For an activity that is supposed to come so naturally, sleeping is surprisingly incredibly hard. The older a person ages, the more likely he or she is to endure any of the myriad sleep disorders, from insomnia to sleep apnea to REM behavior disorder. In fact, more than half of American adults complain of at least one sleep-related problem. Everything from clothing to diet can have an impact on a person’s slumber, and sleep habits set early in life become increasingly difficult to change. Thus, many people resign themselves to a lifetime of poor sleep after failing to find a healthful slumber.
However, the benefits of a restful night of sleep are seemingly unending, and with proper work and dedication, anyone has the power to sleep deeply through the night. By making a commitment to natural sleep and taking the following steps, even the world’s worst insomniac will start sleeping like a baby.
Many poor sleepers who have a busy daily life use sleeping medication to help them drift off and sleep throughout the night. While drugs do aid in sedation, they come with a bevy of scary side effects that damage the body’s natural systems. Unexpected symptoms may be as minor as unusual dreams and changes in appetite or as serious as persistent drowsiness and uncontrollable shaking.
Moreover, many varieties of sleeping medication are incredibly addictive, which means many sleepers develop an inability to drift off without prescription aid. Though this solution seems to be the simplest, it is actually best to avoid sleeping drugs altogether or end one’s dependence as soon as possible.
Another common downer that impacts sleep is alcohol. Many devoted drinkers believe in the soporific power of their favorite hard beverages; however, frequent hangover sufferers can attest to persistent sleepiness felt for days after a night of heavy drinking.
Research has shown that sleep induced by alcohol will be sound for part of the night but highly disrupted afterwards, resulting in an unsatisfying rest period. Alcohol consumption should be severely limited to times well before you try to sleep, if not cut out completely.
It isn’t just one’s dependence on depressants that can cause difficulty sleeping. In fact, more significant culprits are the uppers a sleep-deprived individual uses to stay awake. The most common uppers found in the United States are the caffeine and nicotine people ingest daily through coffee and cigarettes. These uppers remain in the body much longer than one might assume, which results in chronic sleep problems for many users.
The average caffeine addict drinks about three cups of coffee every day to function normally. This amount of caffeine will remain in the individual’s system for around 12 hours, so even if the coffee pot is empty before noon, a normal coffee drinker will feel the effects into the night. Unfortunately, even ceasing caffeine intake can result in sleep problems, as caffeine withdrawal can cause dramatic symptoms like nausea, shaking, headaches and increased heart rate, all of which detract from relaxing sleep.
Smoking cigarettes also contributes to poor sleep, though not in the extreme way that caffeine does. Most smokers demonstrate an imbalanced sleeping pattern: They achieve more light sleep than deep sleep, which means they awake without feeling rested. Researchers have narrowed the cause for this to the extra nicotine present in the system at the start of sleep and the body’s cravings for the addictive substance as morning approaches.
Fortunately, e-cigarettes may lessen the impact smoking has on insomnia. Because e-cigs allow smokers to control the amount of nicotine they inhale, smokers can achieve deeper sleep by cutting down on nicotine doses later in the day. In this way, smokers can avoid the harmful effects of withdrawals while fostering a more restful sleeping pattern.
Even sleepers who maintain a perfect diet — one that lacks both depressants and stimulants — may have difficulty sleeping thanks to excessive stress. Stress has a profound impact on almost all of the body’s systems; everything from cardiovascular health to mental stability depends on the limitation of stress. However, stress and sleep problems have a complicated, interconnected relationship — the increase in one directly leads to the increase in the other, irrespective of which is which.
Cutting back on work and home responsibilities and devoting more time to leisure activities will likely interrupt the dangerous sleepless-stressful cycle. While these lifestyle changes begin, stressed sleepers can feel more rested by avoiding work for more than an hour before bedtime and enjoying soothing activities like reading or bathing just before drifting off.