According to a wide-reaching 2016 study, almost three-quarters of the American population – 164 million people – struggle to sleep at least once a week. For more than a quarter of the population, this struggle occurs every night. Projected sales reports suggest that by next year, we will spend $52 billion annually on sleep aids, from white noise machines to eye-masks to specialist mattresses and sleeping pills. But what is causing this sleeplessness epidemic? What’s causing millions of people to ask: “Why can’t I sleep?”
We Just Don’t Have Enough Time
For many people, the reason they aren’t sleeping enough comes down to simple math. Americans are working longer hours, with most people working over 40 hours a week and 17% of the population working 60 hours or more. When you add in longer commutes, household chores, and working multiple jobs, many people just don’t have time to get enough sleep on a regular basis.
The Dangers of Screens & Blue Light
Between computers, televisions, and phones, in America, we look at our screens for 12 hours a day, on average. In the process, we take in five times as much information every day compared to people 50 years ago. Not only is this screen time affecting the way our brains filter information, but it is also making it increasingly difficult for us to switch off and wind down before going to bed.
Combine that with the fact that extensive research shows that the blue light emitted by phones, tablets and computers disrupts our circadian rhythms and stops our bodies from producing enough melatonin – the sleep hormone – and it is little wonder that many of us struggle to sleep.
Deep Sleep Requires a Proper Sleeping Environment
To enjoy good quality sleep, most people need three things: dark, quiet, and comfort. While this may sound simple, the right combination of all three can be hard to come by.
More than 80% of Americans live in cities or urban environments, which can be noisy all through the night, with high levels of light pollution too. All of this can equal a disturbed night’s sleep.
Body temperature is crucial too. Although we like to feel warm and snug before tucking in for the night, a cool room could actually help to facilitate dropping off, as our body temperature falls in order to initiate sleep. Studies show that for most people, a room temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for falling asleep.
Eating and Drinking Right to Deepen Sleep
Much of what we consume can affect our sleep, for better or for worse. While we all know the effects of caffeine on our sleep patterns (and on that note, research shows you should stop drinking caffeine at least 6 hours before you plan to go to bed), many other foods are also stimulants or can stop us sleeping as well. Chocolate, for example, contains caffeine, but it also contains theobromine and tyrosine, both of which act as mild stimulants.
Foods that are high in protein and fats, like red meat or fried foods, are harder to digest, which stops us from falling asleep. Spicy and acidic foods both mess with digestion too, and they also contain other substances that can affect sleep. For chili peppers, it is capsaicin, which can cause body temperature to fluctuate. For tomatoes, it is tyramine, an amino acid that activates the creation of norepinephrine, which can increase brain activity. Neither is good for a restful night!
Even non-food items that we consume can negatively impact our sleep. Nicotine, found in cigarettes, e-cigarettes and stop-smoking products like gum and patches, is a stimulant, increasing both alertness and heart rate. Many medications can also have a stimulant effect, especially over the counter pain pills, which often contain caffeine or non-drowsy cold medicine.
Finally, alcohol. Although many people do feel sleepy after a drink, studies have shown that ultimately it negatively affects sleep quality as it reduces rapid eye movement (REM). In addition, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you are more likely to need to visit the bathroom in the night.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Try to go to sleep at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time each morning. This will help to reset your circadian rhythm and signal to your body when you should be waking or sleeping.
- Initiate a bedtime routine: avoid screens for at least 90 minutes before bed, and opt instead to read a book or listen to music.
- Many people find meditation or mindfulness exercises to help them to switch off before sleep. Check out this past blog post for information to get your meditation practice started: Click here.
- Try to eat dinner earlier, giving your body more time to digest before bed: at least 3 hours is recommended.
- If you are a light sleeper, invest in blackout blinds or a high-quality eye-mask, as well as something to block the noise. This could be earplugs (silicone are more effective than foam), a white noise machine, or even better sound insulation.
Research suggests that CBD oil can work effectively as a natural insomnia remedy. Not only can it help to reduce stress levels, making it easier to fall asleep, but studies show that it can also promote deeper, more refreshing sleep by encouraging REM. PowerDown by PurePower is specially formulated to promote restful sleep, thanks to its Inside-Out Sleep Complex, a unique blend of sleep-promoting plant and mineral extracts, and its 10 mg of Performance CBD per serving.