According to the CDC, adults, 18 and older need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep to maintain their health and overall well-being. But with the stressful and fast-paced lives we lead today, many adults are not getting the recommended amount of sleep.
Of course, there are the usual culprits that thwart proper sleep. Stress, caffeine, hot temperatures, or lack of exercise can affect sleep. Even hot flashes are a common sleep disruptor. However, some lesser-known factors could be preventing you from hitting the hay in a healthy way.
If you exercise regularly, have low-stress levels, and maintain the ideal room temperature for sleeping — around 65 degrees Fahrenheit — but are still having trouble sleeping, one or more of the factors below could be the cause.
1. Oral Health
We all know the importance of oral hygiene and how it can impact our health, but what many don’t know is that oral health can impact sleep, as well. Things like canker sores, gum disease, cavities, and teeth grinding can disrupt sleep due to pain and discomfort. And breathing issues caused by oral health issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can block the airway and lead to snoring which can also disrupt sleep.
If you suspect your oral health could be the cause of your sleep troubles, visit your doctor or dentist as soon as possible. A healthier oral nighttime routine can also help you sleep better and help prevent some of the issues listed above.
2. Joint Pain
Any kind of body pain can be problematic, but sleeping with joint pain is especially difficult. When it comes to your joints, the pain usually worsens at night from inflammation that sets in after a day of activity. Certain sleep positions can also make joint pain worse, and joint stiffness from lack of movement while sleeping can also make lying still uncomfortable.
To avoid joint pain at night, eat an anti-inflammatory diet, stay active during the day, stretch before bed, and invest in a good-quality mattress that is more supportive of your joints. It’s also important to be mindful of pain medication use as this could further mess with your sleep habits. A healthy bedtime routine that focuses on relaxation and promotes deep sleep can also help you sleep better and wake less due to pain.
3. Air Quality
Indoor air quality can affect your health and, therefore, the quality of your sleep. Many factors can lead to poor air quality in your home — from mold overgrowth to cigarette smoke. If the outdoor air quality where you live is subpar, it could also be entering your home.
There is research to back up the impact of air on sleep. Studies have shown that people who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution are 60% more likely to sleep poorly, and people who have poorly ventilated homes tend to have more restless nights and groggy mornings.
To improve your home’s air quality, you should clean regularly, keep your HVAC system properly maintained, and invest in better ventilation systems and air purifiers if possible.
Arguments and disagreements during the day can also lead to a poor night’s rest. People — especially women — who have more positive interactions throughout their day, such as with their partners, tend to sleep better at night.
Arguments and disagreements cause stress that keeps you up at night, replaying the scenario over and over again in your head. Or you might simply struggle to fall asleep due to worry or guilt over the disagreement.
To sleep better, try avoiding unnecessary arguments. And if possible, work things out with the person you were fighting with before going to bed.
The clothes you wear to bed at night can also play a role in how well you sleep. Doing the same thing every night before you sleep can help signal to your mind and your body that it is time to sleep. So having some sort of “sleep uniform” that you wear every night can help put your mind in the right place for getting a restful night's sleep.
What you wear — or don’t wear — should also be conducive to your sleep environment. If you sleep in warm temperatures, for example, you should opt for light, sweat-wicking fabrics. And if you sleep in colder climates or you tend to run cold, opt for sleepwear that is cozy and warm.
6. Spicy Food
Eating too soon before bed is a known cause of sleep disruption, but what you eat can also affect your quality of sleep. Spicy foods are more likely to cause acid reflux and heartburn, which can wake you up throughout the night. They can also increase your chances of developing sleep apnea. This makes spicy dishes some of the worst foods to eat before bed.
It’s best to eat spicier foods earlier in the day if possible. If you just can’t say no to the heat at dinnertime, at least make sure you are taking an antacid or other medication for heartburn to get your acid reflux under control.
As much as you love your furry friends, they could be hurting your sleep. There are some benefits of co-sleeping with your dog. However, if you let your pets sleep in bed with you, they could be making you hot or waking you with their movement throughout the night. They could also be tracking in allergens that are making you congested or sneezy, which can also mess with your sleep. Pets, themselves, are also often the source of allergens — in their saliva or dander.
To avoid sleep disruptions from pets, keep them out of the bedroom entirely if possible. But if that is just not an option for you, you should at least crate them in the same room, away from the bed. You may also opt to train them to sleep on the floor in a pet bed of their own.
8. Hot Showers
For some, a nighttime bath or shower is an essential element in their bedtime routine. However, hot, steamy showers and baths will raise your body temperature. And, as previously mentioned, you can struggle to sleep when your body is too warm.
Try showering or bathing a little earlier than usual to give your body temperature more time to regulate before you crawl under the sheets. Or you can switch your bathing routine to the morning instead.
Overall, anything that is bad for your health is also likely not helping you sleep, but smoking is especially problematic. People who smoke have poor sleep quality compared to those who don’t. This is because nicotine is a stimulant, which means lighting up or vaping before bed could be disrupting your sleep.
Kicking the habit of smoking altogether is your best bet to improve your sleep. If you need to work up to that or just can’t find it in you to quit, at least try avoiding smoking close to bedtime. Keep in mind that even if you do quit, it will take time before your sleep improves due to initial withdrawal symptoms.
Most people understand that good sleep is important to their overall health and well-being. If the factors above are not what is contributing to your poor sleep, it might be time to check in with your doctor or look into a sleep clinic that can more thoroughly analyze your symptoms and sleep habits.
Oftentimes sleep deprivation can be treated with good sleep hygiene practices. These practices include personal habits such as: sticking to a bedtime routine, getting regular exercise, making healthy eating choices, avoiding alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, getting ample exposure to sunlight during the day, and practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime.
Sleep hygiene also includes modifying one's sleep environment to optimize quality sleep such as ditching electronics before bedtime, keeping the room dark and quiet, keeping the room cool, and making sure the bed is as comfortable as possible.
If sleep deprivation may be caused by a sleep disorder it may be time to schedule a consultation with a sleep clinic for a sleep study. Sleep studies can help get to the root of sleep problems and offer a variety of therapy treatments to help sufferers get the sleep they need.
If you live in Alaska and are experiencing chronic sleep deprivation that you believe is due to a sleep disorder, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic by clicking the link below to schedule a free consultation.