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Published on September 24, 2018

The Common Causes of Sleep Problems (And How to Fix Them Fast)

The Common Causes of Sleep Problems (And How to Fix Them Fast)

By now, the importance of getting a good nights sleep is settled science. While research varies on how much sleep is ideal, no one doubts that sleep is critical to optimal health, performance and mood.

That said, we don’t need research to recognize the benefits of sleep. We see it for ourselves. Without sleep we feel less energetic and alert. Our memories are poorer, reaction times slower. Some of us are less happy, more irritable and moody.

But a good nights sleep remains elusive for millions of people. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 3 adults don’t get the recommended amount of 7 hours per sleep per night.[1]

We’re going to show you 10 of the most common sleep problems, why do you have these issues and how to fix them without drugs or medication.

1. Anxiety

How many times does your mind lock onto a work or family issue, conversation you replay over and over again or challenge you face as you try to get to sleep. You lie awake desperately trying to rid yourself of the worry, but the issue plays in your mind over and over again.

Solution

There are several strategies you can employ to try to calm your mind.

First, get up and go to another room, keeping the lights off. Your anxious thoughts will usually disappear immediately. Then go back to your room and get to sleep.

Second, try reading a book until you’ve gotten your mind off your worries. Wait until you’re sleepy enough and nod off to sleep.

Another solution is to write a list of what you need to get done the following day, before you go to bed. Feeling disorganized can cause significant anxiety. Writing a “To Do” list will calm your nerves and help you tackle your day when you wake up.

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2. Snoring

Trying to get to sleep with a trombone in your ear is no easy task. Barring exchanging your snoring spouse for a non-snoring one, or sleeping in separate rooms, there are a few things you can do to return some quiet to your life.

Solution

First, ask your partner to sleep on their side. That may work long enough for you to get to sleep before they start snoring.

Second, try listening to sound cancelling white noise with headphones while you sleep. The challenge will be ensuring your ear phones stay in your ears while you toss and turn throughout the night. But if you can find a pair that stay snug, white noise works wonders.

Lastly, see if your partner can try a new pillow, losing wait, avoiding alcohol before bead, or breath right strips.

3. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea and snoring are night the same.[2] Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

However, many people who have sleep apnea snore. It basically results in the inability for you to breeth freely while you sleep. It’s caused by a “floppy”, narrow throat.

When you have trouble breathing, you wake up. This can occur repeatedly throughout the night, making it difficult if not impossible to get uninterrupted sleep.

Solution

The most common non-surgical treatments are weight loss, oxygen, position changes and oral appliances.

The most common treatment, with the highest success rate, is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). Basically, an oxygen mask is placed over your nose and mouth and the air that is blown into you, keeps the airway from collapsing.

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4. Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is an involuntary urge to move your legs while your asleep or resting. It can also be accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling in your legs.

Restless leg syndrome can make it difficult for both you and your partner to sleep and stay asleep during the night.

Solution

Restless leg syndrome can be treated.[3] Aside from medications, too little iron can also be a cause of restless leg syndrome.

Give your doctor a visit, as you may want to get tested for iron deficiency and discuss the best way to increase your iron intake, whether through diet, supplements or intravenously.

5. Temperature

Too hot, or too cold and it’s difficult to get a good sleep. We all know the feeling of tossing and turning as our sheets stick to our bodies on a hot night.

Solution

Air conditioning is the obvious and easiest way to control the temperature while you sleep. But if that’s not available, fans can work remarkably well.

Have the right covers on hand. A duvet or warm blanket for cool nights and a lighter blanket or sheet for hot nights. You can also adjust your clothing, even sleeping in your birthday suit to keep yourself cool!

6. Raging Hormones

Mostly afflicting women during menopause, varying levels of estrogen and progesterone can play havoc with your sleep.

Even before hot flashes, you may notice yourself waking up in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason.

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Solution

To help, try sleeping in a cooler room and wearing lighter clothing. You can also try exercising earlier in the day and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

If none of that works, you can speak to your doctor about hormone therapy.

7. Alcohol

We usually think alcohol make a good “nightcap”, helping us go to sleep. While that’s true for the first half of your sleep, research has shown that it actually contributes to disturbed sleep the second half of your night![4]

Moreover, the same research shows that people develop a rapid tolerance to alcohol, making it ineffective as a sleep inducer after only a few weeks.

Solution

The solution is simple, stay off the drink.

If you find that having some wine with dinner sits well with you, keep at it.

However, if you can’t figure out why you’re waking up in the middle of the night, see if cutting out the alcohol helps. Especially if you’re having a drink to help you go to bed.

8. Caffeine

Great for the morning. At night? Not so much.

You may find that as you get older, you get even more sensitive to the wakeful effects of caffeine.

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Solution

Avoid caffeine later in the day. In fact, with caffeine staying in the system for up to 10 hours, some people can feel the effects of caffeine from lunch!

While some like the calming effects of tea in the evening, try herbal teas or caffeine-free tea after dinner. Have decaf coffee for dessert after dinner.

Other caffeine culprits to avoid in the evening, colas, energy bars, many hot chocolates, some decaf coffee, energy drinks, sport drinks and chocolate.

9. Clock Watching

Nothing is more frustrating than telling yourself you want to sleep by 11:00, only to see 11:01, 11:02, 11:03…. showing up on your clock. Or what about when you wake up at 4 am and realize you only have another 2 hours of sleep before your alarm rings.

Stressful.

Watching the clock only makes you more anxious and frustrated.

Solution

Get rid of all the clocks, watches and phones by your bed. None should be visible or reachable from your bed. This will prevent you from catching a peak of the time in the middle of the night and rid you of one more piece of anxiety you don’t need.

Just close your eyes and go back to bed. Knowing the time won’t help you get more sleep. However, it more than likely will keep you up at night.

Conclusion

No matter which sleep affliction keeps you up at night, there are several things you can do to increase the odds of a good nights sleep:

  1. Exercise daily
  2. Use your bed for sleep and sex – no work, no TV
  3. Keep your bedroom at the right temperature for you
  4. Don’t eat too much before bed
  5. Don’t drink alcohol, caffeine or chocolate before bed
  6. Solve the issue that’s keeping you up at night. See a doctor if necessary.

Find out the reason why you’re having sleep problems and fix it with the suitable solution.

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Center for Disease Control and Prevention: 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep
[2] Healthy Sleep Harvard Med: Understanding OSA
[3] Mayo Clinic: Restless legs syndrome
[4] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use

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Marc Felgar

Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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