Sleep is one of the greatest mysteries in life, much like why Miley Cyrus thought anyone wanted to see her twerk on national television.
If you are like 40 million Americans, you may suffer from some form of insomnia.
There are a number of well-known behaviors that can in-terfere with our sleep such as drinking caffeinated drinks late in the day or watching television with its bright lights. However, there are some sleep-wreckers that are less known. Here are some reasons you may not be getting the type of "ZZZs" you want.
Oversleeping on weekends. Saturday and Sunday were meant to catch up on laundry and errands, but not necessarily sleep. According to experts, getting an extra two to four hours of sleep in the morning can have the same effects as traveling across time zones. This makes it more difficult for you to go to sleep on time Sunday night, making Monday feel like you really are jet lagged.
Napping. Not all napping is bad napping. If you accumulate a "sleep debt," taking a nap can help you "pay" the body back some of the sleep it needs. But, before you curl up on the couch, you should know sleeping for longer than an hour or after 3 p.m. can interfere with your ability to sleep soundly that night. And, if you suffer from insomnia, napping during the day can confuse your internal clock and send your insomnia into a chronic spiral.
You have cold feet. Putting on a pair of (clean) socks can help improve circulation to your feet. Those hard working footsies are furthest away from the heart and have the poorest circulation. As a result they often feel cold even when the rest of your body is comfortable. Cold extremities can offset your ability to fall asleep as well as increase the number of times you wake up at night.
You're not cool enough. According to studies, a temperature between 60 to 68 degrees is ideal for a good night's rest. Your body has an internal thermostat that drops to its lowest level four hours after you fall asleep; this coincides with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. If your room is warmer or cooler than that, your body may not be able to achieve its set point or that REM sleep.
You're a snuggle bug. Sharing your bed with a partner (or a pet) may interfere with good quality sleep. Your sleeping partner may toss and turn, snore, watch television, steal the sheets or have a different sleep and wake time. For many of those reasons, the number of American couples who sleep in separate beds is growing. The National Association of Home Builders says it expects 60 percent of new homes to have dual master bedrooms by 2015. Although that number is similar to the divorce rate, it does not necessarily mean your marriage is going to end. Quality sleep is important for general health, and who doesn't want a healthy spouse?
It's not loud enough. Although this sounds counterintuitive, it has been shown dead silence can be a problem. Your brain naturally craves for sensory input. Any sudden noise can activate the brain and wake you up. Having some sort of "white noise" in the background can help drown out these sudden noises. If you're not into listening to the sounds of rainforests or waterfalls, the constant noise provided by a fan may help.
Your digestive system is working overtime. Spicy foods can cause acid reflux. Caffeine can stimulate you. But did you know a high-protein meal requires your intestines to work overtime and in overdrive? Protein takes a lot of energy to digest and can raise your body's temperature. Consequently, this can hinder your ability to sleep. Instead of having the whole filet mignon, consider packing away half and ordering a side of veggies.
You're too tired. To combat exhaustion and get you through the day, your body relies on adrenaline and other internal stimulants to keep you going. That's why when you finally get into bed, you find yourself too tired to go to sleep. Experts recommend partaking in a calm and relaxing activity such as reading, taking a warm bath, praying or meditation.
In addition to being grouchy, having a headache and not being able to concentrate at work, a lack of good sleep is associated with packing on the pounds, impaired memory, shorter lifespan, hindered creativity and increased stress. Addressing these sleep wreckers is a win-win situation. So, start knocking out these sleep No-Nos, so you can be the skinny, happy, headache and stress free person you deserve to be.
Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at firstname.lastname@example.org