Adults should get around 8 hours of sleep a night, but even when you get the full 8 you can wake up feeling even more tired. What gives? There’s more to healthy sleep than just simply shutting your eyes and letting your mind wander off into dreamland. If you’re getting in your nightly z’s but don’t feel the benefits, it may be a sign of another problem.
1. You Have Sleep Apnea
If you pause while breathing in your sleep, you have sleep apnea, and it sounds a lot like snoring. If you aren’t breathing, your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, which can make you feel tired the next day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 18 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It’s hard to know what’s going on while you’re asleep so many people are undiagnosed. People who smoke, are overweight, have a large neck, are over 40, or of African American, Hispanic, or Pacific-Islander descent have an increased risk of developing it.
2. Lights From Technology
The National Sleep Foundation explains our eyes detect light and dark, which is a no-brainer. However, noticing lights vs. no lights is important in regulating your circadian rhythm, and releasing chemicals in the brain to signal when it’s time to feel awake and when it’s time to get sleepy. Even those tiny blue and red lights from cellphone charges and other devices are enough to get your brain confused throughout the night, and watching TV, looking at cell phones, or playing on your iPad before bed is even worse, so turn off and unplug your tech before bed or put take it out of the bedroom.
3. Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
Alcohol messes with your sleep – specifically your brain waves. Studies show that when you drink a bit of alcohol before bed, you have more delta waves which should help you relax and form memories, but you also have heightened alpha waves, too, which you usually only get when you’re awake. Researchers say this contradiction means alcohol interferes with restful sleep.
4. Teeth Grinding
Some people grind their teeth in their sleep without ever knowing, but may wake up feeling sore and with a headache that’ll make you want to throw the covers over your face and sleep all day. The NHS writes that stress or anxiety can contribute to teeth grinding, which in turn is associated with sleep apnea. We still don’t know the exact connection, but it’s an association that can give you a double whammy of extra poor sleep and migraines.
5. Slept Wrong
The position you sleep in can affect the quality of your sleep as well. CNN reports some sleeping positions can disrupt your sleep. Laying on your back is restful but can aggravate lower back pain and easily blocks off airways, which leads to apnea or snoring. Laying on your stomach bends your neck and back in unusual ways then leaves them like that for hours, obviously causing pain. The most common and perhaps the best position is laying on your side. It relieves pressure on your back, opens airways, and laying on your left side increases blood flow to the heart.
6. You Need A New Pillow
Your pillow should match your style of sleeping according to the Telegraph. Sleeping on your side is a great position but if your pillow is wimpy and flat you might put pressure on your arms or legs and cut off circulation. Your best bet is getting a firm body pillow to separate your knees while you sleep and give your head and neck the support they need without putting pressure on your arms. Back sleepers should choose thin pillows and stomach sleepers might not even need one – a thick pillow pushes the head and neck back into awkward positions.
You can try these tricks to improve your sleep, but if nothing seems to be working you may have another issue that doesn’t have a simple fix. Sleep apnea is also a bit dangerous, since the air flow is getting cut off, and you might need a special machine to help you breathe while you’re sleeping. If you don’t feel rested even when you get enough sleep, speak to your doctor to find the best solution.