It’s almost 3 o’clock in the morning and you’re wide awake. Just the thought of waking up for work in another three hours stresses you out. You’re staring at the ceiling thinking, “Why can’t I sleep even though I’m tired?”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
The CDC estimates that 1 in every 3 Americans suffer from insomnia. Sleep is not a luxury. It gives your body fuel to keep going throughout the day. Like food and water, your body cannot survive without sleep.
Sleep deprivation and insomnia can trigger anxiety and depression symptoms, which in turn worsen your insomnia. Anxiety on top of insomnia makes it extra hard when you have a full time job, school work, or kids to take care of.
By identifying bad habits, you can greatly improve your sleep quality. Let’s take a look at the 16 reasons why you can’t sleep even though you’re tired
1. You don’t have a regular bedtime
Having a routine is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Those with irregular sleep patterns have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning and falling asleep at night. This is due to irregular melatonin production. Produced in the pineal gland in the brain, this hormone is responsible for your body’s internal clock. When melatonin levels are high, you start to feel sleepy. But when levels are low, it can be almost impossible to fall asleep.
If you go to bed at different times every day, your body doesn’t know when to make melatonin. It will produce it at the wrong times, making it nearly impossible to fall asleep at night, even if you’re tired.
2. You nap
Taking naps during the day is another major reason why you can’t sleep at night. When you sleep in the middle of the day, you’re throwing off your body’s internal clock. Your brain doesn’t know when to produce melatonin, making it impossible to fall asleep, even though you may be tired.
If you feel the need to take a nap during the day, try taking a power nap for a maximum of 20 minutes. This will help your creativity and memory. Just make sure that you avoid napping after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
3. You’re going to bed hungry
Hunger has been shown to keep the brain alert. Your body is too focused on food and it cannot relax enough to fall asleep, even if you’re tired.
If you’re hungry before bed, try eating a small snack such as a piece of fruit or yoghurt. This will curb your hunger and relax your body enough to fall asleep.
When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels are high and your body is forced into a “fight or flight” mode. This makes it impossible to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.
Try meditating, stretching, or reading a book before bed. Many people have found weighted blankets to be helpful as well. Weighted blankets put pressure on the body’s sensory receptors, soothing the nervous system and regulating hormone production. Research shows that after using a weighted blanket, cortisol levels decrease by 31 percent.
5. Your room isn’t dark enough
Those who work night shifts can appreciate the connection between sunlight and sleep. Trying to go to sleep in the early hours of the morning is a daunting task. Only when their bedroom is dark enough to naturally increase melatonin production, can they fall asleep.
Keep all blinds closed and do not use night lights. When there is too much light in the room, your body thinks it’s daytime and will not produce melatonin.This will cause you to lay in bed, unable to fall asleep even when you’re tired.
Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster in the short run, but it causes poor sleep quality. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm and blocks REM sleep. This is why you wake up groggy and confused the morning after drinking. Drinking before bed can also be addictive. You may soon find yourself unable to fall asleep even though you’re tired, without a sip of alcohol.
7. You exercise too late in the day
Exercise can be a great way to tire you out and reduce stress. However, for some people, working out too close to bedtime can disrupt their sleep. According to Dr. Stuart Quan, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, working out jump starts your mind. When your mind is racing, it can be very difficult to fall asleep, even though your body is tired. Higher amounts of adrenaline can also be found in your body, making it even harder to fall asleep.
Although we all love a warm cup of coffee in the morning, drinking too much or too late in the day can make it impossible to fall asleep. Caffeine triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response and increases the stress hormone, cortisol. This can make it impossible to fall asleep.
If you don’t want to eliminate coffee completely, try cutting down to 2 cups a day. Also, try avoiding drinking after 4 pm. You can also try making the switch to caffeine-free drinks. Chamomile, chai tea, and even lemon water contain natural antioxidants that won’t give you the jitters.
9. Blue light
Computer screens, cell phones, light bulbs, and televisions give off what is called blue light. Blue light blocks the production of melatonin. Watching TV or checking your emails in the morning help wake you up, but doing this at night will prevent you from falling asleep.
Try reducing your exposure to artificial lights 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. This will ensure a high melatonin production by the time you go to bed.
10. The temperature of your room
When you go to sleep, your body temperature naturally drops. If it’s too hot or cold in your room, your body can’t reach the correct temperature. This can make it very difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Experts say that keeping your room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit promotes deep sleep. Try to avoid wearing socks to bed as they will cause your body temperature to rise, waking you up in the middle of the night.
11. You’re not exercising enough
Your body was made to move. When you don’t get enough exercise, your body has a hard time handling stress. This not only makes your body restless, but your mind as well.
Low intensity aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming can help you get a better night’s sleep. Exercising at least four times a week will not only improve your cardiovascular system, but your sleep quality as well.
12. Eating heavy meals before bed
When you eat heave meals, your metabolism has to work hard to break down your food. This keeps your body active, making it difficult to fall asleep even if you are tired. Eating before bed can also triggers acid production, which can leak into your esophagus.
If you want to get a good night’s sleep, try not to eat three hours before you fall asleep.
Smoking cigarettes at night actually reduces the amount of melatonin in your body. If you smoke, try to limit your cigarettes to the morning, or better yet, kick the habit completely. If you need help quitting, consult your doctor.
14. Your room is messy
Sometimes we have those days when we don’t feel like putting our laundry away or clearing clutter. However, researchers found that a messy room can actually lead to a lack of sleep. According to psychologist Sherrie Carter, clutter distracts our brain. This increases our stress levels, making it difficult to fall asleep.
15. You do homework on your bed
Your body and mind should recognize your bed as a place for sleeping. If you do work or watch TV while sitting on your bed, your mind registers your bed as a workplace. This can make it difficult when trying to fall asleep.
16. Not enough natural light
Most of us wake up in the morning while it’s still dark. We commute to work, park in the parking garage, and sit in an office all day. By the time we make it home, it’s already dark again. By limiting your exposure to natural sunlight, you are confusing your body’s natural clock. Your body thinks it’s supposed to be awake throughout the night and therefore does not know when to produce melatonin.
Try taking time out of your day for a ten-minute walk outside. Aim for the morning hours, but if you are pressed for time, get outside during your lunch break. This will let your body know that it is daytime and will help in resetting your circadian rhythm.
Start keeping track of what you do during the day and how many hours you sleep. This will help you understand why you can’t fall asleep at night, even though you’re tired.