Do you struggle to get to sleep at night? Insomnia is thought to affect 25% of Americans every year and can have a knock-on effect on one’s health and mental wellbeing. Lack of sleep can sometimes have obvious causes – you may have infant to look after, a snoring partner or pains that keep you up at night. In other cases, the causes of sleeplessness aren’t easy to identify. For those that fall into the latter category, here are just 10 possible reasons why you’re struggling to get to sleep.
You’re not taking time to destress
Stress releases a hormone into our bodies called cortisol.
The purpose of this hormone is to energize us for a fight/flight situation and so it can often make us feel alert, making it hard to get to sleep.
Taking the time to destress before bed can help to flush out this cortisol and make it easier to get to sleep. There are lots of activities that can help us to destress, such as having a hot bath, listening to music, reading a book or meditating. Make sure that you’re giving yourself time to partake in these destressing activities.
You’re exercising too late
Exercise can be an effective way of relieving stress – however it’s not an activity you should partake in straight before bed. Mild exercise is likely to be fine, but a hard workout can release adrenaline that can keep you awake.
Try to do any hard exercise a couple hours earlier so your body had enough time to get out of active mode.
It should be noted that exercising throughout the day can help with sleep – if you’re spending the day largely inactive, you may also struggle to sleep at night because your body is still waiting for you to expend energy.
You’re consuming the wrong foods/drinks before bed
Certain foods and drinks could be keeping you up at night. Coffee is an obvious example of a drink to avoid due to its caffeine. Chocolate can also keep you awake as it too contains caffeine. Meanwhile, foods like cheese should also be avoided (it contains high levels of tyramine that makes the body more alert), whilst fatty food and spicy foods can cause digestive discomfort that could keep you up at night.
Eating and drinking before bed isn’t a complete no-no and there are foods that can help you sleep such as almonds, bananas and oats. Turkey is also one of the few meats that can help you to feel sleepy due to it’s high levels of tryptophan.
As for alcoholic drinks, these can help many people get to sleep, however alcohol is known for preventing people getting into a deep sleep – so you may wake up still feeling tired.
You’re staring at a bright screen before going to bed
Bright screens on TVs, phones and computers should also be avoided late at night. The brightness can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, delaying the release of melatonin.
Some modern devices have settings that allow the screen to dim as it gets darker, helping the brain to realize that it’s night time. However, avoiding all devices an hour before bed could be a more effective way to ensure this.
Your bed isn’t comfortable enough
An uncomfortable bed could also be to blame for your lack of sleep.
This is most likely to be due to the quality and style of the mattress you’re using. Some people prefer softer mattresses, whilst others sleep better with a harder mattress due to the added support.
The size of your bed and indeed your mattress could also make a difference.
You can find mattress sizes explained online – a larger mattress and larger bed could be essential if you’re very tall. Opting for a bed without a footboard may also be important for tall people as it could make you feel restricted.
The amount of pillows you use can also make a difference.
Some people like to have two or more pillows, whilst some people prefer to not have a pillow at all. Side sleepers generally need more pillows, whilst those that sleep on their front or back can sometimes deal without a pillow.
Your bedroom isn’t dark enough
Much like the idea of bright screens, too much light can convince the brain that it is daytime and prevent sleep.
Light from outdoors such as street lighting can prevent some people from getting to sleep. Meanwhile, if your bedroom faces east, you may find that the sun hits you earlier in the morning, waking you up early.
Blackout curtains or blackout blinds are a good defense against outdoor light. Alternatively, you may be able to sleep with an eye-mask.
Your bedroom is too noisy
Some people have to deal with obvious source of noise such as snoring partners, however other noise may be less obvious such as outside traffic or a fan.
Blocking out outside noises isn’t easy – some windows may offer sound insulation that may help, but you may feel this is a big investment to make. Wearing earplugs at night could be an easier option to help you block out these noises.
Your bedroom is too hot/too cold
The room temperature of your bedroom could also be preventing you from getting to sleep. We all have different tolerances to temperature – some people feel the heat easier and others are more sensitive to the cold.
Controlling the bedroom temperature may be possible with heating, such as an oscillating tower, or air conditioning, but if you share a room with a partner or roommate you may find that they don’t share your preference for this temperature.
Reconsidering your bedding could be an option. By having a thick duvet and lighter blanket on the bed at all times, you can choose between the two and you can then react to the temperature. Certain bedding materials can be better choices for certain temperatures such as bamboo linen in the summer.
Your bedroom has poor air quality
A stuffy or dusty bedroom could also affect your ability to get to sleep at night. Opening a window could be a simple way to ventilate the room, but if it’s a cold night you may need to consider other options.
Air purifiers can be one option. These machines can suck dust and toxins out of the air to make it cleaner. Dehumidifiers meanwhile can help to get rid of moisture in the air.
You’ve got an unhealthy sleep schedule
A poor sleep schedule could be another reason why you sometimes struggle to get to sleep. If you don’t get up until after midday on a Sunday, it’s no wonder if you’re unable to go to bed early on a Sunday night. Similarly, if you nap for a long period during the day, you could also struggle to get to sleep that evening.
Keep a sensible sleep schedule could help you to get to sleep at night. This may not be possible for people working irregular shifts.