need to
- halt alcohol consumption at least 4-5 hours before bedtime because on average it takes the body an hour to process one unit of alcohol.
Other recreational drugs
In addition to alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can also restrain you from falling into the arms of Morpheus. Caffeine stays in your system for 14 hours and increases the odds of a restless sleep by encouraging you to wake up in the middle of your slumber.
It fires your nerve cells into activity so that you feel energized and agile. Such a peak in energy is accompanied with not only sleeplessness but also insomnia. A study highlights that consuming caffeine every 6 hours before bed cuts an hour from your sleep.
The same also holds true in the case of smoking. Smokers tend to sleep lightly as compared with non-smokers. They are less likely to get deep sleep and smokers also have a 2.5 times swollen risk of getting obstructive sleep apnea.
Therefore, you should
- try to quit smoking which is good for your overall health
- avoid smoking before bedtime
- cut down your caffeine intake
- do not have caffeine after evening falls
Stress and anxiety
Chronic stress or a traumatic incident in your life can also culminate in a restless sleep. Soaring levels of stress and anxiety are common causes of sleeplessness. These lead to poor sleep quality, wakefulness in the middle of the night, and difficulty in falling asleep.
The Stress in American survey outlines that 43% of the US adults blamed stress as the reason behind staying up late. About 50% of these survey participants also reported feeling lazy during the day due to poor sleep at night.
Basically, stress is associated with hyperarousal, which tips the equilibrium in the favor of restlessness. Thus, you are unable to get forty winks. The American Institute of Stress confirms, “Up to 90% of all health problems are related to stress. Additionally, a large body of research confirms our thoughts and emotions have a dynamic effect on our health and vitality.”
Moreover, there can be other reasons for lacking sleep too. These include depression, restless leg syndrome, asthma, thyroid disorders, and more. You can help this by:
- follow a relaxing bedtime routine
- if possible, kill the source of your tension
- include sleep-inducing foods in your diet
- if stress persists, you need to seek professional care
Heartburn is also a common culprit behind sleepless nights. More than a third of the US citizens suffer from acid reflux and a vast majority are awakened due to it. In fact, digestive issues and insomnia often pair up together.
As per a study, heartburn, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome are frequently observed in people experiencing restlessness. A survey of 2,269 people showed that 39% of the participants reported insomnia at least one time in a month due to digestive issues.
It also found out that 15% of people wake up from their sleep due to stomach pain, 13% complain in heartburn, and 10% had digestive issues. You can sort this out by:
- avoid eating within 3 hours to bedtime
- lift your head to 45 degrees to keep acid down
- avoid carbonated drinks, smoking, drinking, mint, citrus, and onion
- in the last resort, try prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
All in all, there are numerous common causes of sleeplessness. You can handle them in many ways. These include by avoiding smoking, drinking, limiting caffeine intake, and lessening the use of smartphone and other electronic gadgets that emit blue light before bedtime. It is also critical to follow a sleep schedule and practice relaxing practices before bed.
Try to curtail digestive issues and stress problems too. If you are unable to do so, then you need professional assistance. Also, if wakefulness comes in the company of any other symptoms, track them and bring them up to your doctor. This is important because sleep deprivation is often an indicator of other health concerns.