You go to sleep too early
Ninety percent of insomniacs hit the hay too soon, estimates Breus. It sounds counterintuitive, which is the main reason this is one of the most common insomnia causes. But despite what your intuition might tell you, staying up later signals to your body’s homeostatic system that you need more sleep, so when you do finally go to bed, you’ll conk out sooner. In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), sleep doctors often start with your wakeup time, then count backward about six to seven hours. A 6:30 a.m. wakeup, for example, might mean bed at midnight instead 10:30 p.m. Restricting your time in bed sends a message to your body that you are more active and need the sleep when you try for it, says Colleen Carney, PhD, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and author of Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts and Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
You have no set bedtime
It may be decades since you had a stories-and-warm-milk routine, but “we never really outgrow a wind-down period,” says Carney. Breus has long recommended patients start a “power-down hour”: Set an alarm for 60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. Spend the first 20 minutes finishing up any must-dos (walking the dog, firing off a few last emails) and the next 20 minutes on sleep hygiene (showering, brushing teeth, pajamas). For the final 20 minutes, do something relaxing like meditation, gentle yoga, or reading a book. Then lights out. Don’t ignore these signs you’re headed for a rough night’s sleep.
You underestimate how much caffeine you consume
It’s no secret that caffeine can keep you awake, but many people mistakenly think the stimulant drug has no effect on them, says Breus. In fact, caffeine has a half-life of eight to 10 hours (meaning that eight hours after your last grande latte, half of the caffeine is still in your system), so drinking too much too late in the day may inadvertently be arresting your sleep. What’s more, caffeine metabolism slows as we get older. Your body can’t process caffeine as efficiently in your forties as it did in your twenties, so the same amount that didn’t bother you then could have an effect now. Here are other surprising ways caffeine affects your health.