Sleep DisordersTips & Tricks

‘Why Can’t I Sleep?’ – 8 Reasons You Can’t Fall Asleep On A Night

'Why can't I sleep?' Well, we're here to tell you why...

One of the most common questions people ask is, ‘why can’t I sleep on a night?’

Getting a good night’s sleep is not only important to our mental health, but it is beneficial to our physical health. A good night’s sleep can reduce stress, relieve depression and even help you to lose weight. So why are we not making sleep more of a priority?

Many people complain of struggling to get to sleep on a night, but the simple answer to their issues could be rooted in their day-to-day habits.

Here are some of the most common reasons why people struggle to sleep at night…

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Stress And Overthinking

From time to time, we all complain that we struggle to get to sleep because we ‘can’t stop thinking’ about something.

Going over an argument in your head, or worrying about that board meeting you have in the morning, can really impact your quality of sleep. While it’s easier said than done to tell yourself to ‘stop worrying about it’, there are things you can do to try relax yourself and calm down your overactive brain.

How to fix it…

There are many things you could do to relax yourself, like going for a walk, lighting some candles and playing relaxing music, or meditating.

But studies have shown that one of the best things you can do before going to sleep with a stressful mind is by writing down the negative, stressful thoughts and then problem solve each worry. Do this a few hours before bed and come up with solutions to your problems; it will make them feel a lot more under control.

Colleen E. Carney, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Insomnia and Sleep Research Program at Duke University Medical Center, has another method for casting aside negative thoughts…

Keep the lights turned off so that you stay in a sleepy state, and walk to another part of the house. Your anxious thoughts should disappear almost immediately once you leave the room. Sounds like magic, right? This strategy is called stimulus control, and it stops you from associating your bed with anxiety.

Going To Bed Hungry

There’s a reason why we get hunger pangs –because our bodies need more fuel. If you go to bed on an empty stomach, your body will continue to let you know that it needs feeding throughout the night. This can lead to restless or uncomfortable sleep.

How to fix it…

You don’t need to eat much before bed to cure your growling stomach. Be sure not to eat something sugary or containing caffeine or you’ll just exacerbate the problem.

Eat something high in protein to keep your stomach satisfied for longer, like a hard boiled egg or porridge or a yoghurt. (It’s almost like a really early breakfast!) Your body then won’t have much fat to store overnight and will keep your metabolism quietly ticking over.

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You Let Your Pet Sleep In Your Bed

As nice as it is to wake up to your dog licking your face or your cat snuggled up with you, it could be causing you more harm than good. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that more than half of owners admit that they are woken up every night by their pet.

How to fix it…

Instead of letting your pet sleep in your bed, place a crate or their bed on the floor next to you. They’ll still feel close to you, but at least when they become restless they won’t wake you up in the process.

Light

Our brains associate light with it being day time, which means ‘it’s time to be awake’. So having too many lights in your bedroom can confuse the brain and reduce the amount of melatonin you produce (the chemical that makes you feel sleepy).

Electronic devices such as mobile phones, digital alarm clocks and TV screens can all contribute to keeping you awake at night.

How to fix it…

Where possible, keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. Pull the plug for the TV out of the mains when you go to sleep to avoid blinking lights, and try not to bring your mobile phone into the bedroom. An old school alarm clock will do the same job of waking you up on a morning.

Also make sure you have black out blinds for your bedroom windows to avoid turbulent sleep in the summer months when the days are longer.

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Your Bedroom Is Too Messy

A messy bedroom makes for a messy mind. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary and somewhere you can relax at the end of the day. If you have a load of laundry strewn across the floor, it’s doing more harm than good to your mental health.

How to fix it…

This one’s simple – put your laundry away, file away books and documents, and keep the room clean.

Alcohol

While some people claim that a glass of wine before bed helps put them to sleep, it doesn’t do you any good in the long run.

While alcohol makes you feel sleepy initially, it interrupts your natural REM sleep cycle. This interferes with the quality of your sleep so you will feel more tired in the morning.

How to fix it…

The easy answer is to stop drinking regularly before bed, but if that would ruin your evening plans, just limit your alcohol intake. Instead of 3 glasses of wine on an evening, reduce it to 1-2 and try to avoid it right before bed.

Also have a glass of water before bed to avoid dehydration during the night.

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Insomnia

If you have serious problems with falling asleep on an evening and staying asleep, then you may have a problem that requires further treatment.

There are two types of insomnia, primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is when a person has trouble sleeping, that is not associated with other medical conditions. Secondary insomnia is where a health condition (such as asthma, body pain, depression, heartburn, alcohol etc.) is causing the sleep problem.

Insomnia can be influenced by many external factors, such as some of the things we have already talked about in this article.

How to fix it…

If you are experiencing negative side effects due to chronic lack of sleep, be sure to speak to your doctor to seek out medication or therapy.

Your Partner Snores

You won’t know if you snore in your sleep, but you certainly will know if your partner does. The sound of a person’s snoring can sound as loud as a chainsaw.

Snoring can be the result of blocked airways, sleeping with your mouth open, or the tissues in the throat fluttering as you breathe.

Covering your ears and nudging them awake can only work so long, and usually as soon as they fall back asleep it starts all over again.

How to fix it…

If your partner is lying on their back, try turning them over to lie on their side. This helps to reduce the obstruction of the airways. You could even try placing books under their pillows to elevate their head to put them in a better sleeping position.

Try to avoid smoking or drinking before bed as smoking irritates the membranes of the throat and alcohol relaxes the muscles. So it’s not a good combination for snorers!

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So next time you find yourself asking the question, ‘why can’t I sleep?’, check in with this list and see what changes you could make. A good night’s sleep makes your waking day all the better for it.

Have you found any miraculous cures for overcoming sleep issues on a night? Leave your experiences in the comments below and share the information with your friends who could benefit from it. If you have problems getting to sleep on an evening, why not try listening to one of our sleep stories over on the Sleepiest app.

Elisha Ainsley

Elisha Ainsley

Digital Content Creator
Digital Content Creator, animal lover, coffee drinker, Disney Princess gone wild. My special skills include speaking to dogs, baking terribly and knowing all of the colours of Joseph's technicolour dreamcoat.

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