One cannot underestimate the value of a good night sleep and yet we end up doing just that to keep up with the demands that our modern lifestyle puts on us. There are lots of external factors and internal factors that negatively impact our sleep cycles, such as the lifestyle we maintain, the diet we take, the medications and supplements the activities we indulge in, the habitat we live in and the environment we build around ourselves. The internal factors can be related to our age, illnesses and other medical conditions, hormonal, psychological and physical changes going inside our body, and our mind and our body’s reaction to stress and its internalization.
As per one research’s findings: “Factors that perpetuate insomnia include excessive time in bed, irregular timing of retiring and arising, multiple bouts of sleep, increased caffeine consumption, hypnotic and alcohol use, and daytime worries.” If you haven’t been able to enjoy a good night sleep for a while, here are top 5 factors in your after-sundown routine to take into consideration:
Artificial, Bright Light Exposure
Light regulates our body’s natural rhythms and cycles. Exposure to adequate natural light during the day and minimal exposure to artificial light is essential for our body to work properly. Excessive exposure to artificial light instead of the natural one adversely affects the melatonin production in our body by raising the stress hormone known as cortisol. Artificial light after sundown confuses the brain’s processes, disrupts our circadian rhythm and in turn our sleep quality. If you have been suffering from insomnia, try switching on non-LED, non-fluorescent lighting, incandescent bulbs, red or pink bulbs, lamps and tea candles after sundown.
Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Consuming stimulating substances like tea, coffee, alcohol in the evening can negatively impact your sleep cycle. Caffeine impacts adenosine levels in the brain and keeps us alert and overstimulated at night. However, not many people are aware that even the caffeine and sugar contained in chocolates stimulate our brains. A 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar contains 9 milligrams of caffeine and dark chocolate contains a whopping 40 milligrams of caffeine. Besides caffeine, chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which increases the rate of your heartbeat and causes insomnia when consumed close to bedtime.
Late Night Dinner and Snacking
Besides caffeine consumption in the evening, eating dinner late at night or snacking or consumption of chocolate disrupts your sleep cycle. Late night snacking forces the body to enter into the digestion and metabolism mode and stops it from getting proper rest. It is best to have your dinner at least 3 hours before going bed, so your body gets the proper time to digest the food and get in the switch-off mode. Once the body gets into wind-off mode, melatonin production gets started. In fact, if one is able to get proper rest during the night, one would be able to resist the temptation to consume excessive calories the next day.
Modern lifestyle has placed far too many electronic devices within our reach: TVs and laptops in the bedroom and tablets and smartphones in our hands. The screens of LCD and LED TV screens, computer and smartphones have gotten bigger and brighter. Despite the essentialness of these devices for our productivity, recreation and relaxation, using them after sundown overstimulates the brain and negatively impacts our melatonin production.
One research has coined the term “technological insomnia” as “a new emerging disease that is based on the difficulty of initiating and maintaining sleep due to excessive and inappropriate use of the new technologies.” The blue and green lights emitted from our electronic devices when used after sundown confuse our body and mind into thinking that it is still daytime. As a result, the mind doesn’t release melatonin and doesn’t give the body the signal to wind-down.
One can see that some factors leading to insomnia are beyond our control while others are within our control and thus manageable. Therefore, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine and practising sleep hygiene can help people suffering from insomnia considerable relief.
- Giner-Bayarri, P., N. Torres-Caño, T. Oviedo-Montés, K. Quintero-Hernandez, and A. Mazzillo-Ricaurte. “Technological insomnia and actigraphy.” Sleep Medicine 14 (2013): e136-e137. Retrieved from http://www.sleep-journal.com/article/S1389-9457(13)01523-2/abstract
- Spielman, Arthur J., Lauren S. Caruso, and Paul B. Glovinsky. “A behavioral perspective on insomnia treatment.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America (1987). Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1989-06104-001