Factors that interfere with healthy sleep

There are several factors that can interfere with healthy sleep at night. These factors can both defined as external or internal. Knowing these factors in detail can certainly help you eliminate some of them from your daily life.

External factors that affect your sleep:

  • Lighting: Our body clock gets adjusted according to the changes we observe in our environment. Therefore, it automatically starts to wind down as the brightness levels start to decrease. Bright lights can trick the body clock to assume that it is still day. This makes the body clock to delay sleep timing.
  • Sleep environment: Environmental factors can affect your sleep. These include the feeling of safety at the place of your sleep, and how comfortable the bed is. Most people find it difficult to fall asleep, when they move to, or visit a new place.
  • Jetlag: As earlier explained, the body clock might suffer if there are changes in exposure to light to the eyes. Jetlag also has the same effect on the body. It takes time to adjust to different time zones, thus disturbing our sleep timings.
  • Shift-based work: Shift-based work affects the sleep quality the same way as jetlag. This is because the body clock is not able to work properly. Variations in the sleep timings every other week or month confuses the body’s clock, and this results in bad sleep.

Medication: Many chemicals like such as caffeine and nicotine disturb the sleep quality. Many medications like anti-depressants also have some chemicals which interfere with the healthy course of sleeping.

Internal factors that affect your sleep:

  • Body aches or other pains: Certain pains like muscle or joint pain, or even headaches can keep you awake at night. These conditions bring discomfort to a person, which makes it difficult to fall or remain asleep for long.
  • Anxiety or stress: Our bodies are built in such a manner that they respond to stressful or dangerous situations by remaining awake. Same happens in during stress, depression or anxiety, where the person finds it difficult to get a complete sleep at night. Most of the times in such cases, a person gets more REM sleep than deep sleep.1

Lifestyle and cultural influences on sleep

Recent studies have proved that cultural differences among different societies can affect sleep timings and quality. Reports also state that there are differences in sleep timings in countries like Japan and Spain. According to this study, the Japanese get the least amount of sleep with just 6.2 hours of every night. ON the other hand, Spanish people falls asleep later compared to Japan, but they also wake up much later than most other countries.2

The same study also showed that Northern Europeans go to bed early and wake up earlier, compared to Southern Europeans.3 The lifestyle changes that affect sleep patterns and the quality of sleep can include your work timings, eating habits, exercise etc. Moreover, odd working hours or family pressure can result in the lack of quality sleep.

While, some factors might not be in our control, but there are way to ensure a good sleep. Read along to know how to get a good sleep.


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Sleep Revitalizes your Mind, Body, & Heart

The body goes under many transformations, while it is in the state of rest during sleep. There are many essential functions that take place in the body such as tissue repair, memory and energy restoration, release of essential hormones, muscle relaxation, and others. While you are asleep, the brain releases indispensable hormones that promote tissue growth. This process helps your body rejuvenate from the daily hustle bustle. Moreover, tissue growth aids in the recovery from wounds or cuts. Sunita Kumar, Co-Director, Centre for Sleep Disorders, Loyola University Medical Centre, aptly remarks that during sleep the body produces more white blood cells, to fight countless bacteria and viruses1. The heart rate also registers a dip during sleep, which according to Ms. Kumar, strengthens the heart as it is at rest with lowered activity. Moreover, a good night’s sleep also reduces the chances of getting afflicted with heart diseases.

Good Sleep = Sharp Memory

Sleep is a time, when becomes sharp and strong. Sleep quantity and quality play a fundamental role in determining what one remembers and what one doesnt. Therefore, development of long-term memory (LTM) from short-term memory (STM) happens during sleep.  Scientific researches state that the brain follows a different mechanism for storing memories through the hippocampus and neo-cortex areas. Hippocampus helps you to remember your life experiences (childhood memories), while the neo-cortex is responsible for remembering the concepts you learn (name of a color). Communications and sync between the two, helps in learning new data and updating old ones.

Sleep Steers Hormonal Hunger

Sleep not only affects your energy levels and mental functions, but also regulates your body weight. Improper sleep is related to the increasing cases of obesity, worldwide2. Many hormones which regulate the feeling of hunger (ghrelin) and signal the feeling of being full (leptin), are all influenced by the quality of your sleep.  Leptin: This is also known as satiety hormone, which is produced by the fat cells of the body. It prevents overeating by sending signals to the brain that the body does not require more food, as there is enough to fuel the body.  Ghrelin: This hunger hormone is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which signifies the body that there is need for food. This hormone rises in the body, when you feel hungry and decreases when you have consumed some food.  Studies show that people who have disrupted patterns of sleep - have larger appetite, because of higher ghrelin secretion and lowered secretion of leptin. This imbalance in the secretion of these hormones is a result of improper sleep patterns3.