If you find yourself dozing off at your desk in the afternoon or can’t make it through the day without three jumbo-size coffees, chances are you’re sleep deprived. And you’re not alone: 30 percent of all male American workers get less than six hours of sleep nightly, found a recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the CDC. Most men need eight hours of sleep, so why are so many guys sucking it up and pushing through on unhealthy amounts of shut-eye?
“Our society doesn’t value sleep—it is thought of as unproductive or wasteful,” says David Sack, M.D., addiction psychiatrist and CEO of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles. “One of the best things a man can do to promote health and well-being is to recognize sleep is an important part of his overall health package, and schedule it in if he must.”
Even if you go to bed early with the best of intentions, some seemingly harmless habits may be sabotaging your best efforts. Read on to find out about five reasons why you can’t fall asleep.
1. You’re working out too late in the day
Pumping iron or hitting the treadmill raises dopamine levels, those feel-good neurotransmitters. That’s usually a good thing—unless you plan on getting some shuteye in the next hour or two. Besides being linked with pleasure, dopamine is also connected with sleep saboteurs such as movement and attention. “Exercise close to bedtime can make it harder to sleep, because it can make you overly alert,” confirms Sack. If you can’t fit your workout in earlier, try calming exercises like yoga or tai chi.
2 You’re drinking (or eating) too much caffeine
While the stimulating power of caffeine is great first thing in the morning or before a workout, it can make it tough to doze off if you’re having it too late in the day, such as after 2 p.m. “Many people may be ingesting a lot more than they realize, because it’s in a lot of things besides coffee,” says Sack. Check the labels of your energy or sports drink or other supplements, such as Hydroxycut, to see if it contains the potentially sleep-wrecking ingredient.
In addition, weight-loss drugs, including inula racemosa, may contain caffeine. Other supplements, including Glycine Propionyl and L-Carnitine, may be associated with sleeplessness. Green tea (and most other kinds of tea) also contain caffeine, so be careful if you’re drinking it or taking it as a supplement. Always read the label first and discuss supplementation with your doctor.
3. You check e-mail at all hours
It’s easier than ever to check email at all times of the day and night, and chances are you sleep with your iPhone or Blackberry within arms’ reach of your bed. Simply having those communication devices nearby can lead to tossing and turning. “Doing work late at night can get you revved up,” says Dr. Sacks. “You may get a second wind and start getting excited or stressed about tomorrow’s work. This only makes it harder for you to shut your brain off come bed time.” Start setting limits on checking e-mail, such as powering down your devices two hours before bedtime. Disconnecting will help your brain relax so you’ll fall asleep faster.
4. You’re addicted to your DVR
The bright light from the TV, video games, or iPad can trick your body into thinking that it’s morning rather than bedtime. “Lights signal to our brain that it’s time to wake up, so if you’re watching TV close to bedtime, it may disrupt your sleep,” says Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Move the TV out of the bedroom so you’re not tempted to tune in. “You want to associate your bed with two things: sleep and sex,” says Dr. Sacks. “It’s easier to fall asleep when you link lying down in bed with sleeping, and nothing else,” he explains.
5. You’re using alcohol to unwind
Though you may use alcohol to relax and maybe even help you doze off, know that it only takes small amounts of booze to interfere with a nomal sleep cycle. “If you have a beer or cocktail before bed, it may make you fall asleep more easily, but you’re more likely to wake up during the night,” says Sack. For a more restful night in the sack, stick to one or two drinks and have your last drink at least two hours before bedtime.