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5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

5 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well, and How to Fix the Problem

Nothing gets your day started on the right foot better than a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, spending hours tossing and turning all night will almost assuredly lead to a slow start the next morning. Of course, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t as simple as laying down and closing your eyes. Your body and mind needs to be prepared to spend eight hours at rest. A lot can get in the way of a good night’s sleep, but with proper care for yourself and your environment, you can optimize your chances of resting well.

Thinking too much

We lead busy lives – there’s no doubt about that. Some of us fill our daily lives with dozens, if not hundreds, of responsibilities and obligations. So it makes sense that, when we lay down to sleep for the night, our brain starts reminding us of everything it thinks we should be doing instead of laying dormant for eight hours. Unfortunately, when this happens, we often get caught in a thought-loop that makes it impossible to fall asleep. Or, if we do fall asleep, something in our dreams will wake us up and cause us to start thinking again, denying us the deep REM sleep we need to become fully rested.

To alleviate this problem of overthinking, you can start using your time during the day more wisely. Procrastinating a few minutes here and there might not seem like much, but if you add them all up you’ll realize you waste much more time than you initially thought (don’t worry, I’m guilty, too). Try to get as much work done as you can during the day, and spend your evenings relaxing and letting your worries fall away until the following morning.

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If your thoughts become too cyclical, get out of bed for a few minutes and take a walk around your house. Sometimes the simple act of removing yourself physically from a situation will allow you to remove any negative thoughts that have been running through your head.

Muscle soreness

Getting a good night’s sleep is all about finding that perfect spot in bed that gives you the comfort needed to drift off to dreamland. Of course, if it’s physically impossible to get comfortable in the first place, you’re going to end up tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning. Constant neck and back pain can disrupt your sleep patterns, or keep you from falling asleep in the first place, no matter how exhausted you are.

If you’re generally in good shape and healthy, the problem might not be on your end. It might be your mattress. Your choice of mattress should never be taken lightly: it’s where you’ll spend a third of your day, every day of your life. Find a mattress that conforms to the contours of your body, while also giving you the support you need in all the right places. When it comes to adjusting or replacing it, rather than going by a timeline (every three years, for example), go by when it’s necessary. You might end up replacing your mattress earlier than you thought you’d have to, but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, right?

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Irregular sleeping habits

Back in your college days, you could get away with staying up until two in the morning and sleeping ‘til ten, and taking hour-long naps in the middle of the day without it affecting your nightly sleep schedule. I hate to break it to you, but those days are long gone. Now, sleeping in on Sunday morning will mean you’ll get to bed later come Sunday night. And work doesn’t start at noon on Monday like your classes used to; you’ll have to get up and moving whether your body’s ready or not.

The best way to battle this is to keep a routine and stick to it. I don’t mean you need to wake up at five in the morning over the weekend, but you shouldn’t sleep more than an hour later than usual. By sacrificing some sleep time on the weekend, you ensure you won’t absolutely hate yourself come Monday morning. If you absolutely need to rest in the middle of the day, or after a long day of work, set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes. Any longer and you’ll fake your brain out, making it think it should be settling in for the night – and then you’ll have a tougher time getting to bed later on that night.

Irregular eating habits

Whether you’re going to bed too hungry or too full, neither is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Obviously, if your stomach is growling for food and cramping up, you’re not going to be able to just ignore it. On the other hand, however, if you spend your evening gorging on snacks full of salt or sugar, you’re going to be much too bloated to get comfortable – and will probably have to take a trip or two to the bathroom overnight, as well.

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If you must eat before bed, do so about an hour before you lay down. But be careful with the food you choose. Ignore the chocolate donuts, and opt for the more healthy fruit, salad, or protein-rich cheese and eggs. The lighter fare will satisfy your hunger, but won’t bog you down for the rest of the night. Save the sweets for your cheat day.

Too much “noise”

“Noise,” in this sense, refers to any extraneous stimuli that causes a disruption in your sleep pattern. From nightlights and car alarms to pets and a messy room, noise can distract your mind in a variety of ways and keep you from nodding off at night. These stimuli keep your brain active and alert, whether you want it to be or not. The anticipation of feeling your cat jump on your bed or hearing a car horn blare in your complex’s parking lot inhibits your brain’s ability to let down its guard, meaning you won’t be getting to sleep any time soon.

Of course, there are many ways to deal with these distractions and ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Turn off any small lights at night – especially ones that blink (from your computer, for example). Combat intermittent noise from outside with the constant hum of a fan or air conditioner; the droning sound can actually be comforting. Close your door at night so your pets aren’t constantly jumping on and off your bed (and your body). Finally, clean up the area around your bed. You might not consciously realize it, but a room full of “stuff” can subconsciously cause your mind to continue working long after you’ve laid down. Once all external stimuli are stifled, you’ll be free to drift off and enjoy your slumber.

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Featured photo credit: Insomnia / Emil Johansson via farm5.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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