You’re sleeping wrong and you don’t even know it. A new Consumer Reports survey of more than 26,000 found that 60 percent of people have trouble either falling or staying asleep, or they wake up exhausted. Nearly half cited work-related stress as the main reason for staring at the ceiling. Sound familiar?
While it may not shock you that problems at the office keep you up at night, here are four unsuspecting culprits disrupting your sound sleep–and how to fight back. (Did you know that every night, you could be inhaling harmful chemicals while you sleep? Check out 5 Indoor Air Dangers.)
If it takes you hours to doze off and you wake up in a pool of sweat, you’re too hot to reach deep sleep. “We have our most intensive dream sleep in the very early hours of the morning when our core body temperature is at its lowest,” says Michael Decker, Ph.D., spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Can’t crank the AC? Jump in a hot shower for 15 to 20 minutes. Get this: Even if it’s hot out, stepping out of a warm shower will cause your body temp to drop almost immediately, Decker says. This sends that signal to the brain–hey, start that sleep system.
Not Enough Light
Seeing bright light throughout the day stimulates the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain, which wakes you up, says Decker. But if you don’t get enough daylight, it never becomes fully aroused. The result? You spend the day in a state of sleepiness, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Your move: Find your fix of sunlight by walking the dog around the block or playing with your kids in the yard before nightfall. (Just don’t hit the artificial lights–they’ll keep you up. Learn Why You Can’t Get to Sleep at Night.)
If you’re hankering for a “fourth meal” late at night, opt for a few light carbs, like a slice of toast or crackers, rather than high-protein meals, says Decker. Protein-packed foods require a lot of breakdown, which creates body heat. The heat keeps your core body temperature heightened and tells your brain you’re not ready to hit the sack yet, Decker adds.
If you’re a nighttime gym-goer, we have good news: A post-dinner workout could lead to the restorative slumber you need to stay healthy–as long as you don’t overdo it, says Decker. Studies have shown an increase in slow-wave sleep following exercise, though researchers aren’t sure why, he says. Try this: Run on a treadmill to get your heart rate up to two-thirds your maximum, then hold it for 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll certainly break a sweat, but you won’t overexert yourself to the point where you can’t fall asleep.