Health Advocate Blog

Avoid sabotaging your sleep! Beware these sleep disruptors

Although you may not be fully aware of what occurs while you’re sleeping, anything that could trigger one of your senses—hearing, sight, touch, smell, etc.—can disrupt the ability to get the type of deep, restorative sleep your body and mind need. Here are some common sleep disruptors and what you can do to lessen their impact so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Too much light. Light signals your body’s wake cycle. The remedy: Use dark curtains or an eye mask, and turn off any light-emitting devices, or place them away from your line of sight.

Noisiness. Whether it comes from a blaring TV, dogs barking, or the rattle of an air conditioner, noise can jostle you awake. The remedy: Wear ear plugs, turn on a fan, or use a white noise machine.

Being too hot/too cold.  Shivering or sweating, even a little, can interrupt deep restfulness. The remedy: If possible, control the room temperature at the right comfort level for you (for most people, it’s between 60 to 67 degrees). The remedy: Wear comfortable, breathable sleepwear and use bedding that is lightweight in winter and warm and cozy in summer.

Uncomfortable bedding. A pillow or mattress that is too soft or too stiff, or sheets that are scratchy, can keep you from solid slumber. The remedies:

  • Choose pillows that support your shoulders and spine and that suit your sleeping preference. Stomach sleepers may find soft pillows most comfortable, while back sleepers tend to prefer medium firmness. Side sleepers can benefit from extra supportive, firm pillows.
  • Over time, mattresses can lose their ability to properly support your body. It’s recommended that you change your mattress and box springs every 8 years. If you wake up with aches and pains, it may be a sign that your mattress is not giving your body the kind of support you need.

A cluttered bedroom. Your bedroom should be a soothing environment. An untidy room and messy, unclean sheets can affect your sleep quality. The remedy: Wash bedding regularly, dust your room, vacuum the floors, and consider using an air purifier to eliminate allergens and irritants.

Partner disruption. If your bedmate’s sleep habits differ from yours, falling and staying asleep can be difficult. The remedies: For partners who like to read in bed, ask them to read in another room. For “blanket hogs,” use separate blankets.

Pets. Although they’re cute and cuddly, for some people, pets can be a disruption in the bedroom. The remedy: Set up a pet bed in another room and close your door.

Stress. Is your mind wound up before bed? Are worries keeping you awake? Stress is a major sleep disruptor. The remedy: Train your body to wind down to prepare for sleep. You can choose from any number of relaxing activities to help you do that. Examples include taking a warm bath or shower, (while visualizing “washing away your troubles”), meditation, slow and deep “belly breathing,” cuddling with your partner/kids/pets, reading, or engaging in a calming hobby like knitting, drawing or playing music. Writing in a journal is also a great way to think through your problems and clear your head before bed.

Eating too close to bedtime. Having anything to eat close too soon before bedtime can disrupt your sleep—especially stimulating, caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea) and foods (like chocolate) that can cause indigestion. The remedy: If caffeine keeps you up, remember that it takes 8 hours for it to clear from your body, so limit caffeinated beverages and chocolate for several hours before bedtime. If you have disruptive acid reflux or heartburn, sleep propped up by pillows to keep acid from creeping up your throat.

Drinking alcohol near bedtime. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but will prevent you from getting the restorative rest because it disrupts your sleep cycle. The remedies: Remember it takes an hour per drink for alcohol to clear your body.  If you enjoy a nightcap, consume it with enough time for the alcohol to leave your system before going to bed.

TV/technology. The light, beeps and other sounds emitted from devices stimulate your brain, interfering with the necessary winding down you need for restorative sleep. The remedy: Make your bedroom a technology-free zone. If you use your cell phone as an alarm clock, keep it in airplane mode to avoid getting calls, texts, alerts or updates. Set yourself a technology curfew beginning at least an hour before bed.