6 Surprising Sleep Wreckers
Sleep Wrecker 3: Undiagnosed GERD
People who have GERD -- gastroesophageal reflux disorder -- often find the nights difficult. Once they're lying down, the acid can back into the esophagus, causing heartburn and pain. Some try to sleep propped up on pillows to cope.
"Acid reflux is a biggie when it comes to disturbed sleep," says Ronald Kramer, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and specialist at the Colorado Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo. "Whenever I see a person with sleep problems, I always screen for it."
What you might not know is that GERD doesn't always cause such dramatic symptoms. Some people might only have one constant symptom: disturbed sleep.
"Even if you rarely have pain, the acid can still be waking you up at night," says Kramer. GERD can cause other nondescript symptoms too, like chronic cough. If you have GERD that’s interrupting your sleep, getting treated for it is important. Not only will treatment help you sleep, but it will reduce the risk of serious health problems later.
Sleep Wrecker 4: Medicine, Vitamins, and Supplements
Some of the most common causes of disturbed sleep are in your medicine cabinet, but you might not suspect them at all. Common drugs, like steroids for asthma and beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart problems, can keep you up at night.
Despite being called "narcotics," so can opioid drugs for pain. While they relieve pain quickly -- and can make you feel drowsy in the process -- they can also lead to sleep apnea.
Botanical supplements can cause sleep loss, too. Supplements like ginseng and guarana are stimulants. Even vitamins aren't free of risk.
"Vitamins B6 or B12 can give people vivid dreams, and that can wake people up," says Mindell. "It's much better to use those in the morning."
If you're having chronic sleep problems, go to your doctor with a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements that you use. Ask if any of them could be causing your sleep problems.
Sleep Wrecker 5: Pain -- Even Mild Pain
Just about any painful condition can cause disrupted sleep. Headaches, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and menstrual pain are all common causes.
What you might not realize is that the pain doesn't even have to be particularly severe to cause sleep loss. In fact, it doesn't even have to wake you up.
Pain signals sent out by your body can fragment your sleep, reducing the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep. You might not wake up, but your sleep will be less restful.
"People with chronic pain often wake up feeling more tired than they were when they went to bed," says Roth.
Even if you have only mild chronic pain, it's worth checking it out with a doctor.