Woman Can't Sleep

Does This Sound Familiar?

You've had a long day full of running around and getting things done - checking of that to-do list. It's time to head to bed and you feel exhausted. As soon as your head hits that pillow, your mind wakes up and the thoughts start and they just don't stop. You worry about not getting enough sleep and this anxiety causes you to stay awake even longer. It can become a vicious cycle.


You can't  understand how some people are able to fall asleep right away. Why can't you??


If you have an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnea, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an overactive thyroid, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease - these can actually cause insomnia. 


If you don't have a medical condition causing your sleepless nights - here are 9 reasons why you can't catch a good nights sleep:

Reason 1: LIGHT

Light Impacts Sleep

How Does This Effect Sleep?

Light and darkness are triggers that tell your body it's time to rest, or time to get up and get moving. Light in the bedroom (including light from street lamps, an alarm clock, a night light in your room or an electronic devices) impacts your ability to fall asleep and also affects the quality of your sleep.


Artificial light at night can send wake-up messages to the brain and interfere with the production of the sleep-inducing hormones melatonin and GABA. This makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. (1)

The Solution?

Keep your room as dark as possible. Remove any sources of light such as an alarm clock, laptop or any other device from your room.

Use black out curtains or a fabric eye mask to send your brain the right signal that it's dark and time to go to sleep.

Light and darkness are triggers that tell your body it's time to rest, or time to get up and get moving. Light in the bedroom (including light from street lamps, an alarm clock, a night light in your room or an electronic devices) impacts your ability to fall asleep and also affects the quality of your sleep.

Artificial light at night can send wake-up messages to the brain and interfere with the production of the sleep-inducing hormones melatonin and GABA. This makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. (1)

Reason 2: INCONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINES

How Does This Effect Sleep?

Our bodies love consistency. With regular daily activities, our internal systems are able to prepare and anticipate events.

 

As our regular bedtime approaches, we start to feel relaxed and become sleepy prior to going to sleep.


These consistent events trigger our underlying daily rhythms.

The Solution?

Ideally, you should stick to the same sleep schedule every night (even on weekends) so your body can follow its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle (2)

Just as you have a morning routine, create a bedtime routine. This tells your body to relax and prepare for sleep.


Your routine can include listening to some relaxing music, reading a book (but not something too exciting), watching some TV (not more than an hour before bedtime), taking a warm shower, lighting some candles, applying some essential oil (lavender is known to help promote good sleep), meditating and doing some deep breathing exercises.

Customize a routine that works for you and your lifestyle.

Reason 3: YOU'RE NOT RELAXED

How Does This Effect Sleep?

With all the demands in life, our mind and bodies need a break. 


Scheduled vacations are great but it's unrealistic to expect to take a vacation every week.


When you find yourself in bed having trouble quieting our thoughts - this is usually a sign that our stress hormones (cortisol) are too high.


When our thoughts are in overdrive at bedtime - this can havoc in our bodies - not only be keeping us awake but also increasing feelings of anxiety as we go through our to-do lists and trying to resolve outstanding issues. 

The Solution?

Mindfulness meditation is a mind-calming technique which focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment.


Mindful meditation helps calm the mind and body so we don't feel stressed and alert before going to sleep.


The relaxation can help ease stress-related issues including anxiety, depression, pain, high blood pressure and sleep disorders. (3)


Another way to help settle our thoughts before bedtime is to keep a journal. Studies show the emotional release which comes from keeping a journal helps lower anxiety and stress, and helps us achieve a better night's sleep. Writing down to-do lists and unresolved issues before we hit the bed decreases anxiety and worry and helps us fall asleep faster with less stuff lingering on our minds. Think of it as a mental dump to clear our minds to be able to fall asleep. (5)

Journal Before Going To Bed

Reason 4: THE SURROUNDING TEMPERATURE

How Does This Effect Sleep?

To fall asleep and stay asleep, the body's core temperature needs to drop by about 1 degree Celsius, approximately 2 - 3 degrees Fahrenheit. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep.


So when you sleep in a hot room with the temperature high, bundled up in cozy blankets - it may take a bit longer for the body to drop it's core temperature.


This ends up affecting how long it takes for you to fall asleep.


The Solution?

Drop your room temperature at night - set your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. Your body temperature needs to drop for you to start feeling sleepy. The proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this.


Taking hot showers or baths before going to bed can reduce the body's temperature when you exit the shower or bath and and enter a cooler room to help you fall asleep. (4)

Reason 5: THE NEED FOR EXERCISE

Exercise Improves Sleep

How Does This Effect Sleep?

It's well known that exercise helps relieve stress in the body - and high stress levels results in high cortisol levels in our body. These cortisol levels interfere with our body's natural Melatonin and GABA which induce and regulate sleep.


There's also evidence that shows exercise improves sleep because it produces a rise in body temperature which is then followed by a drop a few hours later. 


The Solution?

Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration.


Exercise reduces stress and can also help reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later.


As little as 5-10 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling triggers a response on your body to relax and helps improve the quality of night time sleep.

Reason 6: CAFFEINE

COFFEE disturbs sleep

How Does This Effect Sleep?

Caffeine is a stimulant and helps us wake up and stay alert during the day.


It does this by temporarily blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. (10)


Coffee has a half life of approximately 6 hours- which means after 6 hours, half the caffeine is still in your system. 

The Solution?

You don't want to feel that 'alertness' when you're trying to fall asleep. So it's best to consume your caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate) earlier in the day so it doesn't interfere with your sleep.

Reason 7: DIGITAL ELECTRONICS

Digital Disconnect For Sleep

How Does This Effect Sleep?

The thought of browsing social media close to bed time sounds relaxing, but in reality it's a stimulant and can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay sleep.


Using smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV or other electronic devices before bed tricks your body's internal clock by delaying the release of melatonin (your natural sleep-inducing hormone).


This makes it more difficult to fall asleep due to the short-wavelength and artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. Blue light tricks the brain into thinking it's morning time and to awake and be alert.


The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. (7)

The Solution?

Set a time to digitally disconnect from your devices - smartphones, tablets, laptops or other electronic devices.


Some may find that watching some TV before bedtime relaxing them and does not interfere with their slumber. If this is the case, do what you need to do to relax but try to disconnect from other devices at least an hour or two before you plan to go to sleep.

Reason 8: YOU'RE EATING TOO LATE AT NIGHT

Late Night Meal

How Does This Effect Sleep?

When it's close to bedtime, your internal systems are getting ready to repair and rejuvenate. This isn't an ideal time for the digestive system to have to step up and do it's job. 


Studies show eating heavy meals in the evening close to bedtime may disrupt your sleep.


Scientists at Brazil's Universidade Federal de São Paulo found that eating more heavily at night was associated with poor sleep (8)

The Solution?

Have your meals earlier in the evening and avoid late night snacking whenever possible.


Reason 9: ALCOHOL

Glass of Wine

How Does This Effect Sleep?

Think that a 'night cap' helps you fall asleep? This may be true because you're able to fall asleep - but the problem is you don't get quality sleep.


If you drink before bedtime, you’re more likely to wake up throughout the night and get less deep sleep.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant so you feel 'calmer' and more relaxed.

However, a short time later (about 2 hours) your body washes out the alcohol which it views as a toxin. It does this by pulling water from cells and flushing out the toxins through the kidneys and bladder.(9)


This also explains why you have to use the bathroom often during the night after drinking alcohol. It's also why you feel unrested, exhausted and dehydrated in the morning.

The Solution?

Try to enjoy your alcohol earlier in the evening and not too close to bedtime so it flushes out of your system and doesn't interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.


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References

(1) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/see/making-your-room-dark

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/96/3/E463/2597236

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3027693/

(2) https://www.sleep.org/articles/day-in-day-out-the-importance-of-routine-in-our-daily-lives/

(3) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726

(4) https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/temperature-triggers-sleep

(5) https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/brain-waves/201801/the-connection-between-writing-and-sleep

(6) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia

(7) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed

(8) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/eating-at-night-disrupts-sleep_b_7867760

(9) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-alcohol-affects-sleep_n_595fbd02e4b0615b9e91273c

(10) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/caffeine-and-sleep

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