If you suffer from poor sleep quality, you’ve probably tried all the classic advice: Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Avoid large meals before bed. Implement a regular bedtime routine that helps you relax. Reduce stress in your daily life.
But sometimes, the classic advice doesn’t cut it. And poor sleep quality, when left unresolved, can wreak havoc on your life. Chronic low-quality sleep can impact virtually every area of your life, from your mood, memory, and decision-making abilities to your physical health.
If you’ve tried all the classic better-sleep strategies but you’re still feeling tired every day, then your sleep deprivation might stem from a more unusual source. Here are six surprising factors that might be ruining your sleep.
1. Sleeping pills.
This seems counterintuitive. Don’t people take sleeping pills to help their sleep? Yes, of course. The problem isn’t taking sleeping pills every once in a while. Instead, troubles arise when you over-rely on sleeping pills.
Using sleeping pills for more than a few weeks at a time can cause your body to become dependent on them. That means your sleep quality is going to suffer as soon as you go off the pills. Even though it might be tempting to pop a pill for a quick fix every night, you’re better off finding more sustainable solutions for quality sleep.
2. Washing your face before bed.
Many people wash their face each night as part of their bedtime routine. This may be good for your complexion, but it can also inhibit your ability to fall asleep. That’s because getting splashed in the face with cold water shocks the body into alertness. This has an energizing effect—and that’s the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to wind down. As an alternative, consider using warm water to wash your face at night.
If you really can’t give up the cold water, then consider going all out. There’s some evidence that holding your face in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds can trigger the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate and can facilitate sleepiness. The difference here is the duration your face is exposed to cold: A splash will wake you up, while (relatively) long exposure will slow down your bodily systems.
3. Peppermint toothpaste.
Note: I am not advising you to stop brushing your teeth at night. But do consider using a flavor other than peppermint. The scent of peppermint has been shown to have an energizing effect that reduces sleepiness, boosts alertness, increase physical energy, and charges up the central nervous system. None of those things are conducive to falling asleep.
4. Charging your phone.
You probably know to avoid screens (whether phone, tablet, computer, or TV) in the hour leading up to bed. That’s because blue light (the kind emitted by electronics) stimulates wakefulness and messes with circadian rhythms.
What you might not realize is that even a tiny amount of light can disrupt your sleep. That includes the light on your phone, tablet, or computer that turns on when the device is being charged. To avoid this sleep disruption, charge your devices during the day or charge them outside the bedroom if you need to recharge at night.
5. Your sleeping surface.
It won’t surprise anyone that sleeping on a mattress is going to be more conducive to sleep than, say, sleeping in a car or on the recliner in your living room. So, start by sleeping on an actual bed every night. But don’t stop there. It’s important to know that not all mattresses are created equal.
Study after study has found that uncomfortable mattresses can inhibit sleep quality and cause chronic joint pain. In a negative feedback loop, that joint pain can further degrade sleep quality (it’s hard to doze off when you’re in pain).
For these reasons, it’s critical to invest in finding the right mattress for you. There is no “one best” mattress out there; it’s all about what feels best for your body. The benefits of sleeping on a comfortable mattress include joint pain relief, a healthier spine, improved circulation, and better sleep quality overall.
6. Fifi or Fido.
If your pets sleep in the bed with you, they might be ruining your chances at a good night’s sleep. Studies have found sleeping with a pet can cause sleep disruptions throughout the night and reduce sleep quality overall.
It’s not a guarantee that your pet is wreaking havoc on your sleep—some people find sleeping with an animal can provide a sense of comfort that facilitates sound sleep. But if you’re suffering from poor sleep, it’s worth experimenting with whether you sleep better when Fifi or Fido stays on the floor.
Chronic sleep deprivation is no joke. It can mess with every aspect of your health and decrease your quality of life. So, it’s worth pursuing the issue until you’ve identified the true source of your poor sleep quality—even if it stems from an unusual cause.
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