Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is important to both regulate your circadian rhythm and support your overall sleep quality. But sometimes sleeping in is easier said than done. There are several factors that can keep us from getting extra zzzs and some might surprise you. In honor of Better Sleep Month, here are five things that can keep you from sleeping in and some simple ways to fix the problem.
1. Light: Did you know sunlight triggers serotonin production? Therefore, it’s extremely important to make sure curtains are drawn, eye masks are worn or if you’re traveling, bring safety pins to keep those heavy drapes pulled close. Keeping sunlight out and tricking your brain into thinking it’s still nighttime is a great way to stay asleep in the morning. If you haven’t tried one of these tricks, you may be surprised to find out how sensitive your brain is to light.
2. Stress-Related Hormones: Known as the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is secreted in the morning and helps you to wake up. The problem is once cortisol is released; you continue to get bursts of it throughout the morning to help transition from sleeping to waking. If you wake up and can’t fall back asleep, have a snack that’s packed with melatonin like yogurt, hummus, or oatmeal. Studies have also found that the magnesium in dark chocolate can help you sleep better at night and regulate your circadian rhythm. You can also try taking magnesium supplements to help you sleep better at night.
3. Low Blood Sugar: Because you haven’t eaten all night, low blood sugar can lead to a rise in cortisol. This is why bedtime snacks are a plus, you just need to make sure they are healthy. Finding a snack that can balance your blood sugar is key. Have a small glass of juice, a handful of tart cherries or a little bit of yogurt. Foods and drinks such as tomatoes (contain tyramine), cheese pizza (contains fat) and tea (contains caffeine) are items to stay away from that can sabotage your sleep.
4. Old Mattress: Take note of your most common sleeping position and make sure your mattress accommodates to it. A mattress that’s too hard, too soft or doesn’t provide enough support can be a key cause of waking up before you’re ready. If you sleep on your side and your mattress doesn’t cater to the fetal position, aches, and pains and even headaches could become your new alarm clock.
5. Mental Clutter: Chatter in our heads and racing thoughts will most definitely keep you from falling back asleep in the morning. We suggest writing in a journal the night before, so everything is out of your brain and on paper. There’s something about knowing you won’t forget a task because it’s already on a list. Also, deep breathing can help your brain focus on what’s important, which is keeping your mind quiet.
April Mayer is a sleep researcher and writer for Amerisleep. She covers everything individuals of all age groups and health conditions need to know about how to get better sleep. You can find Amerisleep products in any one of their Phoenix mattress stores.