Why Can’t I Sleep?
8 bleary-eyed reasons why sleep is eluding you
Chatting with a friend on Facebook one evening, she tells you that you work too hard – and don’t you know people who sleep less than 6 hours a night die younger? The information is mildly upsetting but quickly forgotten as you put your focus back into work for a few more hours before bed.
At 4 am, you find yourself staring at the clock, worrying about the sleep you’re not getting…
The truth is that most of us are sleep deprived. We work late into the night and jump back into the game early in the morning, accepting that tired is our natural state. Our days are so tightly scheduled that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be uncoiled, well-rested and wide awake.
As work and technology get more tangled into our personal lives, sleep time is sacrificed to make everything else fit.
And the more sleep we give away, the more we worry about not getting enough. Sadly, thinking and worrying about sleep is the fastest route to insomnia, not a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is a nightly event, not a task
There are a million reasons why we’re not sleeping well. If any of these sleep saboteurs have taken up residence in your life, time to put up the eviction notice.
Too much light in your bedroom
Humans sleep at night for a reason. During sleep, your body produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy and lowers your body temperature for more comfortable sleep. Whether its sunlight, a bright alarm clock or your smart phone beside your bed – too much light is a problem.
Fast fix: Invest in blackout drapes or blinds and make your bedroom an electronic-free zone.
Too warm in your bedroom
Ever tried to sleep on a hot summer night? Our bodies naturally cool as we sleep and when our internal thermostat overheats, it goes against that cooling down process. Temperature can be the difference between a restful, deep sleep and a fitful night that leaves you tired the next day.
Fast fix: Crack open your window or place a fan beside your bed. Just be sure the fan’s not pointed directly at you – being too cold can affect sleep just as much as being too warm.
Too much exercise too late in the day
This one is controversial. Rule of thumb has always been to exercise earlier in the day and leave your evenings to wind down and relax. But any exercise is better than none, for sleep and health, according to USAToday.com. “We have very busy lives now. For a lot of people evening is the most convenient time.”
Fast fix: Shuffle your schedule and play around with the timing, intensity and type of workout to see what feels right for you and your sleep health.
Too much to drink (alcohol) – too late in the evening
A glass of wine to help unkink all those knots in the neck can be a lovely way to relax into the evening. Trouble is, alcohol dehydrates us jumbles our REM sleep, which can lead to a restless night’s sleep.
Fast fix: Watch this video on WebMD.com – Why can’t I drink before bed?
Too much caffeine
Caffeine myths can make you worry about indulging in even one cup and the truth is that it lives in your system for a long time. Ten hours after a cup of coffee, 75% of it will be gone but the remaining 25% may interfere with sleep – especially if you indulged later in the day.
Fast fix: If you follow your bliss with a coffee in hand, do it earlier in the day.
Too much heavy eating before bed
That rack of lamb might have sounded like a good idea at 9 am when you were at the grocery store, but if you’re only getting around to eating it at 9 pm, it’s going to keep you awake. Protein takes a lot of energy to digest and that keeps your digestive system wide awake and working hard when you’re trying to sleep.
Fast fix: Eat dinner earlier and if you’re hungry before bed, grab a low-carbohydrate snack like a peanut butter smoothie, a banana or a handful of walnuts.
Too much late-night TV
When you’re staring listlessly at the clock at 4 am, it’s tempting to get up and watch TV to pass the time. But don’t do it. TV stimulates a whole lot of brain activity and the light it emits is like waving a red flag in front of your brain – time to wake up.
Fast fix: When you can’t sleep, nix the TV and grab a book instead.
Too much late-night stressing
Worrying is normal and hard to control if stress is standing between you and a good night’s sleep. That worrying robs you of peace of mind when you should be sleeping and rarely produces anything of value.
Fast fix: When you wake up and find your mind wandering down a thorny path, stop yourself. Grab a book, make a warm glass of milk or meditate – train your brain to not think too much at night.
Getting a good night’s sleep can become an overwhelming stress if it’s out of reach. And lack of sleep could be a sign that there’s something else (medically) going on – which means it’s time for professional help. Don’t hesitate to contact a sleep doctor if you’re concerned.