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When the alarm clock goes off, you immediately feel angry — you barely slept the night before and are too exhausted to start the day. You force yourself out of bed and groggily put on a pot of coffee or tea. You know the day ahead is going to be rough, and you just have to get through it and hopefully get some sleep tonight.
Does this sound like your morning routine? This is a common cycle that a lot of people experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to improve your sleep quality, even if you’ve struggled with sleep for years.
Why Sleep Is So Important
When you have a sleep deficiency, you can suffer both immediate and long-term problems. For example, if you’re not alert on the road because you’re behind on sleep, you have a higher chance of getting into an accident. Over time, sleep deficiency can have negative effects including:
- Decreased ability to get along with other people
- Difficulty thinking, learning, making decisions, and reacting
- Greater risk for chronic health issues, like obesity or recurring headaches
- Problems at school or work
- Trouble coping with change and controlling emotions
Sleep is a large component of your health and well-being at every age. When you have good sleep habits, you’ll better protect your physical and mental health, as well as your safety and overall quality of life. How you feel throughout the day depends greatly on how well you sleep in general.
Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep
There are a number of reasons why you may have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling well-rested in the morning:
- Bad sleep hygiene: Your choices, behaviors, and habits are making it difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep. Your sleep environment may be keeping you up, or an always-changing sleep schedule could be the culprit.
- Circadian rhythm disorder: When your body wants to sleep at the “wrong” time of day, like much earlier or later than normal, it can be hard to fall asleep at a proper bedtime. Melatonin or phototherapy (using a light box to signal when you should be awake and asleep) can get you on a healthier sleep schedule.
- Insomnia: Even with proper sleep hygiene, you may still have trouble falling or staying asleep if you suffer from insomnia. It’s also possible that the sleep you are able to get is of poor quality. Insomnia can be short-term or chronic.
- Allergies: Springtime headaches can seriously hinder your ability to get adequate sleep. If you struggle with sleep during certain seasons, allergies may be to blame. Try over-the-counter medications to reduce the effects of allergies. If these do not help, consider seeing a doctor.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS): A person with RLS will feel an uncomfortable sensation in one or both legs as they try to fall asleep. Sometimes there are uncontrollable leg movements that accompany RLS, or the individual may only find comfort by moving their legs. Wrapping a heating pad around the part of your leg that’s irritated can help. Don’t fall asleep with it on; just leave it on for long enough to calm your RLS.
While some treatments are easy to do on your own, especially when it comes to improving sleep hygiene, more serious conditions, like chronic insomnia, should be diagnosed and treated by a professional.
How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Even if you’re a lifelong bad sleeper, it’s possible to improve your sleep quality and get a much better night’s rest.
- Steer clear of alcohol, cigarettes, and rich meals in the evening, all of which can keep you revved up and unable to fall asleep. These substances can make mindfulness all but impossible.
- Adhere to a sleep schedule by always going to bed and waking up at the same time, even on the weekends. At first, you may not get a lot of sleep, but by training your body to rest and wake up at certain times, it’ll become more natural.
- Create a bedtime ritual that will help you relax. You may want to take a warm bath or shower, drink a cup of warm milk topped with cinnamon, listen to soft music, or read a book (so long as it’s not a page-turner). Think outside the box, too ; if you have trouble winding down for bed, CBD oil or over-the-counter sleep aids can ease anxiety and get you yawning before you know it.
- Consider getting a new mattress. If you can’t get comfortable in your bed or you wake up with aches and pains, it could be time to replace or upgrade your mattress.
If you lay in bed for an hour and don’t feel any closer to sleep, get up, go into another room, and do something until you feel sleepy again. Repeat your bedtime ritual. Just make sure that you choose an activity that’s calming.
Sleep quality is far too important to ignore. Your health and safety, not to mention the safety of others, depend on it. If you want to protect your health and your relationships while improving your life, focus on getting better sleep every night. If you’re unable to treat more serious sleep conditions, see a professional who can help.