Health

10 Habits That Are Ruining Your Sleep (And How to Fix Them)

Proper sleep is essential for brain health. In fascinating new research, scientists have shown that your brain cleanses or “washes” itself during sleep. The brain has a special waste management system that helps get rid of toxins that build up over the course of a day, including the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Your brain is so busy managing your life during the daylight hours that this cleaning system is pretty much turned off. One theory about why people with dementia sleep so much is that their brains are trying to clear out the accumulating plaques/gunk.

Without healthy sleep, the brain’s cleaning crew does not have enough time to do its job, and trash builds up, causing brain fog and memory problems. How would your home look if no one cleaned it for a month? That is the effect chronic insomnia can have on your brain, and unfortunately, it is all too common, affecting about one in four people.2 There are different types of insomnia, including transient insomnia, which lasts a few days and is caused by such things as short-term stress or time change; acute insomnia, which lasts several weeks and is common during grief or relationship- or work-related stress; and chronic insomnia, which may last for months or years. Chronic insomnia elevates a person’s risk of stroke, pain, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, cancer, and death from any cause.3

Many lifestyle habits, illnesses, and stresses can trigger insomnia, including poor sleep hygiene (such as drinking caffeine at night or leaving the phone on next to the bed), depression, worry, restless leg syndrome, hormonal imbalances (especially progesterone in women), and shift work.

10 Sleep Robbers

In our hectic 24-7 society, we could just as easily ask, “What doesn’t cause sleep deprivation?” There is a seemingly endless number of reasons why millions of us are missing out on a good night’s sleep.
This list includes some of the most common factors.

1. Environment unconducive to sleep. The temperature, lighting, and noise (including snoring) in your room may keep you awake.

2. Technological gadgets.

3. Negative emotions, such as anger and worry.

4. Medications. Many drugs, including asthma and cough medications, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, and stimulants (such as amphetamine salts [Adderall] or methylphenidate [Concerta], prescribed for ADHD), disturb sleep.

 
5. Caffeine. Too much of this stimulant can disrupt sleep.

6. Women’s issues. Hormone levels are affected by pregnancy, PMS, perimenopause, and menopause. These fluctuations may disrupt women’s sleep cycles.

7. Shift work. Nighttime shift workers, such as health-care workers, truck drivers, and first responders, are particularly prone to irregular sleep patterns, which leads to excessive sleepiness, reduced productivity, irritability, and mood problems.

8. Stress. Whether caused by a major event, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce, or a temporary situation, such as a major work deadline or another call from your child’s teacher, stress may prevent you from falling—or staying—asleep.

9. Eating within two to three hours of bedtime. Besides keeping your GI tract active, it will cause higher blood pressure at night and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

10. Jet lag. International travel across time zones disrupts sleep cycles.

 

7 Sleep Enhancers

To get a better night’s sleep and allow your brain time to clean itself up, try one or more of the following ideas. If something doesn’t work, experiment with other techniques until you notice your sleep improving.

1. Set up your bedroom for sleep. It should be cool, completely dark, and quiet. The ideal sleeping temperature may vary from person to person, but it should be on the cool side. If your room is too light, consider wearing a sleep mask or hanging blackout shades, and try using earplugs if you live in a noisy neighborhood or sleep next to a snoring spouse.

2. Block gadget disruption. Stash your phone, tablet, and digital watch away from your bed, or at least turn the sound off. Face your digital clock toward the wall so you aren’t distracted by luminescent numbers.

3. Try to fix emotional problems before bedtime. If you are a worrier, devote about 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime to your nagging concerns; then put a stop to them. If you’re at odds with someone, send him or her a positive text or e-mail—or determine to deal with the issue in the morning. In other words, “don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Doing so may prevent your anger from festering and growing further.

4. Establish and stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, including on weekends. Getting up at the same time each day, regardless of how long you slept the previous night, will help set your internal body clock, which can keep insomnia at bay.

5. Read a book before bed. Preferably pick up something thick or tedious, such as Leviticus in the Old Testament. If you read the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament or the latest Stephen King thriller, it is likely to keep you up. Avoid reading from an e-reader or tablet; its light will keep your brain alert.

6. Cut out caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or evening. Refrain from drinking coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m. Also avoid chocolate, nicotine, and alcohol—especially at night. Although alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, it actually interrupts sleep.

7. Develop a relaxing nighttime routine that encourages sleep. Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, and lower the lights in your house. A warm bath or shower, meditation, prayer, or massage may also help you relax. (Download helpful meditations at www.mybrainfitlife.com.)


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Joy serves as the Digital Marketing Specialist at Tyndale House Publishers. As a digi-hostess, she enjoys interpersonal communication, email marketing, and mapping customer journeys. In her spare time, Joy runs, reads, and travels.

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