Imagine yourself preparing for a night of peaceful sleep. You follow all the rules of the book…the bed is laid with clean linen, the lights are dim and your cozy nest is humming with some soft melody. Gradually you slip into peaceful sleep aiming to rise with the morning sun…but what if this dream voyage gets interrupted in the middle of the night only to find yourself sitting on the bed and staring at the night sky outside your window?
We all have pictured this scene at some point of time in life. Some nights are lucky while there are some bad ones where we wake up abruptly in the middle only to find it difficult to get back to sleep. In this post, we share with you some of the common obstructions that disrupt sleep and how to handle them effectively. Read on to combat those mid-night demons…but before that know what happens when your sleep gets disrupted.
How Nighttime Obstructions Affect Sleep?
While sleep may appear to be a restful and humble night time activity, there is much science behind it. When you sleep at night, you pass through different stages or phases of sleep-starting from light to deep. When your sleep is disrupted at any stage, your circadian rhythm is disturbed and the body has to rewind or reset its internal clock to get back on track. Going back to the initial stages deprives your body of the deep sleep stages that come later, ultimately affecting your sleep pattern.
Interrupted sleep can affect your mood, increase your irritability, and slow down your actions with dipped energy levels the next day. It also affects your cognitive thinking skills in the long run.
11 Unexpected Things that Obstruct Your Sleep
Irregular Eating Habits:
Looking forward to daily dinner with the family can be interesting especially when it is a sumptuous meal at the table with your kids and wife. However, watch out the food you eat before bedtime. Indulging in oily or spicy food at night close to bedtime can not only lead to those extra kilos but also other digestive issues like acid reflux making your nights troublesome. Try and opt for a light, fiber-rich healthy dinner at least 2-3 hours before you plan to hit the pillow. Follow the same eating schedule every day, so that your body adapts to it and sets the sleep cycle accordingly. Eating a late-night dessert or snack one day and skipping it the other day, can leave you craving for it and wake you in the middle of the night to raid your fridge. Plan your meals and snacks to create a perfect balance of health that eventually contributes to a peaceful sleep.
Late Night Exercising:
Try to wind up your training sessions and workouts at least 4-5 hours before going to sleep. When you lift weights or exercise, your body temperature increases. Your heart rate is considerably up and your body witnesses an adrenaline rush, indicating to your brain a signal of increased activity rather than unwinding and relaxing. This disrupts your sleep schedule leaving you struggling to find quality sleep. In some cases, it may lead to prolonged sleeplessness or insomnia.
However, in case you have to undergo training in the late hours of the day because of a tight schedule during the day, then it is best to follow up the work out with a cold shower. This will considerably bring down your body temperature permitting your nerve cells to relax.
Sleeping on an Empty Stomach:
While a big meal can disrupt your sleep, an empty stomach too can cause the same effect. Yes…if you have ever woken up with a growling stomach you will know how it feels. Eat a meal at night that satiates your hunger and keeps you full till morning. In case you see yourself waking up every morning because of those little midnight hunger, then supplement your dinner with a small snack like granola or energy bars.
Over-Fatigue during the Day:
Most people believe that an over-exhausted day ensures a good night of restful sleep. However, rather than hitting the pillow straight after a hectic day, try to unwind by spending some quality time with family, sharing a good chat with a friend, or simply going for a night walk. These activities help you loosen your stressed-out muscles signaling the brain to halt and proceed for sleep.
Sharing Bed with Pets:
Love your pet but always out of the bed. Sharing your sleep space with your pet is not a good idea. Animals have different sleep cycles which may not match up to yours. This means an early kick from your dog or pet who wants to be fed or wants to enjoy a little play maybe as early as 4 am, disturbing your deep sleep. Similarly, movements of pets around the bed can cause you disturbance and can obstruct your sleep. Allow pets to sleep in their designated place and discourage them from climbing on to your bed during sleep time
No doubt a regulated amount of caffeine is good for the body. It increases your metabolism, peps up energy, and alertness and prepares the body to face something new and interesting. However in hindsight, if you are aiming to unwind and sleep, caffeine can act as a bottleneck. The energy stimulating element of caffeine negatively provokes the sleep-inducing components and adversely affects the sleep schedule pattern. You are likely to wake up more during the night disturbing your deep sleep.
To put it simply, as per a recent study, the amount of caffeine taken in a double espresso drunk 3 hours before going to bed can delay your sleep by 40 odd minutes. This is just a glimpse. For those who are addicted to caffeine, it can pose serious sleep problems.
Both internal and external temperatures affect your sleep. If you have set the air conditioner at a low temperature, be ready to wake up in the middle of the night shivering to find the remote to reset it. Similarly, lying in bed with too many layers can increase your body temperature causing night sweating and disturbing your sleep. Your body sleeps best at a relatively low or comfortable temperature. Try the new Ebb CoolDrift headband that applies optimum temperature on your forehead thereby reducing metabolic activity in your brain, quietening the racing mind, and preparing you for a good and peaceful sleep.
Brain Clutter and Anxiety:
No amount of preparation on the outside can do you any good in inviting sleep if your mind is not ready to unclog and rest. So, as a thumb rule before you go to bed, leave all your worries at the doormat. This may sound easy but practically implementing it requires a lot of practice and will power. Yes, we all carry some baggage in our minds. With so much clutter and anxiety for the future, your mind refuses to unwind and relax for the day. So it is important that you consciously de-clutter that clog before preparing to sleep.
You can pen down your worries or opt for some distracting therapy like listening to soft music, meditation, or light reading. All these actions are likely to drift your mind to a less challenging environment that invites peaceful sleep throughout the night.
Avoid alcoholic and toxic drinks late in the evening or close to dinner. They may make you feel sleepy and weary but it can lead to fragmented sleep in the middle of the night, disturbing your circadian rhythm.
Long Afternoon Naps:
A small afternoon nap is always encouraged to keep you charged for the rest of the day. But check out the time and duration of the nap. A long nap in the afternoon or one towards late evening can disrupt your sleep schedule seeing you tossing and turning in bed all through the night.
Mobile Phones and Tablets:
Our sleep is hugely guided by the amount of light received by the brain. Any bright light signals a time equivalent to daytime and the brain is triggered to stay alert, whereas dim lights or darkness is a natural signal to the brain to relax and go off to sleep. When light from any gadget or source reaches the brain through the eyes, it is deceived to believe that it still needs to stay alert. Therefore, you find it difficult to doze off. To send proper signals to the brain, turn off your mobiles, tablets, and laptops at least half an hour before going to bed and try to keep them away from your bed’s vicinity so that you are least tempted to reach out to them.
While we all aim for a long, uninterrupted, and peaceful sleep all night, battling the above problems is quite common. A little effort and consciousness can go a long way in fighting these obstructions and rewarding us with rich and deep sleep…else be ready to count the night stars and feel drained when the world awakes to a new day.