6 Surprising Reasons You Can’t Fall Asleep

Our partners at hit show "The Doctors" dole out feel-great advice to zap common sleep problems.

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Your pillow is too hot.

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Resting your head on a cool pillow
may help decrease core body temperature and help cause drowsiness.
According to a University of Pittsburgh study, insomniacs who wore a
special cooling cap fell asleep within 13 minutes (and stayed asleep for
89 percent of the night). This compared favorably with healthy sleepers
who dozed off within 16 minutes. Researchers speculate that cooling the
brain, which they’ve dubbed cerebral hypothermia, slows metabolism and
encourages restfulness. Try putting your pillowcase in the freezer while
you get ready for bed to achieve more restful sleep.

There's a full moon.

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It
may not turn you into a werewolf, but a full moon can make you toss and
turn. Swiss researchers found that people experienced a big dip in
sleep quality in the four days before and after a full moon. (They slept
about 20 minutes less, spent about one third less time in deep sleep,
and made less melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired.) Granted,
there’s not much you can do about this, but you can at least know when
there will be a full moon and expect a slight toll on your sleep.

You didn’t give exercise a shot.

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Exercise can help us sleep better, but only if we stick with it, shows a recent study from Northwestern University’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine program. Insomnia patients who began an exercise regimen did eventually sleep longer and boost energy, but it took two to four months to see an effect. In other words, you can’t expect to run
on a treadmill one morning and have a blissful night’s sleep that same
evening. Aim for at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day, or a
total of two and a half hours a week, per CDC guidelines.

You started a new medication.

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Insomnia
is a frequent side effect of many drugs, including blood pressure
medications, antidepressants, and steroids. The time of day that you
take certain medications matters. We often recommend that patients
take beta-blockers (for high blood pressure or arrhythmia) in the
morning instead of before bed, for example. If your doctor prescribes a
new drug, ask about the best time to take it.

Your dog hogs your bed.

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Even people with minor pet allergies may feel worse if their pillows
and sheets are sprinkled with pet dander. This can cause congestion and
increase your odds of snoring, which can make it harder to fall or stay
asleep. One Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders study found that more than half
of patients who sleep with their furry friends say the animals disrupt
their sleep. If you suspect these symptoms are affecting your slumber, declare your boudoir a pet-free zone.

You feel your partner’s pain.

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In a recent study, partners of arthritis patients reported sleeping poorly on nights that their bedmates suffered higher pain levels. Couples with the closest bonds were the most affected. To ease discomfort, your partner can try solutions like a pillow placed between the knees to soothe back pain. And because anxiety can heighten the perception of pain, you both may sleep better after a calming routine such as a soothing bath.

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