With sleep deprivation and sleep disorders gaining in attention and awareness in the United States, there is no question that solutions are highly desired. Thirty percent of Americans report some kind of sleep disruption, and though there are plenty of people who suffer from eating disorders, there is a good chance that sleep is the one natural process that people struggle with the most. There are a number of reasons for this, including the low priority that we place on sleep, our busy social lives, demanding work lives, and the high number of high-tech distractions that pull even the most tired of us into a few more minutes on our electronic devices. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that as a society our circadian rhythms are off kilter and we’re having a more and more difficult time getting the sleep that we need.
The good news is that as more research is dedicated to the issue, more solutions become available, and we understand many of the factors that are contributing to the problem. The first step in meeting the challenge of getting better sleep is to understand exactly what is causing our problem. Here are the top five things causing sleep problems in America.
Pain from joints
Anyone who has ever tried to go to sleep while they’re in pain knows that it is nearly impossible. Tossing and turning to find a position that feels comfortable can be a stressful, frustrating experience, and depending upon the cause of your pain may be impossible. Further complicating the issue is the fact that lack of sleep can make the experience of pain even more intense. Much of the difficulty also comes from the specific type of pain or the cause of the pain – if it is coming from a hip or a shoulder than the simple act of rolling over may provide relief, but if you’re asleep that’s something that you can’t tell yourself to do, and therefore you may be making the pain even worse for the following night.
One of the top ways to prevent yourself from sleeping in a position that is causing you discomfort is to borrow a trick that many people uses on snorers – a tennis ball. In the case of people with sleep apnea or snoring issues, sleep partners often sew a tennis ball into a pajama pocket or a pocket on the back of the pajama top. Using the same kind of strategy to get yourself to sleep in a different position can help ease joint pain and allow you to get a good night’s sleep.
Bed Partner Causing Disruption
It is a frustrating experience when the person that you share your bed with is causing your sleep difficulties and your daytime fatigue, but that happens quite frequently. The problem is rarely a result of purposeful actions. Instead, the partner usually is unconscious of the fact that they are snoring loudly or tossing and turning to a disruptive degree. The top response to problems with a snoring bed partner is to wear earplugs, but some people find them uncomfortable and they may even cause ear problems. The other issue is that ignoring your partner’s snoring may be exposing them to the risk of their own health problems, most specifically sleep apnea. For snorers, the best answer is to seek medical attention. For those whose partners are awakening them because of a difference in sleep patterns, there are a number of ways that they can awaken without loud alarms that wake you and they can climb into bed without disrupting you if you’re already asleep. Check out alarms that vibrate, eye masks for your own use, and even sleeping in separate bedrooms.
Late Night Anxiety
One of the top reasons that people have a hard time falling to sleep at night is the presence of racing thoughts when it’s time for them to relax. The more you’re worrying about what the next day holds, the less sleep you’re likely to get, and that can make whatever you’re worrying about even worse. Sleep specialists recommend that you try to use aromatherapy, as when you smell something positive like lavender or a chocolate chip cookie, it sets your brain up to anticipate something pleasurable and stop focusing on fear. Lemon is also effective, and so are white noise machines that give your brain something else to focus on. Binaural beats have proven to be particularly effective, as the two concurrent sounds that are heard at similar frequencies have been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety.
Poor Sleep Environment
One of the first things that any sleep specialist will tell a person suffering from insomnia is that they need to make sure that their sleep environment is conducive to a good night’s sleep. This means that the room has to be sufficiently dark, noiseless and cool, and that the bed that you are sleeping on needs to be very comfortable. Take a close look at your window coverings to make sure that they are effectively blocking light, and keep your thermostat turned down to about 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Check to make sure that your bed is providing the proper support, and invest in sheets and blankets that are soft and comfortable.
Waking Up in the Middle of the Night
One of the most frustrating things that can happen is when you awaken in the middle of the night from an apparently sound sleep. Whether it’s a result of having to go to the bathroom or if you’re waking up for an unknown reason, falling back to sleep can be difficult, and the more that you focus on the fact that you’re awake, the harder it can be. If you are finding yourself awakening in the middle of the night frequently, check with your doctor to eliminate any potential medical problems. Otherwise, take a look at your own habits. Are you drinking too much alcohol during the evening? Spending too much time on electronic devices immediately before going to sleep? There are many issues that can disrupt your sleep cycle, and most of these are easily addressed once they’re identified.