This is often the first step but it is not necessarily the best one. Meditating can calm your mind and help you to de-stress. But there are many possible causes for poor sleep.
Add to this the fact there are many different types of meditation. How can you be sure that you have chosen the right one, if you're doing it right, or if it's improving your sleep?
Most all forms of meditation can be beneficial but it is better to learn what causes poor sleep first, which will allow you to address these issues and improve your chances of sleeping well.
The following types of meditation are generally useful for beginners to help you get to sleep:
- Mindfulness – the aim is to break your train of thoughts, separating night from day.
- Guided – When you listen to an audio track or even watch a video to guide you into a calm place.
- Relaxed Muscle – Tensing and un-tensing your muscles helps you understand your body’s relaxed state. You will find it easier to relax before sleeping.
- Deep Breathing – The idea is your deep breathing will calm your mind and body.
- Yoga 4-7-8 – This is a breathing exercise where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and then let out for 8. It focuses your mind solely on the exercise helping you drift off to sleep.
These techniques all focus on calming your mind; but being stressed is not the only answer to what causes poor sleep.
Research suggests that every hour of inactivity during the day will add 3 minutes to the time it takes to get to sleep. The same research confirms that extensive television viewing also affects sleep quality.
It’s hardly surprising. There are two issues with inactivity during the day:
- Watching television or playing video games leaves your mind racing making it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Inactivity means that your body is already rested; even if you’re not actually sleeping. Thus, when you want to sleep you can’t.
The obvious items to consider in your diet are those that stimulate you, such as caffeine. Taking caffeine close to bed will prevent you from falling asleep and getting a good night’s sleep.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and should be avoided.
Other foods that can cause issues are spicy and acidic foods; these can trigger heartburn which is made worse when you lie down.
Even a poor diet can prevent you from sleeping well. Diets rich in processed foods will have a high level of sugar. This is converted into glucose in your body creating an energy boost. If you eat sugary foods near bedtime you’ll going to feel energetic, not sleepy.
These foods will also encourage fat gain which will contribute to you being more inactive and damage your sleep efforts further.
In addition the foods you eat can cause indigestion and even irritable bowel syndrome; this will not help you sleep. Some of the worst food culprits are:
- Spicy foods.
- Sweet foods
- Greasy foods
- Large amounts of liquid
Top Tip: milk contains tryptophan which your body uses to make serotonin, which is necessary to control your sleep patterns. The science behind milk and sleep isn't clear, but it may be worth a try if you're trying to get to sleep.
Stress Does Play A Part
When you sleep your body has the opportunity to balance your hormones. This includes regulating hunger and reducing the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body.
Unfortunately when you’re stressed you’re body is flooded with cortisol. If you are constantly stressed then your body may exist in a permanent state of hyperarousal. This will make it very difficult for you to get to sleep as your body is in the ‘flight or fight’ mode.
Aging Affects Sleep
One of the issues that many people face as they age is illness. This can come in many forms but it is often accompanied by pain and stiff joints. If you’re suffering then you’ll find it harder t get comfortable and fall asleep.
It can also wake you up frequently in the night preventing you from getting into your deep sleep cycle.
You may also find that you are on medication to help with any condition you have. If you take a look at the side effects you may be surprised to find that difficulty sleeping is one of them.
It is also worth noting that a regular schedule helps your body to know when to sleep and when to wake. If you alternate your schedule often you may find you start to suffer from issues with your circadian rhythms.
There are two parts to your circadian rhythms:
- Sleep / Wake Homeostasis
Your body needs sleep. The longer you are awake the more you will need it. This part of the cycle simply tells you that sleep is needed.
If the sleep / wake part operated by itself you would wake full of energy and gradually feel like sleeping as time passed.
- Circadian Biological clock
Fortunately your biological clock also plays a part. This is an internal clock that controls periods of sleepiness and alertness during the day.
This is why you’ll feel sleepiest between 1pm and 3pm and again between 2am and 4am.
The two factors work together to create a need for sleep. Light can also play a part which is why it is important to dim the lights as you get ready for bed and make sure they are nice and bright in the morning.
If you disrupt this schedule you will find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. It can be easily disrupted by breaking your usual schedule but it takes longer to reset it.
Top Tips To Help Improve Your Sleep
Here are some great tips to help you improve your sleep patterns:
- Stick to a schedule
- Don’t take naps during the day
- Avoid caffeine in the evening
- Switch off electronics an hour before bed and keep them out of your bedroom
- Make sure you’ve finished exercising at least 3 hours before bed; but do exercise daily
- De-stress before bed with a little mindful meditation
- Buy a new mattress or pillow
Resolve What Causes Poor Sleep With Our Help
You’ve learned the answer to what causes poor sleep now you need to change the way you deal with everyday items and create a new schedule.
Your new friend & health coach,
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.