Can my waking hours impact my sleep?

Kelli Janata, MD is a sleep specialist on staff at Banner North Colorado Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (970) 810-2026.

Question: I heard that the activities I do during my waking hours can impact how well I sleep. Is this true?

Answer: This is absolutely true. Just as the quality of our sleep impacts us during our waking hours, our daily activities affect how well we sleep. We will all experience difficulty sleeping at some point in our lives. While a bad night of sleep here or there is a nuisance, chronic sleep disturbances can take a physical and psychological toll on us. People who consistently have difficulty sleeping are more apt to suffer with chronic illnesses, such as “hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of the many factors that can get in the way of a good night’s rest are the types of activities you do during the day. So, it’s important to recognize and avoid certain activities that commonly cause people to have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep.

For instance:

  • Eating a high-fat diet can cause daytime sleepiness and negatively impact sleep at night.
  • Taking naps during the day throws off your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm) that tells you when and how long to sleep.
  • Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, especially later in the day, can delay sleep onset and/or interrupt your sleep
  • Drinking alcohol at night may help some fall asleep, but the effects wear off after a few hours, which and can cause fragmented sleep.
  • Exercising produces adrenaline, so exercising in the evening can make falling asleep more difficult.
  • Recent research shows that certain hand-held devices (such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets) emit blue-green waves of light which can stimulate the eyes and turn off production of the body’s natural sleep hormone, melatonin.

It is expected for people to experience difficulty sleeping at one point or another in their lives. However, sleep disturbances that last longer than a few weeks might indicate that something more is going on. If you struggle with persistent sleeping problems, talk with your healthcare provider. By determining the cause of these sleeping problems, we can help design a treatment plan to get you back to sleeping well.

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