Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. You stare in the dark at the numbers glaring back at you on your alarm clock. It is 3 a.m., and the makings of another night of interrupted sleep and frustration are apparent. As you contemplate what is wrong with you, think about this: It may be what you do during the day that's giving you insomnia at night.
Sleep is one of the most important needs in life. All creatures need it to function. Without it, we break down mentally and physically. Lack of sleep can cause moodiness, lack of concentration, and sluggishness. But why is it so essential? Researchers still don't know.
Karen D.' s husband was not sleeping well. Every night after he settled into bed, Karen would start to snore -- loudly and all night long.
"My husband had been complaining for years about my snoring, and it was getting worse," says Karen, of Boston. "Even when I went away with my girlfriends, no one wanted to share a room with me."
While Karen's snoring was keeping everyone within earshot awake, it was also affecting her own sleep. For as long as she could remember, the Bostonian lumbered through...
Regardless, Americans with their jam-packed schedules often try to delay sleep as much as possible and may unknowingly do other things that could hinder sleep when they actually do want it. In fact, diet and other lifestyle habits could be secretly sabotaging efforts to get a few much-needed ZZZs.
"We know that certain foods that we consume can interfere with sleep, says Carl E. Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. "The most obvious one in terms of stimulating wakefulness would be caffeine, and then there's nicotine."
Nearly half of Americans report having insomnia at least on occasion, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Adults need an average of eight hours of sleep to function well. Older people tend to need a little less -- about 7.5 hours. It's estimated that nearly half of people over age 65 have sleeping difficulties. This can stem from changes in lifestyle, such as napping more during the day, discomfort from physical conditions, such as arthritis, and emotional difficulties and depression.
But lifestyle habits can play a leading role in quality of sleep, too, or lack thereof. So the first thing you should do is analyze your patterns and environment. The Cleveland Clinic recommends these tips for good sleep "hygiene":
Not going to bed until you are tired
Setting a regular schedule to get up in the morning, even on weekends