Written by Dr Ivan Chow
Do you have the following?
- Take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after you get into bed.
- Regularly wake up more than once per night.
- Lie awake for more than 20 minutes when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Feel tired and have difficulty concentrating during the day.
- Drink more caffeine to stay alert.
- Feel more stressed out, emotionally exhausted, and angrier than usual.
These are signs of poor sleep quality. Many things could be contributing to your poor sleep quality.
Poor sleep habits, like having an irregular sleep schedule, tobacco use, caffeine or alcohol consumption, can interfere with your sleep quality.
Mental health problems, for example, depression or anxiety disorder, contribute to poor sleep quality. Sleep deprivation and resulting insomnia worsen these conditions, creating a vicious cycle.
Chronic lung diseases, asthma, acid reflux, renal disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain lead to poor sleep pattern and unfortunately poor sleep quality can exacerbate the symptoms and discomfort felt with these conditions.
A person with sleep apnea experiences temporary lapses in breathing during their sleep, resulting in loud snoring, choking, or interruptions in breathing while sleeping. Even if they don’t consciously wake up, their brain has to kick start breathing again, disrupting sleep quality. Daytime sleepiness is the most common complaint of individuals with sleep apnea.
Some sleep disorders go undiagnosed until a person seeks care for other symptoms like poor sleep quality, or their partner alerts them to the symptoms such as involuntary jerking movements in their legs while they sleep.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day and make sure you have sufficient sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Do not try to force yourself to sleep. If you cannot sleep, get out of bed and try again later.
- Have coffee, tea, and other foods that have caffeine only in the morning. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the late afternoon, evening, and bedtime. Also, avoid smoking in the evening.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, and free of reminders of work or other things that cause you stress.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine for your brain to recognize them as the prelude to sleep, such as taking a warm bath or listening to an audiobook.
- Solve problems you have before you go to bed.
- Exercise several days a week, but not right before bed. Get some sunlight in the morning. Just 15-30 minutes outside in the sun can help wake you up and reset your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid using phones or reading devices that give off light 30 minutes before bed.
- Try relaxation therapy, in which you focus on relaxing all the muscles in your body.
- Work with a counsellor or psychologist to deal with the problems that might cause poor sleep.
Yes, there are medicines to help with sleep. But it would be best if you tried them only after you tried the techniques above and discussed your case with your doctor. You should not use sleep medicines every night for long periods of time. Otherwise, you can become dependent on it.
Depression or anxiety sometimes causes insomnia. If that is the case for you, you might benefit from an antidepressant rather than a sleep medicine. Antidepressants often improve sleep and can help with
other worries, too.
If you still have trouble sleeping after implementing these suggestions, talk to your family doctor. They may recommend other therapies or medications that can improve your sleep quality.