10 little things we don’t think about that disturb our sleep
People are sleeping less and less well, but it turns out our sleep difficulties can be explained by a wide array of factors. Whereas some of these are well known (pace of work, shifted sleep patterns, jet lag, stress…), some others are a little more surprising. Discover 10 things that can prevent you from sleeping well at night.
Did you know that hunger prevents you sleeping?
Going to bed on an empty stomach is always a bad idea because it can cause an onset of night hunger.
But hunger stimulates the brain and speeds up your metabolism, and you need to be sending the exact opposite signals to get to sleep. So although a light dinner is one of the criteria for a good night’s sleep. Carb-based dishes like pasta or rice particularly can facilitate sleepiness.
Did you know that some foods can be the culprit when it comes to bad sleep?
Some nutrients that are harder to digest exacerbate difficulties falling asleep. It’s the case of proteins for example (red meats), or fats (fried foods, crisps, doughnuts…). If you want to consume these foods, the earlier your meal is the lesser the negative impact will be on your sleep.
But other more unexpected food choices can also have an impact: a bite of chocolate in the evening can have an adverse effect because it contains different stimulants like caffeine, theobromine and tyrosine.
This is also true for coffee and tea, which is why infusions are preferable in the evenings. Go easy on the spices as well, and even on tomatoes: the presence of tyramine in them increases the secretion of a stimulant.
The last little night pointer: avoid foods with high water content (like salads) and diuretic foods (like artichokes) as having to get up get up to go to the bathroom during the night will prevent you from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Did you know that your toothpaste could also cause sleep problems?
The idea that toothpaste influences your sleep might sound a little far-fetched! It has however been proven that mint based products have a negative effect on sleep by prolonging the time it takes for you to nod off. It seems that when inhaled in its oil based form, mint can indeed have more of a stimulating effect, unlike the calming effect a mint infusion has.
Did you know that your toothpaste could also cause sleep problems?
The idea that toothpaste influences your sleep might sound a little far-fetched! It has however been proven that mint based products have a negative effect on sleep by prolonging the time it takes for you to nod off. It seems that when inhaled in its oil based form, mint can indeed have more of a stimulating effect, unlike the calming effect a mint infusion has. This being said, mint-free toothpaste is in theory risk free.
In fact, adopting a slow and regular brushing ritual can help you wind down for a good night’s sleep. More good news; the aluminium contained in some toothpaste is known to have a beneficial effect on sleep: aluminium is a trace element which is sometimes prescribed along with phototherapy to treat sleep disturbances.
Did you know that the Full Moon may upset your sleep?
Although the debate on this has been going on for a long time, the full moon does affect sleep: it seems to decrease deep sleep by 30%. This can be explained by melatonin levels (the sleep hormone) being twice as low at this time of the month. But the effect seems to be independent of the lunar light levels being emitted, suggesting we have a biological clock which is in tune with the lunar cycles.
We don’t have details of it to date, but the circadian rhythm based on the solar cycle is perfectly well known and identified.
This explains why we may all find our sleep patterns regularly disrupted for a few days each month.
Did you know that pollution contributes to sleep disturbances as well?
According to a study at Washington University, people who breathe in high levels of nitrogen oxide and fine particles have an increased risk of poor sleep of 60% and 50% respectively. This was confirmed by other studies stating that for better sleep, it was recommended to air out and ventilate the bedroom every day. Other factors such as dust mites and mould are also known to disturb breathing and therefore sleep.
These factors are obviously additional to noise and visual pollution from streetlamps for example, which seem to have a clear effect on everyone.
Did you know that some medication can lead to sleep issues?
Many medications can interfere with good quality sleep, usually due to their stimulating effect: it’s the case of a number of vitamins like vitamin C and some anti-inflammatory treatments like corticoids.
When taking a single dose, it is thus advisable to take them in the morning.
For evening doses, you can take them around 6pm to reduce the nocturnal effects.
Medication for nicotine withdrawal, bronchodilators and hypertension can also have an anti-sleep effect.
Diuretic products are also on the list of course, as they make you to wake-up more during the night.
Did you know that carbon dioxide prevents you sleeping well at night?
Air quality and ventilation in particular play a role in sleep quality.
The richer the air is in carbon dioxide, the more your body activates control mechanisms which accelerate the heart and impair your ability to get to sleep.
In theory, the carbon dioxide level is higher in rooms which are badly ventilated, which is why they need to be aired out.
This is also the reason why we wouldn’t recommend keeping a houseplant in your bedroom: they do indeed absorb carbon dioxide during the day, but as soon as it is dark, they release carbon dioxide instead of providing oxygen.
Nonetheless, when it comes to eliminating carbon dioxide over the course of a day, the balance swings in favour of the houseplant: basically, keeping a houseplant in your bedroom isn’t detrimental to the overall oxygen level.
Did you know that you sleep better when you sleep alone?
Although it might be hard to admit, a lot of people out there have experienced this before! Many people find that sleeping with someone else in the bed can prove bothersome. The two main causes of this are apparently snoring and body movements.
Without going so far as a divorce, there is a simple method to limit these inconveniences: just opt for a half-and-half mattress instead of one big one and join them with a fitted sheet.
Although this won’t prevent the odd kick, this method decreases the amount of movement you may feel when the other person moves and turns over. It also means the mattresses are better adapted to each person’s build.
Do you know why you have to cut out blue light to sleep well?
Screens have overtaken our lives in the past years, from our computers at work to the mobile phones we look at before going to bed. It is common knowledge that LED screens emit blue-violet light which reputedly modifies our circadian rhythm.
This "daylight" inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. By simply wearing anti-blue light glasses during the 3 hours leading up to your bedtime, you could sleep for 24 minutes longer.
An increasing number of digital tools now have a feature to change screen brightness which can usually be found with the time settings.
Did you know that cold alters sleep?
As your body temperature drops by about 34°F (1°C) when you sleep, you are advised to limit your bedroom temperature to 66°F (19°C) to sleep well. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low it has the opposite effect: it stimulates the neurones which keep you alert, making you wake up over and again. It’s like your body is fighting to keep you awake to avoid hypothermia. We are usually unconscious of this process when it happens and wake up tired the next day without understanding why.
With connected devices such as bracelets, we can now analyse our sleep to work out the root cause of chronic fatigue when we wake up.
Did you know that new technologies can disturb your sleep?!
When faced with all of these factors stopping you from getting a peaceful night’s sleep, there are different solutions out there. But from breathing exercises to phototherapy, there aren’t a lot of new options.
This is where new technologies can offer a totally new and innovative solution to repair disruptive sleep patterns.
Neuroscientists have in fact identified brainwaves which prevent us from sleeping, and the good ones which help us to doze off.
Through learning to identify and produce these brainwaves, new solutions such as Neurofeedback help us treat our sleep problems without relying on medications.
Thanks to connected objects, it is possible to naturally tackle sleep problems on your own at home. Progressively, we can train the brain to produce waves which promote restorative sleep.
Neurofeedback is thus a natural technique which relies on our brain’s control mechanisms, which we are constantly using every day without knowing. The idea is to learn to consciously activate this unconscious mechanism that helps us go to sleep. We can thus wake up every morning in great shape after a restful night’s sleep.