Nothing is more frustrating than lose sleep night after night and not knowing why. Sure, everyone has a bad night or two sometimes – but if so a consistent problem that affects your quality of life may be something that needs more attention.
Besides just feeling blah, missing sleep isn’t good for your health, especially if it’s chronic. Lack sleep is associated with serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease and mood disorders.
Whether you’re suffering from complete insomnia, or have noticed that your sleep quality has been deteriorating lately, there may be underlying issues that are affecting you. In honor of Sleep Awareness Week, let’s explore five common health issues that can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
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“If sleep has become problematic, and you can’t fall asleep, then yes waking up in the middle of the night or if you still wake up tired, be sure to check what’s going on in your body,” said functional medicine nurse specialist Maggie Berghoff, MSN, FNP-C. Berghoff, who works with patients with sleep problems, recommends checking testing with your doctor to try and get a bigger picture of what’s going on in your body to spot problems that could be interfering with sleep.
Everyone is unique and you should seek medical attention if you can’t sleep. Below are common (but sometimes unnoticed) health issues that often lurk behind a sleep problem.
Use these 27 tips to help you sleep better starting tonight
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Bad dietary habits can affect your sleep for several reasons. If you are not eat a good balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, your blood sugar could be all over the place. And if your blood sugar is not controlled throughout the day, it can spike and drop at night, which can wake you up.
“Diet plays a huge role in regulating sleep. Reducing anti-inflammatory foods that raise blood sugar, such as sugar or simple carbohydrates, can improve sleep. Ridding the body of processed foods and items one can’t tolerate (these can even “healthy” foods like lettuce or lemons!) will also improve sleep quality and quantity,” says Berghoff. If you think you’re eating a fairly healthy diet but are still having problems, you can ask your doctor for a food intolerance test that can help pinpoint potentially problematic foods.
Specific vitamins and minerals are needed for a good night’s sleep, so having a deficiency can affect your sleep. “Vitamin B is usually linked to sleep quality, but if a person’s vitamin B is really optimal, the culprit for that person could be magnesium, zinc or other nutrient deficiencies.
Another tip is to rethink that bedtime snack. “I recommend not eating right before bed. If you really want to raise your standards, stop eating three hours before you go to bed,” Berghoff said.
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Hormonal imbalance or thyroid problems
Your hormones are like little messengers in your body telling it what to do, and so is sleep (among other vital functions). If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance or even a thyroid problem, ask your doctor if you can get tested.
“If hormones aren’t regulated properly, it can affect sleep and your body temperature all night. The same can be said for those racing thoughts that keep someone from falling asleep,” Berghoff said.
Another problem to watch out for is an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. “If your thyroid is overactive, it can be especially problematic for a good night’s sleep because your body is essentially in overdrive and not conducive to sleep,” says Berghoff.
Disruption of the circadian rhythm
Many people know that technology disrupts our sleep, and is believed to be one of the biggest culprits blue light.
“The circadian rhythm is the body’s biological clock. It helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. When it’s not properly wired, such as when someone has irregular sleeping habits, or is exposed to blue light throughout the day and before bed, it will negatively affect sleep,” says Berghoff.
One way to properly set your circadian rhythm is to get outside and get sunlight in the morning, afternoon, and evening before it gets dark.
“Wear blue light blocking glasses At night, it can help to put your phone in night mode and use f.lux to color your computer screens red,” says Berghoff.
sleep apnea is a serious condition that can not only affect your quality of sleep but also put you at risk for various types of other health problems, such as stroke. sleep apnea makes you stop breathing all night long. Often you wake up momentarily when you stop breathing, which is not good for promoting deep, restorative sleep.
If you have sleep apnea, a doctor may give you a C-PAP machine that helps you breathe at night. Sleep apnea is associated with being overweight, and often people find relief after losing enough weight to breathe better. Sleep apnea needs to be tested to confirm, so talk to your doctor if you suspect you have it.
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Anxiety and stress
A stressful day or week can keep someone awake at night, but sometimes it can lead to more chronic sleep problems. Even though everyone experiences stress, if you don’t deal with it in a healthy way or are too overwhelmed, it can put your body in a chronic stress state.
“An elevated sympathetic nervous system can affect sleep. This means your body is often in fight-or-flight mode and you may not be balancing that stress-causing system properly,” Berghoff said.
It may be helpful to try recording relaxing activities before going to sleep, such as reading or journaling.
“Activate before going to sleep parasympathetic (resting and digestive) system with breathing techniques. I recommend inhaling through your nose for five seconds, holding for five seconds, exhaling for five seconds, and holding for five seconds. Repeat two to three times to relax your body and calm your mind in preparation for a healing sleep,” suggests Berghoff.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.