What are the biggest factors that steal your sleep?

Psychological Factors

Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the No. 1 cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Common triggers include school- or job-related pressures, a family or marriage problem, and a serious illness or death in the family. Usually the sleep problem disappears when the stressful situation passes.

Lifestyle Stressors

Without realizing it, you may be doing things during the day or night that can work against getting a good night’s sleep. These include drinking alcohol or beverages containing caffeine in the afternoon or evening, exercising close to bedtime, following an irregular morning and nighttime schedule, and working or doing other mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed.

Shift Work

Shift work forces you to try to sleep when activities around you — and your own “biological rhythms” — signal you to be awake. One study shows that shift workers are two to five times more likely than employees with regular, daytime hours to fall asleep on the job.

Jet Lag

Still another sleep stealer is jet lag, an inability to sleep caused when you travel across several time zones and your biological rhythms get “out of sync.”

Environmental Interferences

A distracting sleep environment such as a room that’s too hot or cold, too noisy or too brightly lit can be a barrier to sound sleep. And interruptions from children or other family members can also disrupt sleep. Other influences to pay attention to are the comfort and size of your bed and the habits of your sleep partner. If you have to lie beside someone who has different sleep preferences, snores, can’t fall or stay asleep, or has other sleep difficulties, it often becomes your problem too!

Physical Factors

A number of physical problems can interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep. For example, arthritis and other conditions that cause pain, backache, or discomfort can make it difficult to sleep well. Sleep apnea, which is recognized by snoring and interrupted breathing, causes brief awakenings (often unnoticed) and excessive daytime sleepiness. If suspected, a person having signs of sleep apnea should see a doctor.

Disorders that cause involuntary limb movements during sleep, such as Restless Legs Syndrome, break up the normal sleep pattern and are also likely to make sleep less refreshing and result in daytime sleepiness.

For women, pregnancy and hormonal shifts including those that cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause and its accompanying hot flashes can also intrude on sleep.


In addition, certain medications such as decongestants, steroids and some medicines for high blood pressure, asthma, or depression can cause sleeping difficulties as a side effect.

What is a Passport to Better Sleep?

In general, try to build into your schedule time for eight hours of sleep, and follow this routine as regularly as possible. Even on the weekends. Here are a few tips many people have found to be useful.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Caffeine and nicotine can delay your sleep, and alcohol may interrupt your sleep later in the night.
  • Exercise regularly, but do so at least three hours before bedtime. A workout after that time may actually keep you awake because your body has not had a chance to cool down.
  • Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex. Your bed should be associated with sleep.
  • If you have trouble sleeping when you go to bed, don’t nap during the day, since it affects your ability to sleep at night.
  • Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex. Your bed should be associated with sleep.
  • Consider your sleep environment. Make it as pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet as you can.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that will allow you to unwind and send a “signal” to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Avoiding exposure to bright light before bedtime and taking a hot bath may help.
  • If you can’t go to sleep after 30 minutes, don’t stay in bed tossing and turning. Get up and involve yourself in a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music or reading, until you feel sleepy. Remember: Try to clear your mind; don’t use this time to solve your daily problems.

Sleep Hygiene Tips


If you can’t get to sleep, rather than trying harder and harder to fall asleep, try getting out of bed and doing something else. Preferably, move to another room and return to bed only when sleepy.

If you have trouble getting to sleep, establish a routine for an hour or so each night before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm shower or bath, light exercise, or resting quietly.

Avoid too much mental stimulation during the hour or so prior to bedtime. Read a “light novel or watch a relaxing TV program; do not finish office work or discuss family finances with your spouse, for example.


Almost everyone experiences an occasional night of lost or disturbed sleep. It is a natural, perhaps adaptive, response to acute stress.


If you are having trouble falling asleep at night avoid naps in the early afternoon or early evening.


No matter how poorly you have slept the night before, always set your alarm to arise at the same time each morning.


Regular exercise can be an effective aid to sleep. It releases energy and mental tensions. It is better not to exercise strenuously just before bedtime.


Occasional loud noises from aircraft, streets, or highways disturb sleep even in people who do not awaken and who cannot remember the noise in the morning. These sleep disturbances can reduce restful sleep. People who sleep near excessive noise should try heavy curtains in their bedrooms or ear plugs to protect the amount of restful sleep they get.


Hunger may disturb sleep. A light snack, especially warm milk, seems to help people get to sleep.


Various foods stimulate the body and disturb sleep. Avoid coffee, tea, and cola drinks near bedtime. Avoid late heavy meals.


Everyone has a unique sleeping pattern. Some adults need 10 hours a night. Other adults need only 5 hours a night. Many people function best with approximately 8 hours of sleep. Your requirement for sleep is unique. What is effective for your husband, your wife, or your friends is not what may be helpful to you. If you need only 5 hours of sleep a night, do not worry about it, or try to force longer sleeping hours. Instead, learn to use your extra waking hours for something you would like to do or get done.


Everyone’s sleep needs change. The amount and quality of sleep varies in the course of each person’s life. The infant may require 16 hours of sleep each day, an elderly person may sleep 3 to 4 hours at night with frequent naps during the day. Changes in the length and depth of sleep are a normal part of life. Within limits the quality of our sleep is more important than quantity.


Sleeping problems may signal a medical condition such as anxiety, depression, and other disorders. It is important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause of a chronic sleep disturbance.


Excessive sleepiness the first 3 months of pregnancy is normal don’t worry about it. Pregnant women also tend to sleep about two more hours at night.


An occasional sleeping pill may be of some benefit, but chronic (nightly) use of sleeping pills may actually hinder good sleep. Natural sleep is the best sleep.

Sleeping medications should be used with caution and only upon the advice of a physician for the elderly, pregnant women, people with respiratory disease, kidney disease, or a liver impairment.

If your doctor prescribes a sleep medication, ask for clear directions and information about the particular drug you are to take. Some sleeping pills have a prolonged effect, and can impair your coordination and driving skill the following day. Sleep medications should be used only for the short-term management of a sleep complaint. Do not self-medicate or increase the dosage yourself. If you feel that your medication is losing its effect, report this to your doctor. Although alcohol may help to induce sleep, the chronic use of larger quantities of alcohol causes disturbed sleep and dependency.