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Common Disrupters of Sleep

“Many of us live lives characterized by light pollution. We rarely experience sunrise and sunset, and are inside under artificial lighting during most of our days. Much of the light exposure we do get is poorly timed. We might not get enough bright light in the morning, but get too much at night. Sleep environments might never get completely dark. When it comes to lighting conditions, we have changed our environment, and as a result,
it is changing us.”

Shape Shift, Percival, Mark D.C., N.D., Kelly Gregory, N.D.




Have you recognized a sleep debt in your life? Check out these seven common disrupters of sleep below:


Meal timing

-Skipping meals early in the day or eating late at night can disrupt quality and timing of sleep.

-Sticking to a schedule of breakfast, lunch, and finishing your last meal 3-4 hours before sleep enhances quality of sleep and moves your bedtime earlier.



-Poor nutrition (lack of minerals, vitamins, necessary fats, etc.)  not only disrupts quality of sleep, but can also increase the need for sleep.

-Lack of nutrition from calorie restriction or “dieting” can disrupt sleep quality and also increase the need for sleep.

-Optimal nutrition (minerals, vitamins, necessary fats, nutrients, calories) will result in ideal sleep quality, and reduce need for sleep.



-Insufficient exercise can result in poor quality sleep (less REM and slow wave sleep).

-Too much exercise (specifically with someone untrained for the exercise) creates a stress response that can result in poor sleep quality.

-Physical fitness (resulting from appropriate exercise) improves slow wave sleep and REM.



-Increases the need for sleep.

-Stress makes it more difficult to fall asleep and also hurts sleep quality.

-Sleep is impacted more seriously by stress as we age.


Lifestyle Habit (alcohol, tobacco, caffeine-containing stimulants)

-Alcohol: The more you drink and the later you drink, the worse its impact on sleep-quality, need for sleep, and your “body clock” functions (controlling sleep/wake cycles).

-Cigarette (tobacco) smoke: negatively impacts sleep quality, makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

-Caffeine-containing stimulants: Just like alcohol, the more you drink and the later you drink, the more your sleep cycle, quality, and need for sleep will be disrupted.


Noise, Light

-Background noise or noise from a TV or music player can act as stress during sleep, disrupting sleep quality.

-All lightsources, except for red light, disrupt melatonin secretion, our darkness hormone. This is especially critical for the middle-aged, for less healthy individuals, and for people who get a small amount of sunlight during the day.



-Any odor that does not come from a plant or flower (a chemical) can negatively impact sleep quality.


Room Temperature

-A temperature that is too warm or cold can negatively impact sleep quality. The best temperature is one that is kept constant from night to night, allowing your system to adjust. The same goes for humidity.


Check back soon to read the last blog post in this series: How to Repay Your Sleep Debt!

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.

Dr. David Haase

Dr. Haase is the Founder and CEO of MaxWell Clinic- a Collaborative-Care, Functional Medicine Clinic. He is committed to finding and addressing the underlying causes of illness in his patients.