Biggest Sleep Interrupters and How to Overcome Them

By Mark Thompson


Every human, starting from a newborn baby to an octogenarian, needs to sleep soundly at night in order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Newborns, adolescents, teenagers, and young adults need to sleep soundly for 8-9 hours whereas middle-aged persons and oldsters can make do with 7-8 hours. Apart from the number of hours of sleep you’re getting every day, it is more important that you sleep peacefully and soundly.

Sleeping calmly and deeply all through the night is crucial if you wish to get up from bed the next day feeling fully refreshed and rejuvenated. When you sleep, your entire self, including the mind and body, relaxes and gets revitalized. So, when you lose sleep, pump your fists into pillows, toss from one side to the other the whole night, you tend to wake up feeling spent and intensely irritated, and the entire day is laid to waste.

If you tend to lose sleep for many days at a stretch, you could find yourself facing a host of physical and mental issues. The worst possible case scenarios where you do not get a wink of sleep for weeks on end, might lead to unemployment, loss of income, straining of relationships with near and dear ones, and crippling insanity. About 25-30% of the adult US population has insomnia and 10% of this populace happens to be chronic insomniacs.

Telling an insomniac to sleep is always easier said than done because only the sufferer knows what he or she has to put up with in order to fall asleep. A host of intrinsic and external factors are at play, having an impact on both the quality and quantity of sleep we get every night. The structure of a person’s brain during birth and the manner in which the organ develops gradually can profoundly influence that individual’s sleep patterns.

Additionally, as we age, the total number of hours we sleep on average reduces and also tends to become fragmented. We could also be plagued by sleep loss because of a medical condition or health issue that keeps us in discomfort and causes pain. However, two prime causes that keep millions around the world awake in the present times, are an undisciplined or erratic lifestyle, and stress. By and large, a host of genetic, environmental, physical and mental health issues, and other interconnected factors contribute towards influencing an individual’s sleep or lack of it.

The Biggest Sleep Interrupters

Teeth grinding or bruxism

You may or may not be aware of it but bruxism could be behind your getting up with an inflamed jaw or nagging headache. You could develop the problem of teeth biting or gnawing from the nasty habit of constantly munching chewing gum sticks. Taking alcohol before going to bed could also cause you to bite teeth. Visit a dentist who may recommend you to put on a splint or dental guard. Botox injections in the jaw muscle also help contain bruxism.

Waking up frequently at night

Waking up frequently at night could hijack your sleep. Postmenopausal women are usually the worst victims of this problem. If you suffer from a similar problem, then there are specific steps you can take to arrest the cycle of getting up occasionally while sleeping. Do not work on the computer or watch TV. Turn off the light in your bedroom and keep the area dark when you wake up in the morning.

Meditate for 15-20 minutes before lying down and do not eat if you’re not hungry.

Circadian rhythm issue

Our body has a circadian clock that regulates our hours of waking and sleeping. This circadian clock can go awry if there are frequent changes in our sleep and wake timings. The total number of hours we spend in daylight and remain in darkness also has a bearing on the normal functioning of the circadian clock. Jet lag is another factor that can upset the natural circadian pattern.

The solution lies in working out a bedtime and wakeup time in accordance with your daily work schedule and sticking to it stringently. In other words, you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and morning after respectively. Additionally, try to spend some hours in bright sunshine everyday and exercise regularly.

Snoring or sleep apnea

If you snore during your sleep it implies that you’re not sleeping soundly. Snoring which is known as sleep apnea in medical parlance is indicative of some underlying health problem or could result from allergies, sinusitis or nasal decongestion. Whatever the root causes behind your obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea, it come prevent you from getting peaceful sleep. Putting on a CPAP device can prove to be effective.

However, if CPAP does not work you can opt for a surgical procedure or go in for minimally invasive surgical process which is usually done on an outpatient basis. Trying to lose if you’re obese, refraining from using sleeping aids and medications, and avoiding alcohol are other ways for containing sleep apnea.

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a nocturnal disorder that is typified by involuntary shifting or movement of legs because the individual has feels itchiness, prickling or tingling in his or her lower limbs. Since the leg movement happens automatically or instinctively, you may have no idea of the same but the syndrome could prevent you from sleeping soundly. Restless leg syndrome could be symptomatic of a health issue like diabetes, anemia, peripheral neuropathy, and kidney or thyroid disease. Opting for treatment for the disease and/or changing medication might alleviate the symptom.


Insomnia or sleeplessness is the omnibus medical term for the loss of the natural ability to fall asleep and/or remain somnolent. A significant proportion of the US population suffers from insomnia which can take a huge toll on the insomniac’s wellbeing. There could be a host of issues, mental or physical or both that could be behind someone’s insomnia.

Consulting a psychiatrist, sleep specialist or a cognitive behavioral therapist might prove helpful as the professional will guide you on how to follow a scientific ‘sleep hygiene’.

If you are bored of the same old advice for treating your sleep problems, here is a quick guide on using some weird but interesting ways to fix your sleep.

Habits That Could Keep You from Sleeping Soundly

Many individuals experiencing problems with sleeping tend to generalize the issue with ageing which surprisingly is not true in most of the cases. All, normal and healthy persons need to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep on an average. So, regardless of whether you’re in your forties or sixties, you should not have a problem falling asleep unless you’re suffering from a disease or disorder which could be causing you some level of discomfort.

Your normal sleep could also be affected if you’re on some strong medication or do a stressful activity like exercises or computer work a couple of hours before going to bed. Following are some habits or practices that could come in the way of your getting sound sleep.

Exercising a few hours before retiring for the day

Strenuous workouts 2-3 hours before bedtime make you vulnerable to losing sleep when you’d need it the most. Exercising vigorously stresses out your body and raises your body temperature which could make you feel restless and fatigued. Your body needs to go into sleep mode before you start yawning which is a palpable indicator that you should make preparations for lying in bed.

However, your body will stay agitated and not be able to relax if you indulge in heavy workout before going to sleep. The bottomline: no exhausting exercises at least a couple of hours before bedtime.

Sleeping with your pet

Contrary to what you’d like to believe, going to bed with your pet could rob you of precious sleep. Circadian rhythms of pets and humans vary greatly as the former toss and turn during sleep which could pose difficulties for the latter if they share the bed. Bottomline: make your beagle or Tommy get into the habit of sleeping in a separate bed, a crate for instance. Keep the crate in your bedroom if your pet is unable to relax on his or her own.

Watching TV or working on the laptop

Regardless of the program you’re watching on TV or the kind of work you’re doing on your laptop, the bright blue light impedes melatonin production, a hormone that stimulates sleep. The only and best solution is to refrain from watching TV or working on the laptop a few hours before bed.

Drinking fluids

The more fluids you take, the greater will be the tendency to get up from your sleep and pee. Keep away from consuming too much coffee, tea, cola, fruit juice or any other type of caffeinated, non-caffeinated, or carbonated beverage some hours before stepping into the bedroom.

Eating a heavy dinner

Taking a heavy dinner, especially a meal comprising fatty foods will cause bloating and heartburn adversely affecting your sleep. The bottomline: eat a light meal that is rich in carbohydrates 3 hours before bedtime.

Apparently 10 insignificant activities that might interfere with your sleep

If you’re having trouble catching up with sleep, then make sure whether you’re indulging in the following activities that are seemingly insignificant but have the potential of keeping you wide awake at night.

  1. You like to take a puff before turning in: If you’re in the habit of smoking before calling it a day then be in the know (if you don’t already) that the nicotine in cigarettes acts as a stimulant which could keep you from falling asleep. The remedy is not to smoke 3-4 hours before bedtime. If you have insomnia, it would be best to quit smoking altogether.
  2. You binge after dinner: If you’re in the habit of snacking after dinner, then stop the practice. A heavy dessert, like a pudding or a sundae can adversely influence sleep. Sleeping after eating lots of food inhibits sleep, so make sure you have a light meal at night.
  3. You use a mint-flavored toothpaste: Brushing teeth just before tucking inside the sheets is always recommended but using toothpaste with a peppermint flavor is not. Peppermint has a stimulatory effect on your brain which could keep you awake.
  4. You like catching up on the latest horror flicks: Regardless of whether you’re lapping up ‘Conjuring’ or enjoying a tie between Manchester United FC and Barcelona FC or working on the laptop, the blue light of the screen has a negative effect on the natural circadian rhythm. The remedy is to watch TV early in the evening or on weekends.
  5. You splash your face or take a bath with cold water: Cold water helps close dermal pores but is energizing and stimulating at the same time. Splash your face or take a bath with warm water instead of cold.
  6. You resort to late night charging: Charging your smartphone or laptop late in the night is akin to watching TV-the blue wavelength of the indicator lamp adversely impacts the natural circadian clock, thereby disrupting sleep. Charge your gadgets in the morning or while you are working in office.
  7. You take lemon-flavored tea: Sipping on lemon tea before going to bed is tantamount to having an espresso – the tang of lemon can stimulate you in the same way as the bitterness of caffeine – it’ll affect your sleep adversely.

5 External Factors Impacting Sleep

Following extraneous factors could have an undesirable influence on your sleep and sleep patterns.

  1. Light/Darkness: Light and darkness are crucial external factors that can have a beneficial or unpleasant impact on our sleep cycles, directly as well as indirectly, depending on our hours of exposure and how we adjust to both. Spending too many hours indoors at daytime and working in excessively bright environments at night can make it problematic for you to fall asleep within a reasonable time period. Light (and darkness as well) indirectly influences the working of our innate Circadian rhythms. A good way to synchronize back to the natural light rhythms is to go for camping. You’re out for the entire day and it’s been proven to help people who suffer from insomnia.
  2. Night shift and jet lagOur natural body clocks have been preset (through a long period of evolution) to make us feel sleep at nighttime and keep us awake during the day. So, when this natural cycle of staying alert at daytime followed by a sleep phase during night is affected, we become disoriented. Professionals like nurses, pilots, call center employees, doctors, highway patrollers, air traffic controllers, and law enforcement officers who often have do the graveyard shift find it difficult to stay awake as their circadian rhythms go haywire.
  3. Health issues both physical and psychological: An assortment of psychological and medical issues including but not limited to premenstrual and postmenstrual syndromes, GERD, arthritis, anxiety disorder, anorexia, and heart disease could impinge on quality of sleep. Pain, discomfiture, anxiety, and depression which are symptomatic of an array of diseases and disorders might prevent an individual from sleeping peacefully through the night. Individuals with a physical or mental health condition are more likely to experience REM sleep. If you suffer from any physical or mental health issues, it’s best to seek a doctor.
  4. Medications and some general chemicals: Prescription medicines like antidepressants, antihistamines, beta blockers, and NSAIDs as well as chemicals found in whiskey, beers, tea, and coffee like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can have an unfavorable effect on sleep, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Make sure you ask your doctor if the medicines will affect your sleep.
  5. The place where we sleep: The environment or ambience in your bedroom too has a considerable influence on the number of hours you sleep and also on whether you sleep lightly or deeply. Lighting, temperature, and noise are some variables that could induce to fall asleep quickly or keep your awake in the bedroom. So make sure you sleep in a cool, dark, and silent environment at night.

Doing one or more of these things could disturb your sleep

  1. NappingResisting an afternoon nap after a sumptuous lunch could be difficult but keep in mind that a long nap in the afternoon could make it difficult to fall asleep at night. If you absolutely have to take a nap, don’t sleep for longer than 20-25 minutes.
  2. Drinking too much water before bedtime: If you drink too much water just before turning in, you’ll get up multiple times at night to urinate.
  3. You networked on the smartphone late into the night: Social media networking peaks in the late evening as that’s when people get off from work or school. But remember that you are socializing at the cost of your sleep. And many health experts and psychologists have stated that social media isn’t a valuable tool to build relationships. The solution is to focus on having one-on-one quality time with your family.
  4. You cannot remember when you last dusted the mattress and pillows: A dusty bed means having problems with breathing which in turn implies that you are falling asleep when you should be in the middle of a dream. A dusty environment can also cause other health problems like with breathing or skin issues, so make sure the room is clean.
  5. Do you keep the bed light on?: Even a bulb with a zero power rating could keep you awake so complete darkness in your bedroom is highly recommended. Always remember, light is one of the strongest cues our body uses to set our internal sleep cycle.
  6. You had your dinner just before going to bed: If you go to bed right after a heavy meal, you’re likely to have heartburns and acid reflux as you’re forcing your digestive system to overwork when it should be resting.
  7. You had a cup of black coffee at 8 p.m.: Taking coffee anytime after 3pm, regardless of whether it is cappuccino, espresso, latte or mocha could interfere with your sleep. Don’t drink. Studies have proven that caffeine causes physical dependence, so it’s best to kick caffeine out of your lifestyle for healthy sleep, but especially if you have insomnia.
  8. You jogged 4 miles late in the evening: Carrying out strenuous exercises or indulging in any form of vigorous physical activity will keep your body temperature high preventing you from sleeping. When you are feeling high and active, it’s hard to sleep.
  9. You have cold feet: If you find it difficult to fall asleep owing to cold feet which could be because of your peripheral neuropathy, vitamin deficiency or peripheral arterial disease, put on warm socks before going to bed.

What exactly is keeping you awake?

If your sleep gets frequently interrupted at night and you wake up feeling groggy, irritated and lethargic the morning after on a chronic basis, then you could be suffering from insomnia. Before rushing to seek medical intervention, trying to figure out the probable cause or causes behind your sleeplessness will save you a lot of trouble and also go a long way in helping you get back to sleeping ways. Try seeking answers to the following questions.

  1. Am I not able to sleep to because of the setting in my bedroom?
  2. Is my stress keeping me wide awake?
  3. Are my turning and tossing in bed because of restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea?
  4. Am I taking too many cups of coffee late in the day?
  5. Is it because of my arthritic or spondylosis pain that I am not able to sleep?
  6. Is acid reflux or a bloated belly behind my sleeplessness?
  7. Should I give up smoking?
  8. What about my alcohol intake?

What is causing your insomnia? – The Most Common Causes of Sleeplessness

If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed while trying to fall asleep, try taking stock of the factors that could be behind your sleeplessness starting from hormonal changes to stress caused by overwork. About 30% of the adult populace in America has insomnia and a good proportion of the insomniacs happen to be men and women in their sixties and beyond. Following are some top reasons that could be preventing you landing in dreamland.

  1. You do not switch off the TV: The blue light wavelength from any digital or electronic gadget could discourage melatonin secretion, the hormone that induces sleep. Either wear glasses that screens blue/green light or switch off all digital gadgets at least 3 hrs before going to bed.
  2. You take your dinner a little before going to bed: Since your metabolic system slows down during the evening, avoid taking a heavy dinner or else you’ll suffer from indigestion problems. Have a light meal consisting of food rich in carbohydrates 3-4 hrs before bedtime.
  3. You are habituated to OTC sleep medications: OTC medications will stop being effective after some time if you’re in the habit of taking them regularly. You’ll be better off consulting a psychiatrist or a cognitive behavioral therapist if you’re an insomniac.
  4. You suffer from depression: If your depression is behind your sleeplessness, then get in touch with a psychiatrist who will start you a course of antidepressants side by side with psychotherapy sessions.
  5. You are a persistent snorer: An underlying disease like heart disease or hypertension or extreme fatigue could be the cause of your heavy snoring at night. Use a CPAP device before you schedule an appointment with your physician.
  6. You are a woman approaching menopause: If you’re a woman approaching the menopausal age which is typically 51, then you should be prepared to experience hot flashes and insomnia resulting from the arrest of menstrual cycle. A hormone therapy not lasting beyond 3 years is an effective remedy.


Sleep problems can affect that way you function all day and even affect your mental health if the problems are persistent. The good news is, you can enjoy a healthy sleep by making some lifestyle changes.

The first thing to remember is the basic cues our body uses for fixing our body clock or circadian rhythm. Light, timing of food and temperature are the biggest cues our body uses for adjusting our sleep cycle. So we must use these to our advantage.

Then, we must remember the basic rules of healthy sleep – no electronics a couple hours before bed, sleeping at the same time every day, exercising for healthy sleep, eating light meal at night and seeking professional help for physical or mental health issues.

For some, a healthy sleep comes just after making a lifestyle change. And for others with insomnia, it takes time, patience, and may be some professional help. But in the end, making lifestyle changes is the key to healthy sleep.

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