We humans need our sleep. Most of us feel at our best when we have had around seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. We then wake up full of the joys of life, ready to face the world. It is a different story if you haven’t slept well. You wake up feeling like death, hollow-eyed and groggy, and then spend the rest of the day fighting to stay awake.
Everyone has a few bad nights here are there, usually when kids come along, but if you are having more bad nights than good ones, it is a good idea to look a bit deeper and see what the problem might be.
It is very hard to sleep properly when you are under a huge amount of stress. Short-term stress usually resolves itself, but long-term stress caused by an unhappy relationship or a difficult job can lead to all kinds of problems, including difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. If you are under stress, try to manage it better. Hopefully your sleep quality will improve.
2. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is very serious, but an awful lot of people have no idea they even have a problem. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you will periodically stop breathing for short spells – typically 10 seconds or more. The brain begins to wake up when airflow stops, so you don’t get enough of the quality deep sleep you need. Physical problems such as a deviated septum can cause sleep apnea. Being overweight is another risk factor. Either way, make an appointment to see your doctor to find out what is causing your sleep apnea.
3. Restless Legs
Restless legs syndrome is an involuntary leg twitching movement that interferes with deep, restful sleep. Every time you begin to slip into a deep sleep, your legs start twitching and jerking. It is very hard to get enough sleep when you suffer from restless leg syndrome and it can affect your partner’s sleep, too. Have a chat with your doctor if this is the cause of your woes, as it can be a symptom of an underlying health problem such as diabetes or thyroid disease.
4. Too Much Screen Time
Do you spend every waking moment staring at your smartphone, laptop or tablet screen? If so, this could the root of your problem. Once it gets dark, our bodies produce greater levels of melatonin, which helps us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Then, once it starts to get light, we wake up. Bright screens interrupt this natural process and throw our circadian rhythms out of whack as a result. So don’t take your smartphone to bed with you. Instead, turn off all devices a couple of hours before bedtime and read a book if you need to switch off.
5. Thyroid Problems
Sleep problems can be a symptom of an underactive or overactive thyroid. A malfunctioning thyroid gland pumps out too much or too little thyroid hormones, which affect every other system in the body, including your metabolism. So if you feel permanently exhausted, you are putting on weight for no good reason, or you can’t tolerate cold or heat, ask your doctor to test your thyroid function. Thyroid disease is a lot more common than many people realize – particularly if you are female.
6. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding is a subconscious activity. You probably aren’t aware you are doing it until your dentist spots the telltale signs of excessive wear and tear. Your partner might also complain about the noise. If you do grind your teeth, it will affect your quality of sleep because you can’t relax enough to enter the deep sleep mode. Ask your dentist for advice with this one.
Having a few drinks might send you to sleep, but alcohol is a stimulant, so it does nothing to improve the quality of any sleep you get and you are more likely to wake up in the night. The moral of this story is – do not drink alcohol before bed.
8. Worn Out Bed
How old is your bed? If it is more than eight years old, it is likely to be worn out. Saggy, lumpy mattresses don’t provide enough support and instead of waking up refreshed, you will feel as if you haven’t slept at all. A number bed, adjustable bed, might be enough to sort your sleep problems out, so make a date for a spot of bed shopping.
Poor quality sleep in the long-term is very bad for our health, so if you are having sleep problems, have a health check up to rule out any underlying health issues.