Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Insomnia got you down? Avoiding common sleep killers may help

Defend yourself against sleeplessness without resorting to pills.

First Published Jan 23 2013 11:25 am • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:33 pm

You used to wish you could stay up all night, but now you lie in bed, staring at the clock and thinking only of how tired you’ll be in the morning. Or maybe you’ve always suffered from insomnia.

It’s hard to calm your mind as one worry after another — bills, your kids’ school problems, the offhand comment your boss made — crowds in and keeps you wound up. This can cause trouble falling asleep, or cause you to wake up in the night.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

When you sleep, your body actually is a buzzing hive of activity: Your brain preserves what you’ve learned that day as memory, your endocrine system produces hormones that stimulate muscle repair and your immune system does a reboot to help protect you from disease.

Recent research has linked sleep deprivation to everything from obesity to diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

It’s enough to keep you up at night. In fact, for many of us, worry is the No. 1 cause of insomnia. But there are plenty of other things we may not think about — from the temperature of the room to the venti Frappuccino you chugged during the late-afternoon slump — that also keep us staring at the ceiling.

Here are some common sleep killers, and how to defend yourself against them without resorting to pills.

Too much coffee

Caffeine — found in coffee, of course, as well as tea, colas and even some medications — blocks the sleep-inducing action of the brain chemical adenosine. It also can reduce the amount of the sleep hormone melatonin you make. Not only will it lead to trouble dozing off, but you’ll sleep restlessly. In an Israeli study, subjects given caffeinated coffee had about half as much melatonin in their systems as those who were given decaf. They also took twice as long to fall asleep and slumbered an average of 79 minutes less.

story continues below
story continues below

Too much light

Although playing a few rounds of Words With Friends on your iPad or spending two hours in front of the tube watching "The X Factor" and "Glee" may help you wind down, your body’s response to short-wave blue light emitted by these devices’ backlit screens is, "Hey, more daylight! Let’s stay up and play." (This is true for compact florescent, LED and incandescent lights, too.)

Sleep hormones kick in at about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., but if the bedroom never gets dark, your body holds off melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall asleep.

What’s better shut-eye worth?

Americans are so sleep-starved that in a recent survey, 67 percent said they’d trade a vacation day and 62 percent their cable service for better nights. It’s hard to think of anything else that would get one to sacrifice time off "Homeland." But when you get only seven or six (or even fewer) hours of sleep, you feel lousy the next day. You have the response time of a tortoise and possibly a headache, too, and you can’t remember if you need to call the dentist or the vet.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.