5 Common Sleep Stealers – and How to Beat Them

A good night’s sleep can seem impossible in our fast-paced lives. Try these tricks to reclaim your slumber.

With increasingly-troublesome side effects of skimping on sleep coming to light more and more often, it seems we’re starting to catch on to how important solid, regular rest is for our health.

But we’re not necessarily doing anything with this new knowledge. According to a recent survey, 25 percent of people get six hours of sleep a night, 22 percent get seven hours and only 16 percent get the recommended eight hours of sleep nightly.

The survey, conducted by Braun Research for Pfizer’s Advil PM, polled 1,000 U.S. adults 18 or older on their sleep habits, the effects of not getting enough shuteye and what they’d be willing to give up for a few more precious moments in the Land of Nod.

Out of the 1,000 participants, 927 answered the question, “Which of the following triggers, if any, causes your sleeplessness?” They were allowed to select all that apply. The majority of respondents expressed concern over five main sleep stealers, according to survey data shared with The Huffington Post. (Check out the infographic for more from the survey.)

Then, we asked Joe Ojile, M.D., founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, Missouri and a board member of the National Sleep Foundation, for his top tips for how to tackle what’s keeping you awake and get better zzz’s.

5. Social Life Stressors

Socializing with friends keeps 29 percent of people up at night, according to the survey.

“Folks have to have some awareness that sleep is a fundamental part of their health plan,” says Ojile.”We all want to go out and have fun, but it’s like if someone trying to be healthful ate very poorly day after day or never exercised.”

Instead of scheduling your sleep around your social life, try turning the tables and scheduling those extracurricular activities around the sleep you need, he suggests. If you know you need eight hours of sleep to feel your best and you’ve got to be up at 7 a.m., allot a smaller amount of time to happy hour or schedule that dinner date slightly earlier.

“It’s not the easiest concept to grab, because we don’t want to give up the fun part,” says Ojile, but try thinking about it as a healthy choice. It’s just like deciding not to eat those French fries, he says.

Not to mention, your friends may actually thank you, he says. You’ll be less irritable and more fun to be around if you’re well-rested!

4. Environmental Noises And Distractions

Outdoor noises like traffic keep 35 percent of people up at night, according to the survey. “You have to develop a sleep sanctuary,” says Ojile, to deaden distracting noises and block out light. He suggests some white noise, whether it’s simply a whirring fan or a more techy white-noise machine.

3. Work Stressors

Finding a work-life balance keeps 46 percent of people up at night, according to the survey.

It’s important to log off about an hour before bedtime and keep technoogy out of the bedroom, says Ojile, since smart phones and computers all emit large amounts of stimulating light. During this wind-down time, he suggests meditation, prayer, quiet reflection or journaling.

2. Family And Relationship Stressors

Household chores and family activities keep 60 percent of people up at night, according to the survey.

Having kids at home may offer some structure in terms of corralling mom and dad back from those late nights out, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to hit the hay. Often, once the chores are done and the kids are asleep, it’s the only time couples have alone. “But you can’t cheat the sleep,” says Ojile. “They need that time alone, but it’s robbing themselves of sleep and rest and that sleep debt catches up with them.”

Instead, realize you don’t have to be SuperParent. Take a step back and see what can wait until tomorrow, he suggests. “The laundry will still be there the next day.”

1. Aches And Pains

Back pain, achy joints, sore muscles and other pains keep 69 percent of people awake at night, according to the survey.

“Pain is one of the single most disruptive things to sleep,” says Ojile, “and pain has to be addressed.” There aren’t sleep hygiene tips that can simply make pain go away. Ultimately, he says he tells people to call their physicians to solve the underlying problem causing the pain, and better sleep will naturally follow.

If you suspect, however, that your aches and pains are caused by your pillow or mattress — you find you just can’t get comfortable when you like down — that’s a different story. Mattresses should typically be replaced every five to 10 years — and make sure you pick the best pillow for your sleep style.

By Sarah Klein