We’ve all experienced a sleepless night or two in our lives, full of tossing and turning or worrying about an important upcoming event. The next day you might have felt groggy, irritable, and drained energetically. However, when the struggle with sleeping lasts for a longer time, sooner or later, it negatively affects your physical and mental health. It can cause issues such as fatigue, irritability, and poor focus, as well as long-term problems like chronic stress, insomnia, or an increased risk of depression. In this article, we’ll explore common causes of sleep issues, their consequences, and valuable tips on how to improve your sleep habits and support your well-being along the way.
What Causes Sleep Issues
Even though we all know that sleep plays an essential role in our health and well-being, we often underestimate the importance of maintaining healthy sleep habits, creating a good sleeping environment, and spending enough time on sleep itself. If you’re struggling with falling or staying asleep at night, there is a variety of factors that might prevent you from getting a proper rest, such as:
- Environmental factors:
- uncomfortable bed,
- air pollution,
- too much light,
- Unhealthy habits:
- working/eating in your bed,
- looking at a screen right before sleep,
- going to bed at different times,
- taking long naps during the day,
- drinking alcohol and caffeine or eating big meals before bedtime,
- Psychological factors:
- increased stress due to a significant life event, such as divorce or working in a toxic environment
- low mood
- anxiety-inducing racing thoughts
- sleep procrastination.
How Sleep Issues Affect Health
If you struggle with chronic sleep issues, you might be familiar with its negative impact on your day-to-day life. Not getting enough quality sleep can lead to:
- higher levels of stress,
- poor focus,
- persistent low energy levels,
- mood swings,
- memory issues,
- proneness to risky behavior
These daily issues only worsen over time, leading to long-term problems like:
- issues within the social sphere and relationships,
- lower productivity at work or school,
- chronic stress,
- a weaker immune system,
- increased risk of a chronic illness,
- mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
5 Ways To Improve Your Sleep Habits
The good news is that anyone suffering from sleep issues has control over improving their sleeping habits so that things can get a lot better quickly! Here’s a list of 5 ways to improve your sleep habits starting today:
1. Create a sleep-friendly environment
The environment in which you sleep has a critical impact on the quality of your sleep. If you want to overcome insomnia, start by considering whether your bedroom facilitates restful slumber, as it can make all the difference. Make sure that:
- your room is dark, so eliminate any sources of light that might come in through windows, doorways, and your phone screen.
- your bed is comfortable, either by purchasing a new mattress or using supportive pillows and other sleeping materials.
- it’s quiet since noises can be disruptive to your sleeping routine.
- you air out your bedroom before sleep so that it feels fresh and cool.
2. Right before bedtime
In the hours before your bedtime, it’s important to wind down and avoid engaging in activities that can keep you awake such as:
- eating large meals,
- using screens,
- drinking coffee or alcohol,
- smoking cigarettes,
- taking a long nap,
- having a strenuous workout.
3. Stick to a bedtime routine
A good bedtime routine means going to bed and waking up at similar times every day, as well as avoiding naps that might last longer than half an hour. Additionally, such a routine sends a message to your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Consider taking a hot shower, doing some gentle yoga, or reading a chapter of a book. When repeated consistently, that ritual can keep you from any sleep issues for good.
4. Unwind and relax
Relaxation before bedtime is always a good idea. You might consider engaging in mindfulness practices which can decrease your stress levels and increase a sense of calm, for example:
- box breathing
- a guided meditation
- PMR = progressive muscle relaxation
5. When sleepless or anxious
Unfortunately, sometimes you might follow all these steps and still struggle with sleeplessness or anxiety. If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes, try to accept that, get out of bed, and engage in a quiet activity with limited light exposure. You might write down your thoughts in a journal, read a bit and remember that all struggles are temporary, including your sleep issues.
If, however, you feel like your sleep issues are caused by an underlying problem, such as anxiety, or if your insomnia might have caused your depression, don’t wait for it to get better. Reach out to Harbor Psychiatry so that you can start working with a therapist and take charge of your life.