Ideally, an adult will get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. However, there are many factors that may influence how well a person is able to sleep. These factors may include exposure to natural or artificial light or engaging in shift work. Those who take medication or consume alcohol may also have trouble sleeping.
How Light Keeps Us Awake
Receptors in the brain are more active when they are exposed to light of any kind. This is why we wake up when the sun rises and start to feel tired when the sun sets. However, you can manipulate your body clock by keeping lights on inside of the house or by leaving a computer on in your bedroom. If you are trying to improve your quality of sleep, be sure to turn off anything that may emit light. It can also be a good idea to draw the curtains to block out light from other homes that may shine into yours.
Why Shift Work Makes It Harder to Sleep
Let’s say that you have just been transferred from a day shift to an overnight shift. For many days or weeks after making the change, your body may attempt to maintain its normal sleep/wake cycle. This means that you’ll likely feel tired at night and unable to sleep during the day. If you work a variety of shifts during the week, it may be difficult for your body to maintain a normal sleep pattern. You may also have difficulty sleeping regularly if your employer requires you to travel across different time zones for any reason.
How Caffeine and Alcohol Impact Your Sleep Cycle
Caffeine is a stimulant that may make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night. Alcohol is a depressant that can cause you to awaken often throughout the night. This is because of the impact that it has on your body as it is being metabolized. Ideally, you will avoid caffeine during the late evening hours and refrain from having more than two alcoholic beverages before going to bed.
Pain and Anxiety Can Keep You Awake
In many cases, a sore back or pain in your legs can make it difficult to relax and drift off to sleep. If you are nervous about a business meeting taking place the next day, it may be difficult to get your mind off of work and focused on falling asleep. While medication may be able to help ease the physical or mental pain that you are feeling, any pills that you take could come with side effects as well. Visiting a physical therapist, speaking with a mental health professional or getting more exercise during the day may help to ease physical or mental health issues.
While it may be possible to overcome poor sleep quality for a night or two, prolonged sleep issues can have significant impacts on your life. Therefore, it is important that you understand the potential causes of your sleep issues and work to resolve them in a timely manner.