Everyone experiences problems sleeping every once in a while. Normal sleep disruptions can occur for a variety of reasons including excitement, anxiety, preoccupation, feelings of stress, teeth grinding, or night terrors. While you may lose a night or two of solid sleep, these normal sleep disturbances typically resolve themselves in a short amount of time.
However, sometimes sleep disturbances are not quickly resolved. A lack of regular sleep can affect every aspect of your life, including your communication and relationships with others, your concentration, decision making, school or work responsibilities, and daily functioning. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can create significant emotional upheaval including increased irritability, agitation, and anxiety.
Often, when we are having sleep issues, we are not able to get to the point where sleep is restful and restorative for our bodies. If the body doesn't go through the sleep cycle, which is made up of four separate stages of sleep, multiple times a night, it does not allow us to regenerate our energy and rest our minds.
Here are some common signs and symptoms indicating that a lack of sleep is becoming an issue in your life:
- Impaired performance at work or school
- Inability to fall asleep, or stay asleep, throughout the night
- Do you toss and turn for most of the night? If you struggle with falling asleep, you may want to look at your bedtime routine. A bedtime routine, you ask? Yes. As adults, we still need bedtime routines. These are routines that set up your body and mind for a successful night’s sleep.
- Do you wake up in the middle of the night? If you do and are unable to fall back asleep, it is important to figure out the cause of waking. Is it nightmares, or the need to empty your bladder? Whatever the case, instead of tossing and turning (which often leads to increased anxiety and worry about being tired the next day), get out of bed and distract yourself until you are feeling tired again.
More sleeping tips
- Did you know that what you eat affects your sleep? Too much caffeine, especially later in the day can lead to a difficult night’s sleep. Reducing your sugar intake can also help sleep quality.
- Your television viewing affects your sleep, especially what you watch right before bed, so make sure you leave some room for your body and mind to relax before bedtime. If you are watching “negative” or scary programs, that often leads to nightmares and restless sleep.
- Go to the washroom before bed. It may sound simple, but if you are not emptying your bladder before you fall asleep, you may want to start. This is often a cause for disrupted sleep.
Content adapted with permission from Dalton Associates.
Healthline. (2020). Sleep disorders. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep/disorders
Sleep Foundation. (2020). Stages of Sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/stages-of-sleep