You’re not getting enough exercise
“Exercise improves sleep as effectively as benzodiazepines in some studies,” reports Kalyanakrishnan Ramakrishnan, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. On average it reduces the time it takes to get to sleep by 12 minutes, and it increases total sleep time by 42 minutes.
You’ve had too much coffee
Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a chemical produced by your brain that makes you sleepy. In fact, studies have shown that the caffeine in even one cup will rev your circuits enough to reduce both the length and restorative depths of sleep. It will also wake you during the night to urinate.
You’re too tense
People with insomnia are much more likely to experience associated health problems such as anxiety, depression, diabetes and congestive heart failure.That’s why it’s important to unwind before bed. Try some simple yoga stretches to help you sleep.
“Yoga gets you in touch with the breath,” says yoga instructor Darcie Clark. “When you slow down and stay in a pose you can feel different areas of the body that are tense and holding on from your day and gradually let that go as you sit and breathe through the pose.” And stretching in general has a calming effect, says Nikos Apostolopoulos, director of the Microstretching Clinic in Vancouver, making bedtime the best time for it.
You’re scaring yourself before bed
Thrillers and every other scary book are absolutely verboten if you expect to sleep, says Becky Wang-Cheng, MD, a medical director at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio. No one sleeps when they’re expecting something from under the bed to grab them. Kids aren’t the only ones afraid of monsters.
You’re not having enough sex
Some 44 percent of midlife women say they don’t have time for sex. But the Big O is still one of the most sleep-inducing agents around. Just don’t forget to protect yourself against an unanticipated side effect that could appear nine months later. Now that would really trash your sleep!
You don’t nap
“Take a 26-minute nap,” says Sara Mednick, research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. Studies show that one nap of up to 90 minutes between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 P.M. will reduce your sleep debt, invigorate your day, boost your job performance, and not affect night sleep, says Mednick.
You’re on your period
“Women are more prone to having poor sleep around menstruation, and that’s related to pain and mood changes,” says sleep researcher Helen Driver.
You’re too hot
Lower the temperature of your bedroom before you climb into bed, says Dr. Wang-Cheng. Lower temperatures tell your body it’s time to sleep. If your bed partner objects, just tell him or her to bundle up.
Also, try sleeping naked. It’s easier to adjust your comfort zone with sheets and blankets you can pull up or throw off rather than a long nightgown or a pair of fleece pajamas, says neurologist Dr. Charles J. Bae, a sleep specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.
You’re not spending enough time with friends
Studies at UCLA reveal that women who have healthy friendships and interactive relationships with their children actually sleep better. The “tend-and-befriend studies,” as they are called, conducted by UCLA researcher Shelly Taylor, PhD, indicate that when women are stressed, they tend to their children and seek out other women, possibly an ancient survival mechanism that allowed women to band together to protect themselves and their families. The studies show that when this happens, a woman’s level of a biochemical called oxytocin, which blocks cortisol, the body’s chief stress chemical, is increased, allowing them to rest easier than their wired male counterparts.
“Every night a couple of hours before bed, sit down and make a list of all the issues, problems, and things you have to deal with,” says Donna Arand, clinical director of Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. “Next to each item, write a solution or plan.”
When you’re ready for bed, put the list by the bedroom door. That way, if thoughts of your problems arise as you’re trying to sleep, you can tell yourself, “I’ve got a plan and I’ll work on it tomorrow,” says Arand.