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Why You May Be Having Trouble Sleeping… and What You Can Do About It

May 20th, 2020

These days, most of us are sheltering at home while we wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to settle down.

You might think people would be getting more rest without the hassle of daily commutes, long days at work, or early mornings getting kids up for school…but you’d be wrong.

In fact, many people say they are feeling less rested than they did before sheltering at home.

Why? There are several possible reasons:

  • Stress. Long-term stresses make your adrenal glands pump out extra epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These “stress hormones” help your body respond to short-term stresses…but over the long term they disrupt your natural sleep cycle and make it harder for your mind and body to relax at night.
  • Disrupted day-night cycles. Your body naturally produces less melatonin during daylight and more at night when it’s time to sleep. Your body also builds up adenosine levels at night…which helps to make you feel sleepy.When you sleep in late (because your job or school are closed) and stay up late (binge-watching movies), your melatonin can get out of balance…making it harder for you to fall asleep at night or stay awake during the day.
  • Lack of exercise. When you sit around the house all day and can’t (or shouldn’t) go out, your body responds by “shutting down” to conserve energy. Your metabolism is reduced…almost like you’re in hibernation.
    Unfortunately this “hunkering down” means you’re less tired at night when your body is programmed to rest. As a result, you can’t fall asleep…no matter how tired you feel.
  • No schedule. Your body is a creature of habit. It functions best when things stay the same. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time…your body likes to have a schedule.Right now, you may feel like you’re stuck in no man’s land…with no set plan and no idea when you’ll have one again. As a result, your body literally loses track of when it should be active or resting…leading to groggy days and sleepless nights.

Unfortunately, a chronic lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, irritability, an inability to concentrate, and decreased cognitive performance. In addition, poor sleep has been linked to conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and depression.

On the flip side, getting enough sleep helps your immune system perform at its best…an important consideration during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

So under the current circumstances, what practical steps can you take to get better quality sleep, and more of it?

  1. Maintain a daily schedule
  2. Even if you’re stuck at home, keep regular hours. Wake up, eat, exercise, work and go to bed at consistent times as much as possible.

    Your body’s hormone production is largely based on anticipated need. Keep your body on a schedule and it will be more likely to produce the hormones you need when you need them.

  3. Turn off lights at bedtime
  4. Your body produces melatonin and adenosine in response to darkness. These hormones get your body ready for restful sleep. Artificial light…even from your TV, computer, phone or tablet…can disrupt this natural balance.

    Turn off the lights and your devices before bedtime. That way your body knows it’s time to go to sleep. If you have to be on a device after dark, make sure it has an app like f.lux installed on it that will automatically tone down the bright light after sundown.

  5. Get regular exercise
  6. A good workout…even just a walk…gets your metabolism going during the day and leaves you tired at the end of the day so you fall asleep more easily.

    But don’t wait to exercise until late in the evening. This could energize your body too close to bedtime and make it harder to fall asleep.

  7. De-stress
  8. You can’t magically solve all the world’s problems, but you can help your mind and body to cope better.

    Meditation and exercise can encourage your body produce more “feel good” hormones like serotonin and endorphins. And just connecting with friends and family to talk can be a great stress reliever.

  9. Talk to an expert
  10. Sleep problems can be caused or exacerbated by medical problems ranging from hormone imbalances to sleep apnea.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to your PCP about doing a sleep study.

If you think you may have a hormone imbalance, give us a call. Hormone imbalances are often the root cause of insomnia, and we can help. Call Renew Youth at 800-850-7511 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation.

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