11. Blood Sugar Levels
While perhaps not as obvious as some of the other ways sleep can be disturbed, blood sugar levels can also affect sleep quality. Monitoring blood sugar, or glucose, levels is more applicable to people with diabetes, who are more apt to experience serious dips or spikes in their blood glucose levels during the night.
To maintain healthy blood glucose levels throughout the sleep cycle, it is important for people with diabetes — especially type 1 — to check their blood sugar before bed and act accordingly if the level is too high or low. It is also recommended for people with diabetes to avoid late-night exercise and drinking alcohol before bed, both of which cause blood glucose levels to drop.
12. Old Or Uncomfortable Bed
It’s not news that a comfortable mattress helps with a good night’s sleep, but many might not even realize their mattress might be culpable for their tossing and turning. Old mattresses tend to lose their give, and become less comfortable in imperceptible ways that can affect sleep.
An old mattress has collected a wealth of dead skin, body oils, and dust mites over the years. Experts from The Ohio State University have found that a typical mattress can house up to 10 million dust mites. This can be detrimental for those with asthma especially because dust mites can make it harder for them to breathe and, ultimately, disrupt their sleep cycle.
13. Exercising Too Close To Bedtime
Late night gym sessions or any high-intensity exercise too close to bedtime might disrupt the quality of sleep. Dr. Kennedy says the rule of thumb used to be to stop exercising no less than four hours prior to going to sleep in order to allow adequate time for the body to settle back into a normal heart rate and body temperature. However, she points out that exercise affects everyone a little differently.
“Some people are less sensitive to [exercise], and their body returns to normal more quickly, or their sleep is not affected by it,” said Dr. Kennedy. “So, I wouldn’t run 10 miles at 10 o’clock and then try to go to bed at 11.” She added, “There’s not such a hard and fast rule anymore on that, but if you’re struggling with sleep then it’s certainly better to be conservative and dial that back.”
14. Physical Inactivity
While exercising too close to bedtime can be disruptive to a good night’s sleep, not exercising at all during the day can also lead to inadequate sleep. The best time to exercise is during the morning or afternoon, both of which can improve sleep. According to the NSF, people who work out in the morning reportedly experience deeper and longer sleep cycles and spend 75% more time in the most restorative stages of sleep compared with those who work out later in the day.
Working out in the afternoon also has its advantages. Our body temperatures tend to be a bit higher midday, unlike when we first rise out of bed. This enables our muscles to work more efficiently, which yields to a stronger athletic performance. Working out also raises body temperature for up to five hours. So finishing a workout at 5 p.m. will allow the body temperature to drop back to normal typically no later than 10 p.m., which signals the body to start winding down. Exercise also reduces stress, another factor that contributes to sleepless nights.
An anxious mind, ridden with worry and scattered thoughts, can disturb the sleep cycle. Not only does stress contribute to lack of sleep, but sleep deprivation can heighten stress levels. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 21% of adults reported feeling more stressed when they did not get enough sleep. However, there are certain habits people can adopt to alleviate stress and encourage relaxation prior to bedtime.
“A very basic strategy that I love, and recommend to everyone, is just reading an actual book, preferably fiction and definitely not self help,” said Dr. Kennedy.
Before going to bed, Dr. Kennedy also encourages people to write down what they accomplished during the day, as well as what they need to accomplish tomorrow, into what she calls a work journal. The stress of future tasks often keeps people up during the night. Writing down these tasks relieves the brain of the stress of remembering it all and ultimately allows for deeper sleep.