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8 Surprising Factors That Affect Sleep

By Eliot Dean March 23, 2021 0 comments


The lack of and inability to sleep can lead to various health issues ranging from moodiness and impaired memory to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To preserve or improve your quality of life it’s vital that you get the right amount of sleep every night.

However, you first need to understand what aspects of your lifestyle and environment impact the quality and duration of sleep. Doing so allows you to pinpoint and deal with the underlying causes that keep you from getting the good night’s rest your body needs.

Internal and external factors alike can contribute to sleep deprivation — though some are more obvious than others. If you’ve ever wondered, “What are the factors that could affect sleep?” here are some of the following:

1. Light

Even a simple light bulb has its disadvantages

Exposure to light, specifically artificial light, can wreak havoc on your biological clock, affecting your sleep and wake cycle. Light influences your internal clock via specialized “light-sensitive” cells in the retina of the eyes. These cells inform your brain whether it’s day or night stimulating the release of the necessary hormones:

    • - Cortisol and other hormones, which encourage wakefulness
    • - Melatonin, which triggers feelings of sleepiness 

The invention of the electric lightbulb, however, has increased people’s exposure to light, disrupting the natural sleep cycle. This has also been amplified by the increased use of computers and mobile devices.

2. Shift Work and Jet Lag

Alternating schedules, late-night shifts, and jet lag can also influence exposure to light, negatively impacting your body clock.

Individuals working the night shift or travelling across time zones commonly experience insomnia when they try to sleep during the day and excessive sleepiness while they’re working.

3. Chronic Pain and Other Conditions

Your mental and physical health can impact how well you sleep

Discomfort and pain tend to limit the depth of sleep and allow only short episodes of sleep between awakenings. A broad range of psychological and medical conditions can affect the structure and distribution of sleep. These conditions include:

    • - Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • - Premenstrual syndrome
    • - Arthritis
    • - Chronic muscle pain

4. Stress 

Physical conditions are not the only internal factors affecting sleep. Stress and other mental conditions are also significant contributors. People of all ages who experience anxiety, stress, and depression may find it challenging to fall asleep. When they do, sleep tends to be light and typically remains in the REM (dream) stage. Stress and anxiety are natural responses that allow you to protect yourself from potentially dangerous situations. By being suspended in REM sleep, you can wake up easily and be better prepared to react to any threat.

However, it is in the deep sleep stages where the body becomes most rested and relaxed. If you don’t progress to the final stages of sleep, you can’t complete the sleep cycle. This is why stressed, anxious, and depressed people always feel tired even if they get a full 8 hours of sleep.

5. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a possibly fatal disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you sleep. Consult with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. The sleep apnea treatment you need depends on the severity of your condition. It can range from

  • Lifestyle changes (like losing weight and exercising regularly)
  • Oral devices (like mouthguards and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP))
  • Surgery

6. Sleep environment

A more comfortable environment can improve how well you sleep

Your bedroom environment has a significant influence on how much and how well you sleep. If your lighting is too bright or your mattress is too soft, it can prevent you from falling asleep quickly and also cause sleep disruptions. Creating the ideal sleep environment is crucial. Eliminate the factors that stress you out or distract you and rethink your choice of the following:

    • - Mattress
    • - Beddings
    • - Curtains
    • - Lighting fixtures

7. Medications and Other Substances

Think twice about the type of medicines you take

A wide variety of common substances affect both the quantity and quality of sleep. These include:

    • - Nicotine
    • - Caffeine
    • - Antihistamines
    • - Prescription drugs (like antidepressants, alpha-blockers, and beta-blockers)

Stimulants, like caffeine and nicotine, work by temporarily blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. These nerve cells are responsible for detecting adenosine, which is a chemical that builds up in the brain during wakefulness and triggers the need for sleep, or “sleep drive”. As the adenosine levels surge, scientists believe that the chemicals start to inhibit alertness while promoting sleepiness. Stimulants disrupt these signals, keeping you active and awake even when your body needs rest.

On the other hand, substances like antihistamines and certain prescription drugs can induce drowsiness. However, these do not necessarily improve the quality of sleep.

8. Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are typically used as a sleep aid. However, even if it helps you fall asleep more quickly, the quality of sleep under the influence of alcohol is inferior to a more naturally-induced slumber.

In addition, downing more than a couple of drinks shortly before your bedtime has been proven to cause increased awakenings and even insomnia. This is primarily due to the stimulating effect alcohol has when it’s metabolized later in the night. Alcohol also tends to aggravate the symptoms of sleep apnea, which further disrupts sleep in individuals with this disorder.

How to Improve Sleep Quality

Wake up feeling refreshed

If you’re wondering how you can solve your sleeping problem naturally? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Maintain an appropriate sleep schedule

    Maintain your circadian rhythm by adhering to a strict sleeping schedule. It allows your body to naturally respond to cues, triggering the release of the right hormones at the right time.

    • Schedule the use of devices

    Stop using your mobile phones or computers an hour or 2 before you sleep. The less blue light you are exposed to, the better your chances are of falling asleep easily.

    • Avoid substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol

    Quit smoking or don’t start at all. Nicotine is known to disrupt sleep. Additionally, smoking can aggravate symptoms of sleep apnea. Smoking causes fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airway and the throat which contributes to sleep apnea.

    Caffeine, on the other hand, may be acceptable, but limit intake to earlier in the day. Don’t drink coffee late in the afternoon since its effects can remain late into the night.

    Alcohol and a few other drugs such as sedatives, tranquillizers, or sleep medications may relax the throat muscles, worsening sleep apnea and disrupting sleep.

    • Exercise regularly

    Regular exercise can realign your circadian rhythm (or body clock). Physical activity tires you out, reducing the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep. Exercise also reduces stress, contributing to better quality sleep.

    • Set up a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment
      • - Opt for ambient lighting. Make sure your bedroom well-illuminated without excessive glare.
      • - Switch your mattress. If your mattress is too old, it will no longer be able to provide the necessary support for your back and muscles, causing pain. Choose a mattress that is suitable for your weight, sleeping position, and any pre-existing muscle pain conditions.
      • - Change your bedding. Sheets and covers can affect aspects like temperature and tactile experience. Certain materials can be too hot or too itchy and will only make it more difficult for you to sleep

    If you’re looking for beds and mattresses that promise comfort and quality sleep, turn to Direct Bed now. Our helpful staff will guide you through your purchase so you take home with you the perfect mattress and bed for you. Call us now at 1-844-475-3378 for inquiries, or browse our online product catalogue.

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