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What Causes Bad Sleep?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bad sleep can get in the way of a lot of things: happiness, health, motivation, positive relationships, and even your exercise and weight goals. When something is getting in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep, it’s important to find the problem and solve it, or determine the issue with your doctor and treat it so that you can get back to being your best self.

If it’s not an obvious problem or you’re not sure how bad it is, keep a sleep diary, try using an app or asking your partner to help track your habits so you can get some data to discuss with your doctor. Here are some of the most common culprits to sleep problems, and some ideas on how to solve them or where to go for help.


Since alcohol can have the tendency to make people feel sleepy, it’s often used as a way to relax and fall asleep at night. The reason that alcohol causes sleep problems is that it interferes with the natural rhythm of sleep and sleep cycles. It can make you drowsy initially, but you’re more likely to wake up later at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping and are used to a drink before bed, try cutting it for a few nights (or have a drink early in the evening and leave at least 3 hours before bed) and see if that makes a difference.

Medications and Supplements

You may not be aware that something you’re taking could affect your sleep. Most medications that can interfere with sleep are labeled as such, but if you’re wondering if your medicine or a supplement you’re taking can interfere with your normal sleep patterns, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information. Everyday Health has more information on common culprits when it comes to sleeplessness and medications.

Caffeine Overdose

Our country is pretty big on coffee, caffeine, and energy drinks. You may think that a late-day coffee drink won’t affect your sleep, but high caffeine consumption (usually thought of as three or more eight-ounce cups per day) can cause some real sleep problems. Keep in mind that tea, though typically lower in caffeine, also contains enough that several cups throughout the day could affect you. Not sure how to cut back? Here are some helpful tips on how to reduce your caffeine intake.

Sleep Disorders

There are many sleep disorders that could be the reason you’re missing out and restful sleep. Jet lag would be a pretty obvious problem, but some people may not be aware of things like shift work sleep disorder, a problem with your internal clock due to working nights, early mornings, rotating shifts, or otherwise difficult and irregular hours. Often thought of as just a night owl, problems with staying awake far too long and sleeping much later than usual while trying to maintain a typical sleep cycle might be diagnosable as delayed sleep phase disorder, another problem with your biological clock.

Your Partner

From thunderous snoring to fidgeting to talking, your partner might be a problem. Talk about how you’re both sleeping. If they’re not comfortable, are having reflux or another issue, you may be able to treat the problem and both get some better sleep. It’s not uncommon for people to seek alternative sleeping arrangements, but if you find that motion transfer is the issue, talk to us about a bed that can help. There are options for mattresses that won’t move so much if you have a restless partner

Disturbances in Bed

Pets and young children can be a problem when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. It’s comforting for them to be in your warm bed with you, but if you’re finding that it’s affecting your sleep, a new arrangement needs to be made. You may not notice that the issue is another creature in your bed if you’re not waking up all the way, but if the movement of a little one or man’s best friend is causing you to partially wake freqently, then you’re going to wake up feeling tired in the morning. Try a few nights without them and see if you wake feeling refreshed and rested. If so, maybe change to a nighttime snuggle before retreating to your own rooms and beds for the night, or even different beds in the same room.

Medical Conditions

Undiagnosed medical problems may be causing sleeplessness. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are common medical conditions that are easily treatable, for example. Obviously you don’t want to try to diagnose yourself, but talk to your doctor if you think that you may have an underlying medical condition causing insomnia or restless sleep, or if you just can’t find the cause of your lack of sleep.