When was the last time you enjoyed a truly restful and full night’s sleep and woke up the next morning feeling completely refreshed and ready to conquer the day?
A few years ago, I noticed that my own sleep patterns were taking a turn for the worse. It was affecting my life in extremely negative ways.
I was tossing and turning, waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, and most of the time, I struggled or failed to go back to sleep. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, you just have too much going on in your mind to be able to rest.
Good, restorative sleep isn’t about hitting the seven-to-eight-hour mark—although that’s the recommended minimum amount of sleep time for most adults. It also means getting a total REM sleep cycle with either very few or no interruptions.
Sleep fragmentation, i.e. interrupted sleep, is a real condition that affects about half of the American adult population. It might seem like it’s not a big deal, but it can actually have some serious repercussions.
The Health Effects of Sleep Fragmentation
Lack of proper sleep has been linked to various physical and cognitive problems such as dementia, depression, declining mental functions (e.g. memory loss), sleep apnea, nighttime urination (nocturia), heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stress, anxiety, extreme fatigue, and so much more.
The thing that makes this condition even more harrowing is that it’s usually both a cause and a symptom of the abovementioned ailments.
Sleep fragmentation isn’t the same thing as not being able to fall asleep, although the two conditions do often go hand in hand. It’s actually the inability to stay asleep throughout the night due to any number of reasons. In some cases, certain prescription medications could be the culprit.
Electronic Devices Disrupt Sleep Cycles
In my case, I realized I’d developed a bad habit that almost every person in the free world is guilty of doing. I used to watch videos, TV shows, or movies on my TV, laptop, tablet, or cellphone right before going to bed. This is one of the worst things you can do before trying to fall asleep.
The blue light emitted by these devices is a brain stimulant that’s akin to large doses of caffeine. Every time you stare at your screen for a prolonged period of time, it’s like you’re slowly sipping a hot cup of coffee.
Your brain produces the highest amount of melatonin—a naturally occurring hormone that regulates your sleep and waking cycle—in the dark. Staring at a screen that produces such strong lighting stimulates your brain and tricks it into thinking that it’s not yet time to sleep, no matter how tired or exhausted you actually feel. You’re actively forcing your mind to stay awake.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
If you’re like me, then the simple answer is to just stop treating your bedroom like it’s an entertainment center. Your bedroom should be a place you go to escape the trials and tribulations of the everyday world. It’s a place where you go to rest at night.
The key to achieving and maintaining a restful and restorative deep sleep is to turn your bedroom into a relaxation space that can help calm your jangled nerves. So no TV, laptop, tablet, or smartphone in the bedroom. Period.
You also add some relaxation tricks to your nighttime routine. You can try meditation or a light, gentle exercise routine like yoga or tai chi. Another trick is to brew a hot cup of chamomile tea or other caffeine-free, herbal tea before going to bed (and don’t put sugar in it). An hour or half hour before you hit the sheets, light some incense in your bedroom to create a calming sensation. Just make sure the incense is safely out before you get into bed. Your body and mind will thank you!
Grudnitsky, P., “Top 5 Sleep Supplements of 2017: Which Brands Think You’re Stupid?” SleepSupportSupplements; http://www.sleepsupportsupplements.com/gs/index.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwgtTJBRDRmd6ZtLrGyxwSJAA7Fy-hj5cEhyHKfGlM07Sem4g_GNINhGxl8whWnKoxBOgcKhoCFXXw_wcB, last accessed June 7, 2017.
“18 Natural Sleep Aids to Get Better Sleep,” Everyday Roots; http://everydayroots.com/sleep-remedies, last accessed June 7, 2017.