Seven Things You Didn’t Know Were Disrupting Your Sleep

Sleep-Chispa MagazineAccording to one recent study by Consumer Reports, more than a quarter of all Americans report difficulty falling or staying asleep. While it’s easy to blame the hectic pace of modern life as the reason so many of us are counting more and more sheep, there may be a deeper underlying reason you’re having trouble catching those z’s.

Sometimes, health issues can cause issues getting adequate sleep. In these cases, a visit to your doctor may well provide some relief as you get the root of your sleep loss under control. Other times, simple lifestyle changes can help you get refreshing sleep. To find out more about some surprising causes of lost sleep, read on.

Thyroid Trouble
Thyroid disease is extremely common, affecting roughly 20 million Americans, but approximately 60 percent of adults with thyroid issues fail to get diagnosed. This butterfly-shaped gland in your throat regulates your metabolism, and if your thyroid is overactive, you may find yourself tossing and turning at night as your hormones are stuck in overdrive. Other symptoms of an overactive thyroid include hot flashes, weight loss, increased heart rate and muscle weakness with mild exertion.

Fortunately, medications exist that can get your thyroid back to functioning normally. Your doctor will perform a TSH test to see if your thyroid output is too low or too high. Once your thyroid hormones are back under control, you should find it far easier to get some shut-eye.

Anxiety or Depression
Clinical anxiety or depression can truly disrupt sleep patterns. It seems obvious how suffering from anxiety can affect sleep: When you can’t turn your mind off, sleep will naturally come more slowly. Some people with depression sleep too much, while others find sleep impossible. This is because of the disruption of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Both anxiety and depression can originate biologically or due to traumatic life events. However, the effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter system is the same.

It can take a while to find out which antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications may work for you as an individual, so don’t delay visiting your doctor to seek treatment.

Neurological Disorders
Those who suffer from certain neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke or some forms of migraine disease may also find sleep elusive. This is because, like anxiety and depression, which are often comorbid conditions, neurological problems impact your brain’s neurotransmitter system.

While many neurological diseases have no cure, speaking with your doctor about any sleep issues you experience is still critical, as certain prescription medications may help you get some much-needed rest.

Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that impacts the breathing patterns of individuals as they sleep. It can lead to chronically feeling fatigued, because those suffering from sleep apnea awaken several times per night, even if they don’t remember it.

Other symptoms include excessive snoring and morning headaches. One remedy for sleep apnea is the use of special mouthpieces designed to keep the airway open during sleep. While a doctor can help you address the medical causes of your sleep loss, bad habits cause other types of insomnia.

That Nightcap
Folk wisdom tells us having a nip or two before bed can help us sleep, which makes a certain sense. After all, alcohol is a depressant. However, while alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, too much alcohol interrupts  normal sleep patterns. To avoid early waking insomnia caused by too much of the hard stuff, limit yourself to no more than one glass of alcohol before going to bed.

Eating and Drinking Too Much
Most of us are familiar with the post-Thanksgiving feast nap. But eating the wrong foods can impact your ability to get to and remain asleep. Spicy foods and foods high in fats are common culprits. Eating too much of these in the hours just before bedtime can keep you awake.

Fortunately, some foods can help you sleep. Foods high in magnesium, such as almonds and spinach, can help you soothe your way into sleep, and those high in L-tryptophan, like that Thanksgiving turkey, can also aid in getting in some restful sleep.

Too Much Caffeine
It nearly goes without saying too much caffeine will keep you up at night. Most of us know not to drink coffee before bed, but either overlook other sources of caffeine or overload on it by drinking three or four cups of coffee each day. Try to avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. but bear in mind some people are much more caffeine-sensitive than others. If all else fails, try cutting your morning coffee habit back to one or two cups, and see if that doesn’t help you sleep more soundly.

Getting quality sleep is critical to our overall health. By following these tips, you’re taking the right steps to reclaim both your sleep and your overall quality of life.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

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Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is an online journalist from Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing about women's issues, career advice, and sociopolitical change. If you enjoy her writing, you can visit her at OnlySlightlyBiased.com.