Identifying Your Sleep Disruptors
Updated: Oct 30
When I was in high school and college, I was excessively tired and sleepy for most of the day and frequently took naps. I would wake up several times throughout the night, mostly to flip over. However, there would be instances where I would wake up, feel fully aware, and then worry about falling back asleep, which would annoy me, impeding my ability to fall back asleep. It was a rough cycle, and sometimes I dreaded going to bed because of these issues.
It can be overwhelming identifying what’s causing poor sleep, daily tiredness, and fatigue. There are endless internal and external factors that could be causing issues at night. I only just started looking for root causes for my poor sleep the past few years but feel like I’ve gotten to a point where my sleep is predictable and consistent. While it’s far from perfect, I’ll be giving you some of my top sleep disruptors and tips on what worked for me.
Internal Sleep Disruptors
Getting Up To Use The Toilet
It can be a horrible feeling having to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. You might have woken up a few times already with that urge to go, but you don’t want to get up yet. It might have shown up in one of your dreams, where you actually went. You wake up again and remembered the dream you just had. Did I go on myself? No? Okay, good.
It’s time to get up and go now. Walk over that pile of laundry that you’re waiting to fold this weekend. Don’t forget to keep your eyes covered or partially closed as you go to the toilet to make sure you don’t lose any sleep progress. In all seriousness, getting up to go to the restroom, is a huge nuisance, and something I try to avoid at all costs.
The solution is simple. What worked for me was to avoid any fluids 2 hours before bed. I’ll still take a sip here and there if I need it. Holding off on drinking multiple oz of water or fluids made a difference. I also noticed that drinking tea would cause me to wake up in the middle of the night. If you’re a tea drinker, try to finish the cup 3 hours before bedtime.
Chronic pain is something I’m all too familiar with. My body has been in a constant state of discomfort for the past decade. Between countless tests, trials with diet, nutrition, and lifestyle, I’m still in the search for finding the right balance in managing it and feeling good. From the outside, I look in shape, young, and healthy. On the inside, I’m struggling, but doing the best I can to find something that works for me in managing symptoms.
Chronic pain is tricky, not only with finding the cause, but also getting good sleep despite the pain. Some of my biggest disruptors currently are neck and back pain, as well as digestive issues related to GERD or a chronic form of acid reflux. You may have been evaluated by a health professional already and received a proper diagnosis or you might still be searching for a cause. Either way, creating good sleep habits and finding a rhythm will help greatly.
Try doing a 20 – 30-minute full body stretch. If I skip my nightly stretch routine, I pay for it the next day with an achy feeling that lasts hours. Doing a form of Yoga or stretching is great for physical forms of chronic pain.
There’s also a mental component to pain. Practicing belly breathing has been a big help for me in decompressing mentally and physically before bed. At this point, I try to practice belly breathing all day, including during exercise, and it has now become second nature. For more information on diaphragmatic breathing and the technique, here is an article from the Cleveland Clinic.
Lastly, if you struggle with acid reflux like me, try to finish your last meal a few hours before bed and avoid snacking late at night. It’s important to give your body time to digest. I noticed if I ate too close to bedtime, I would wake up with night sweats.
External Sleep Disruptors
When my partner and I first moved in together, the first thing I had to make clear was that I sleep hot. I’ve had a box fan blowing directly at my body since the single digits of my life. In the first couple of months, she was fine with the fan, but we shared a blanket. It was a sweaty first couple of months. We ended up getting separate covers, as we are both hot furnaces. Separate covers helped but it still didn’t feel like it was enough. I ended up purchasing a thinner cotton blanket as I was suspicious that my previous comforter was retaining too much heat.
While most of my successful fixes to sleeping cooler, was changing my comforter and making sure I had a fan blowing on me, there are many other possible external factors. Children and pets who like to sleep in the same bed can also affect your slumber. If you sleep in a queen-sized bed or smaller, going up a size could benefit you.
Try sleeping with a fan on to help circulate the air in your room.
If you have a partner who likes to cuddle during sleep, but you’re sweating because of it, it might be time to have a conversation.
Search for more breathable fabrics in your comforter such as: cotton, Tencel, bamboo, and eucalyptus.
Whether you live near an airport, busy street, have noisy neighbors, barking pets, or sleep with a snoring partner, it can be tough eliminating those disrupting sounds. The smallest sounds tend to wake me up. It’s the reason why I struggle to sleep in hotels with doors banging, inconsistent A/C fans, and people talking outside the door. White noise has been key for me.
I’ve tried sleeping with music and headphones for sleep, but a box fan has worked the best for me. As mentioned above, fans can not only cool, but they can block out external noise to help get you closer to blissful sleep.
If you have a partner that snores loudly, hindering your quality of sleep, have a conversation with them. There might be something more serious happening such as sleep apnea, and a study might need to be done.
Try out white noise with a fan, app, or music.
Pair a sleep mask with earplugs.
Soundproof your windows if you live near a busy street or airport.
Set a do not disturb schedule on your phone.
If one of the above sleep disruptors sounds like something you might be struggling with, try out the tips. Start small and take one disruptor at a time. Making progress isn’t easy, but creating better habits will pay off in the long run no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Do you feel like you’ve mastered sleep? What are some of your sleep disruptors? Comment below!