Health

Why am I sleep deprived?

Sleep deprivation affects our mental and physical health, but a good night's rest isn't impossible. Find out how you can bank your eight hours.

Family, friends, husband, job…sometimes there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day – so of course we don’t get enough sleep. There are many possible reasons for sleep deprivation, the good news is that most of them aren’t serious. They just may take some sleuthing. To solve the mystery, ask yourself the following 11 questions.

Are you pregnant?

“I always rule that out first,” says Lisa Graves, a family physician based in Montreal. “Early pregnancy can cause quite a bit of fatigue.”

Where do you sleep?

A worn-out mattress, a room that’s too hot, the sound of the TV in the next room; any of these can contribute to a bad night’s sleep. And all are easily remedied.

Do you spend enough time in bed?

Minds out of the gutter, girls – we’re talking about shut-eye here. “You need to get eight to nine hours of sleep a night to feel well rested, and many women are not,” says Graves. In fact, over a third of adults say they sleep less now than they did five years ago.

Has your sleep rhythm been disturbed?

Staying up late to catch up on work, or taking an afternoon nap to catch up on sleep can get your rhythm out of whack. Stick to regular sleep hours.

What are you eating?

“We get most of our energy through diet,” notes Afsoun Khalili of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Sugar and refined carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar, then cause a crash. Go for complex carbohydrates and vegetables, and make sure you’re packing plenty of protein.

What pills are you popping?

Common medications like antihistamines, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs may list fatigue as a side effect. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Are you getting enough exercise?

Too knackered to go to the gym? Go anyway. “Exercise will increase energy,” says Khalili. “Taking a fun class is a good motivator, or getting a trainer.” But don’t exercise right before bed, or you’ll be too keyed up to sleep.

Have you got an undiagnosed medical condition?

A common cause of fatigue for women of menstruating age is anemia, easily treated with diet or iron supplements. It’s also not unusual for women over 30 to develop thyroid disease, which can be effectively managed with medication. If you’re overweight and you snore, you may even have sleep apnea. Your doctor can diagnose these conditions.

Could you be depressed?

“Women who have a lot going on might have depression and not realize it – their only symptom is low energy,” says Khalili. Again, talk to your healthcare provider. Moms who’ve given birth recently should take time to tend to their own needs, not just their newborn’s.

Stressed out?

Stress can make it hard to sleep. Meditation may calm you, and warm milk can make you drowsy. Try a bedtime routine, like reading, listening to soft music or taking a bath. “It helps you relax and helps the transition to sleep,” says Graves.

When was the last time you had a vacation?

‘Nuff said. And when you get to the beach… leave the BlackBerry behind.

Check out these 29 tips to help you sleep better tonight.