10 Surprising Things That Are Messing Up Your Sleep


Kick these shut-eye killers to the curb, and make your whole life better—overnight

Beyond the obvious sleep-wreckers like bad hotel beds and booze, a lot of things stand between you and a good night’s rest. Here are ten surprising factors that might be keeping you from catching a solid 8 hours a night.

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Sure, during sex you want things to heat up. The rest of the time, though, you should keep your cool. Keeping your thermostat between 68° and 74°F promotes solid slumber, says psychiatrist and sleep specialist Tracey Marks, M.D., the author of Master Your Sleep.

Your body clock regulates your core temperature, and its fluctuations tell you when to sleep and when to wake up, she says.

“You’re coolest in the middle of the night, when sleep is deepest.” If you’re too warm, your internal alarm assumes it’s time to rise, and sleep becomes fitful.

If the idea of cooling your entire house gives you nightmares, consider installing a “slave thermostat” to regulate only your bedroom temp. You can also tackle the problem lying down by using 400-thread-count cotton sheets.

“It’s the opposite of memory foam, which retains your body heat,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the sleep medicine center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The gel maintains a surface temperature that’s lower than the mattress’s, creating cooler contact points.”

“Decreased financial resources leads to worry over paying bills, and you may be required to work more,” Dr. Marks says. “The physical and mental overload increases activity in your brain, causing you to ‘think yourself awake.’”

This is when frustrated insomniacs often resort to distraction tactics, such as television. But even though watching TV may calm your racing mind, the flickering light will interrupt secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, causing a less-than-restful night.

You’ll need to wage chemical warfare. Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which has been linked to insomnia, says Dr. Marks. Endorphins, the brain’s “happy chemicals,” have a relaxing effect.

Sex or masturbation causes a rush of endorphins, but there’s an even quicker fix: humor. Try watching a funny 3-minute video on YouTube, Dr. Marks suggests.

If you still wake up fretting in the night, try counting sheep. Seriously. Counting occupies space in your brain’s “articulatory loop,” the part that processes ongoing information, according to a 2010 study review in Insomnia and Anxiety. The loop’s capacity is limited, so the fluffy guys crowd out unwanted thoughts.

If daytime heartburn is a pain, a midnight attack is a nightmare.

“It can stir you awake, often multiple times throughout the night,” says William Orr, Ph.D., a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma.

Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occur when the valve between your stomach and esophagus malfunctions, allowing acid to seep past. Some patients wake up choking or coughing, while others don’t consciously rouse but still feel drained in the morning. People with nighttime heartburn often wake up with a bitter taste in the mouth or a sore throat.

Beyond avoiding oversize meals and spicy food before bed, try a sleeping wedge to elevate your head a few inches above the rest of your body.

“It’s a lot easier for acid to creep out of your stomach and into your esophagus if you’re lying flat,” Dr. Winter says.

If you like to sleep on your side, curl up on your left side.

On you right side, the sphincter between your stomach and esophagus may stay open longer, letting acid flow freely, a study review in the Archives of Internal Medicine found.

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Source: Men’s Health | Amy Levin-Epstein

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