a woman is frustrated because she is not able to sleep

Why I Can't Sleep?

Causes of Insomnia 

There are several potential reasons why someone may be having too much difficulty sleeping. 

If you’ve been having a difficult time falling or staying asleep, chances are the cause is either something you’re doing or something you’re not doing (like being stress-free). 

Signs of Sleep Problems

There are a few common signs that you are having trouble sleeping, many of them show up during the day. You may notice:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes
  • Slowed thinking
  • Poor attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble making decisions

If you can't sleep at night, you may also find that you feel drowsy most of the next day. You may even consume excessive amounts of caffeine during the daytime to try to stay awake.

Reasons You Can't Sleep

There are several different factors that might be causing trouble with sleep. Lifestyle choices, sleep habits, stress, and medical conditions, all can play a role.

Alcohol

A single glass of alcohol before bedtime may not interfere with your ability to fall asleep, but indulging in much more can definitely impact sleep as the alcohol interferes with the sleep cycle, especially the REM sleep that leads to dreaming.

Anxiety

If you have trouble sleeping, your anxiety might arise, and if you have more anxiety, you may have trouble sleeping. In fact, almost all mental health conditions can cause sleep disruption.

People with state anxiety (anxiety due to a current situation) typically have more difficulty falling asleep. People with trait anxiety (a personality that is more anxious) often have more difficulty staying asleep.

Sleep Habits

Sleep habits, such as sleeping till too late and having an irregular sleeping schedule, can play a part in poor sleep as well. Taking naps later in the day can cause trouble sleeping as well.

Along with trouble sleeping or staying asleep, poor sleep habits can also negatively impacts mental health. 

Sleep Temperature

Various sleep experts recommend keeping your bedroom temperature at 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit at night. But many people usually cut energy costs by turning the thermostat down to the freezing zone during the winter and switching off the AC during the summer.

Your body needs to cool slightly at night for a very refreshing sleep, which is impossible in an overly heated room. On the other hand, a too-cold room can even wake you up.

Caffeine

You know a bedtime coffee is a bad idea, but did you know that the half-life of caffeine is around 3-5 hours? That means only half the dose is removed during that time, leaving the remaining half to stay in your body. That’s why a late afternoon cup of caffeine can even disrupt your sleep later that night.

Caffeine has been linked to having a tougher time getting sleep, less total time asleep, and worsened perceived quality.

Stress

During the day, the activities tend to distract you, but once you settle yourself into bed, your mind is free to start thinking again. Mostly, it’s not the good aspects of their lives that their mind opts to focus on, but rather, the negatives. This can keep them from getting a better night's sleep.

Exercise

Your body temperature and heart rate naturally fall as you fall asleep. Exercise increases those two body functions and stimulates your entire nervous system, making it difficult to snooze.

Diet

A lot of fat or protein right before bedtime, or a spicy meal can impact your digestive system, making it difficult to sleep and potentially leading to heartburn. Hunger pains can also wake you up, as sudden blood sugar drops during the night. So try having foods to fall asleep faster.

Medications

Do you take any medications? Drug-induced insomnia can be due to a variety of prescription medications, like medicines for:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Smoking cessation
  • Screen Time

Light exposure at bedtime hampers your quality of sleep. Light emitted from electronic devices can have the same impact if you like to watch television or are in the habit of using your smartphone right before bed.

Studies have linked longer screen times with a harder time falling asleep, lesser sleep durations, lower sleep efficiency, and worsened sleep quality.

Impact of Poor Sleep

Sleep deprivation can have a wide range of negative impacts on your health. Notable physical and mental health consequences include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Weakened immune system

In addition to all these health problems, lack of sleep is also linked to an overall decrease in quality of life and an increased risk of death.

What Should I Do If I Can't Sleep?

The first step is to work on alleviating some of the poor sleeping habits that are impacting your rest. These strategies can boost the amount and quality of sleep that you get every night:

  • Limit your alcohol use, especially in the evening.
  • Adjust your thermostat to avoid being too cold or too hot. If that's not feasible, wear thick socks and use cosy blankets during cold snaps and switch on a fan in the summer. 
  • Turn off any electronics at least an hour before your bedtime.
  • Hang blackout curtains in your bedroom to shut out the light.
  • Avoid or stay away from caffeine sources within six hours of bedtime.
  • If you're dealing with stress, try a meditation practice regularly. 
  • Schedule your workout for the morning. If you do your exercise at night, don't work out within an hour of bedtime.

Take Away

If you are wondering why you are unable to sleep, the first thing to do is address any lifestyle factors that might be disrupting your good night's rest. If you don't find any relief after making certain lifestyle changes, consult a healthcare provider. They can help you get to the root cause of your sleep difficulties and find the right treatment so you can get the rest you need.