The 8 Most Unexpected Things That Impact Your Sleep, According To Science

by Brittany Bennett
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Everyone is out here trying to get a solid night's sleep in. The struggle, however, can be real and feel like a battle against the sunrise. According to science, it's not the impending sunrise that you should be battling, but instead unexpected things that impact your sleep. Hopefully upon realization of what's holding you back from a deep sleep, can you then reach that sweet REM.

If you're not feeling rested after clocking hours of sleep, you're not alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, "More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis." Lack of sleep is prominent among most Americans, prompting sleep scientists, experts and companies to narrow down the reasons why.

There are widely known ways to improve your current sleep. Sleep scientists at the technology company 37.5 tell Bustle, "To improve your night’s sleep, stop looking at devices an hour before bed, keep the room as cool and dark as possible, and look for a mattress and bedding that offers true thermoregulation, which will cool warm sleepers and warm cool sleepers."

Not allowing for any blue light in the room where you sleep allows your body to produce naturally occurring melatonin. And what you sleep on matters. What impacts your sleep is an individual experience. Make sure you find the best mattress, sheets, and pillows to accommodate your sleeping temperature and comfort level. A good night's sleep is a solution away!


Spicy Foods

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Maybe re-think that late night hot sauce all over your midnight snack. Especially if you find it hard to sleep — spicy foods could be interfering with your rest. Matt Ross, co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard tells Bustle, "A lot of spicy foods contain a chemical known as capsaicin, which causes your nerves to heat up. Your body then responds by sweating in order to cool down your nerves. Foods that are high in acidic ingredients (like vinegar) can have the same effect on your nerves as well." If you're sleeping and constantly find yourself tossing and turning to find those cool spots on your bed, re-think those jalapeño chips before bed.



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Your hormones have a say in how you sleep. According to Dr. Aumatma of Holistic Fertility Center, "Progesterone deficiency can make it harder to sleep!" Yale Medicine elaborates, "Immediately before bleeding begins, a woman’s progesterone levels dip dramatically, which is why some women can find it really difficult to get quality sleep in those 'PMS' days. After menses, progesterone levels will slowly rise again, allowing sweet dreams to come more easily." Your sleep can be impacted by your hormones depending on where you are in your cycle.


Your Sheets

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The sleep scientists at 37.5 Technology say, "To get into restorative, REM sleep you must lose 2 degrees of heat. This comes off as moisture vapor, but if it isn’t removed from the bedding it builds up and makes you too hot. So you kick off the covers and interrupt your sleep."

And it goes deeper than that. The throne you lay lateral upon could also be impacting your sleep. There are mattresses created specifically to regulate temperature, so your sweat doesn't seep into your bed frame. Thermoregulation is the word.


Magnesium Deficiencies

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Your sleep could be impacted by stress, which may hint at a nutrient deficiency. Dr. William Howrilla, DC, CRA, CFMP of Your Health Investigator tells Bustle, "Magnesium is critical for the proper metabolism of the hormone norepinephrine/noradrenaline. This hormone is created in high amounts during sympathetic nervous stimulation or the (fight or flight) response. This response is triggered during actual stress or even perceived stress [...]" But this can be helped. He continues, "Magnesium is very relaxing to our nervous system, our muscles and our brain. Magnesium deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency that I see." Eat those bananas to resist insomnia!



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Dr. Howrila says that certain medications can also impact the quality of your sleep. He lists "antidepressants, decongestants, high blood pressure meds, cholesterol lowering meds" as possibilities. If you recently changed medications, and are having difficulties sleeping, let your doctor know so they can potentially help you make an adjustment.



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According to Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, coach and clinical education lead of Arivale, "Alcohol can also have a negative impact on sleep quality. While it may help someone drift off, it reduces REM sleep, the type of sleep that is most restorative, which is why grogginess may ensue upon awakening. A good note in general is to avoid excessive fluid consumption too close to bedtime as it will inevitably lead to a bathroom break in the middle of the night, which for many, makes getting back to a peaceful slumber difficult."

It's important not to drink too much before bed. Especially if you know your bladder is small. Having to use the bathroom in the middle of the night could interrupt that deep sleep you need.


Skipping Your Bedtime

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It's important to prep your body for sleep and rest. That means having a bedtime and sticking to it as much as you possibly can. "Going to bed around the same time and having a regular sleep routine trains the brain to get the message that it’s time to simmer down," Purdy says. "This is going to vary from person to person but I try to recommend activities that people have already connected with as a way to settle the mind. This can be relaxing with a book, taking a hot bath with favorite scents, engaging in a contemplative practice/meditation, stretching or a simple yoga routine." Adulting means tucking yourself in.


Your Phone

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It might be so tempting to fall asleep to a YouTube ASMRtist, but the artificial light from your phone could be damaging to your sleep. FitBit's sleep expert Dr. Heneghan, director of research tells Bustle, "Artificial lights and screens can offset your sleep cycle and confuse the body on when to go to sleep. Darkness is essential for the body to wind down, including shutting down electronics to make your bed a 'sleep zone.'" Try sleeping with your phone in a separate room and using an alarm clock for those early wake up calls.

Your sleep is a fragile but an important part of the day. There are many unexpected factors that could be impacting it. But that doesn't mean that they can't be exposed and worked through to obtain the most precious, deep sleep ever.