15 Sneaky Sleep Stealers
Photography by: Catherine Ledner
11} You’re so hot It may sound ideal, but a very warm room is no sleep sanctuary. “You need a cool environment,” says Yan-Go. Your body temperature naturally drops as you drift into sleep, and an environment that’s too warm can make you toss and turn. According to the National Sleep Foundation, temperatures above 75 degrees (or below 54 degrees) will disrupt sleep. Naiman suggests about 68 degrees.
12} You have a thyroid imbalance An overactive thyroid revs up your entire body, so you feel anxious and restless. This leaves you exhausted but unable to fall asleep. But an underactive thyroid can also disrupt sleep. “Someone with a sluggish thyroid is not reaching the heights of wakefulness during the day,” explains Naiman. “We sleep better and more deeply when we’re able to ascend to peaks of energy during the day.” Plus, thyroid medications are stimulating, and if the dosage is off even slightly, it can keep you awake.
13} You suffer from chronic inflammation Persistent low-grade inflammation throughout the body—caused by processed foods, air pollution, stress and other sneaky factors—has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Turns out, it also keeps you up at night. “Most people don’t know that chronic inflammation is associated with a slight but measurable increase in body temperature,” says Naiman. We need to cool down to sleep, but inflammation prevents your body temperature from dropping. Lifestyle changes can help. Cut out processed foods that spike your blood sugar, like refined carbohydrates (cookies, chips and crackers), and eat plenty of lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables to keep blood sugar on an even keel and counteract inflammation.
14} You have food sensitivities “Food sensitivity is one of the last things people think about when it comes to sleep, but it shouldn’t be,” says Reardon. The most common trigger foods are soy, nuts, wheat, chocolate, corn and dairy. But food sensitivities don’t stay in the gut. “They begin there, but then the body reacts systemically, particularly if there is any impaired digestion resulting from disruption or damage to the cells that line the digestive tract,” Reardon says. “This is often the case for people with a longstanding history of NSAID [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen] use. The immune system is revved up, and the central nervous system is wide awake—and so are you.” If you suspect a food sensitivity, keep a food journal, noting when you experience symptoms, but bear in mind that food sensitivities cause a delayed reaction: It’s not just what you ate for dinner tonight that’s keeping you up; it could be an ingredient you ate a few days ago. So look at a three- to four-day window when you’re reviewing the journal. Once you pinpoint possible triggers, eliminate them one by one and see if your sleep improves. “And give it time—about three months. The gut needs adequate time to heal,” says Reardon.
15} You’re always on In our 24/7 world, feeling frazzled is a badge of honor. If you’re not go-go-going, you’re not doing anything that matters. “Our society is wakecentric, leaving us discouraged from genuinely experiencing, enjoying or understanding sleep and dreams,” says Naiman, who maintains that most of us walk around in a state of hyperarousal—our physiology is so revved up that we can’t even slow down at night. But learning the importance of snoozing can help us make the most of our waking hours. “When we’re alert, we can allow subtle aspects of sleep—relaxation, inner peace and serenity—to seep through,” says Naiman. So instead of lying in bed thinking about everything on your to-do list tomorrow, think of sleep as an overnight getaway where something really interesting is happening— something that will also help you be more fully present when you get up.