8 Unexpected Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep at Night
A proper night's sleep is crucial to our health. Find out if one of these eight culprits is to blame for your sleeplessness.
Why we can’t sleep at night
Americans are exhausted—according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 35 percent of U.S. adults suffer from brief symptoms of insomnia, up to 20 percent suffer from short-term insomnia, and 10 percent experience chronic insomnia. (Here are the different types of insomnia you can have.) The causes are multifold, says Judith Davidson, a sleep researcher and clinical psychologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
“Insomnia can be due to a loss, relationship stress, high stress at work, illness, or pain; the cause may also involve racing thoughts and worries, including worries about the effects of not sleeping.”
Our over-reliance on technology may also be keeping us awake: exposure to the artificial light of televisions, computers, and phones before bed enhances alertness and suppresses the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Heightened emotions and menstrual cycles are also factors, which might explain why women are twice as likely to report insomnia than are men.
Keep reading to find out if one of these eight factors are the reason you’re not getting enough rest.
Just like with appetite, the physical changes of depression can swing to either extreme. You may suddenly find that you’re tired and sleeping all day, or that you can’t get a wink’s shuteye at all. A particularly common form of sleep deprivation is to find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, night after night.
You’re doing too much before bed
According to a U.S. National Sleep Foundation poll, during the hour before bed, around 60 percent of us do household chores, 37 percent take care of children, 36 percent do activities with other family members, 36 percent are on the Internet, and 21 percent do work related to their jobs.
Working right up until bedtime doesn’t give you a chance to wind down and prepare your body for sleep. Take the hour before bed to transition from the person-who-can-do-everything into the person-who-can-sleep. Read a book, take a bath-whatever will make you feel most relaxed. Try some of these relaxation techniques before bed to get you ready for a good night’s sleep.
Your hormones are out of whack
One explanation could be hormonal changes throughout our reproductive cycles. As women, we are more prone to having poor sleep around menstruation, and that’s related to pain and mood changes. (Here are some other signs you’re headed for a sleepless night.)
Pregnancy is another known time for sleep disturbance. An increase in the hormone progesterone will have you waking up for endless trips to the bathroom in your first trimester and the size of your belly will cause you some discomfort when trying to sleep in your third trimester.
Then in perimenopause, the time right before menopause when women cease to menstruate, a drop in progesterone and estrogen hormone levels may cause symptoms such as nighttime hot flashes and insomnia.
You’re a smoker
There are hundreds of reasons to quit smoking, and sleep trouble is one of them. That nasty nicotine is a stimulant that will keep you awake longer and since you may experience nicotine withdrawal through the night it will affect your sleep. Besides, smoking is no way to start your day.
You’re napping too late in the day
Be cautious about napping during the day. It can be a great way to recharge or catch up on sleep but if you nap too late in the day you may have trouble sleeping at night. If a nap is necessary, keep it to less than 30 minutes in the early afternoon.
If your evening television vigil often ends with you snoring on the sofa, beware! Fight the urge to nod off. If it’s near bedtime go to bed. If it’s still early get up and do something mildly reviving. These harmless habits are also to blame for your insomnia.
You’ve thrown off your biological clock
Staying up late on Friday and Saturday nights and sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings is frequently the gift we give ourselves on weekends after a hard week at work. Yet that little gift—small as it is—is enough to screw up our biological clocks. Even if you get to bed early on Sunday night, you will not be ready to sleep, and it will make for a tough day at the office on Monday.
You’re addicted to technology
Sure, every app promises to make our lives easier, but they may actually tie us into too many never-ending work. Being able to keep in touch with the kids is a boon to working parents. Allowing the office to track you down after hours is not. We need to keep the two things separate, save discrete times in the day to receive and answer business emails, and learn to screen the after 6:00 p.m. cell phone calls. And under no circumstances should you check your email right before bed. Keeping technology out of the bedroom is one of the things good sleepers have in common.
You’re drinking too much caffeine
Feel like you need four extra-large lattes to get you through the day? Your caffeine habit may be keeping you up at night. Drinking coffee or tea in the evening is a particularly bad idea—it can interfere with normal REM sleep and leave you feeling even more tired. Stick to decaf beverages after dinner and limit your intake to three 8oz. doses of caffeine per day to ensure that your coffee habit won’t make it hard to fall asleep.