There are a lot of different elements that can interfere with our sleeping patterns. Some of them may be down to how we nap during the day, while others can be more related to the environment that we’re trying to sleep in. However, even if you try to create the best possible sleeping routine around, there are niggling medical and body issues that can still get in the way. Here, we’re going to look at some of those particular causes of sleep issues, and what you can do about them.
Know the difference between insomnia and not
If you have been up working late and then find it difficult to immediately go to sleep after, if you nap during the day and, as a result, don’t seem as much at night, or if there is any similar short-term issue affecting your sleep, then you might not have a lot to worry about. Usually, just changing the affecting behavior can help you get the quality and quantity of sleep that you need. Insomnia is when you’re unable to sleep even when you’ve set the evening up for a perfect night’s rest. Don’t worry yourself that you’re dealing with insomnia if, for instance, you can’t sleep after a late-night snack. Look at the other things that might be affecting your sleep schedule.
One of the most common causes of insomnia is feelings of stress, especially when they are chronic. When we are stressed, our body produces more cortisol which, amongst other things, makes us more alert and tenses our body, making it harder to go to sleep. Stress and sleeplessness can have a cyclical relationship as well, as not getting enough sleep can be a major cause of long-term stress. As such, you might want to look at treating the stress, be it through practices like mindfulness meditation, using essential oils to help you relax, or even getting some exercise in the evening (but not too close to bedtime as exercise can keep you up, too.)
Heartburn and indigestion
Some people are more prone to heartburn than others. For some people, heartburn can even get worse when you’re lying in bed, as the lack of gravity makes it easier for stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Antacids can help, but if you’re experiencing this on a regular basis, it may be due to something like GERD, which is worth taking the time to treat properly with a doctor. Antacids are not designed to be used every day for weeks on end, for instance. You might also want to avoid heavy or fatty foods in the evening, and refrain from drinking coffee and alcohol before bed. Adjusting your position on the bed may help as well, such as by elevating your upper-body on by lying on your left side.
When you’ve got a bad itch, it can be really hard to ignore it. In fact, it’s tempting to spend the whole time scratching it while you’re in bed. There are a host of different causes of itchy skin that you might want to take a look at. Dry skin is a very common one, and can get worse if you’re not drinking water, or getting dehydrated. If your skin itches at night and you’re also experiencing rashes, dry scale patches on your skin, or other skin-related issues, you might want to talk to a dermatologist, as these are very common causes, too. Others can experience itchiness due to certain medications, and you might want to talk to your doctor about switching them out if you’re really having trouble getting to sleep because of them.
Restless leg syndrome
Do you feel the urge to move, tap, or vibrate your leg on a regular basis? Do you also feel any odd pains or sensations in your body, that can feel like a throbbing, tugging, or burning feeling? Then you might be experiencing restless leg syndrome, which can be caused by all manner of different health issues, so it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at, as the root problem can be anything from iron deficiency to diabetes. If you have ever woken up only to find that one of your legs has lost feeling, it might be an acute case of restless leg syndrome and it’s worth talking to your doctor about as soon as you can.
Another very common cause of chronic sleep issues is sleep apnea. Essentially, this is when you stop breathing when you’re sleeping, whether it’s due to some manner of obstruction in the nose or throat, or otherwise. When you stop breathing, your body shocks itself awake so you can breathe again, but this can eventually start to be very harmful because of how much it affects your sleep. There are a lot of different treatments for sleep apnea that may work depending on the cause and severity of the disorder, from using a CPAP mask to make sure that you’re getting more oxygen delivered directly, to using surgery to remove any obstructions that might be stopping your breathing at night. If you have the symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s best to start looking for the right treatment sooner rather than later.
Hormonal changes in the body
Hormones regulate and affect many different processes in our body, including how we sleep. For women, there are a few times in particular when hormones can make it a lot more difficult to sleep. Pregnancy is one such time, and combines with the discomfort of the added weight of a growing fetus. The lack of production of progesterone and estrogen in menopause, as well as hot flashes, can make it very uncomfortable at night time. Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder can also make it a lot more difficult to sleep. If any of these issues are affecting your sleep on a regular basis, your doctor might be able to prescribe hormones to help.
A ringing in your ears
If you hear a ringing in your ears, or any other repeating sounds at night, while trying to sleep, this is known as tinnitus. For a lot of people who experience tinnitus, it might only happen at night when you’re trying to sleep, or might happen throughout the day but be more severe at night because of the quiet. Either way, it can be very distracting and keeps a lot of people up at night. Your audiologist could help you find the right treatment for tinnitus, whether it’s addressing untreated hearing loss or making use of things like white noise machines to help you attenuate to the sound at night, making it easier to sleep.
Having to pee in the night
A lot of people have the experience of having to get up once or maybe even twice in the night to go and pee. Older adults, especially, are more prone to this. However, if you’re getting up five or six times each night, then you might want to talk to your doctor about nocturia. It could be an indication of any number of issues, such as diabetes, a urinary tract infection, liver failure, or something else. There are different medications for nocturia, as well as behavioral treatments that are worth looking into.
If you’re experiencing a sleep disorder, the single best thing is to talk to your doctor about it, as well as any of the issues above that you think might be affecting you. There are all kinds of treatments that can help with sleep that may be worth a closer look.