Tossing and Turning: Why Can't You Sleep at Night?

Insomnia affects millions of people every night, preventing them from getting a full night’s rest. A lack of quality sleep is not only frustrating, but it can be absolutely detrimental to your health. Sleep is necessary for your body to heal after injuries, for your immune system to fight against foreign invaders and for your brain to recover from stress, store memories and prepare for focusing the next day.

If you’re tossing and turning at night trying to fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, there’s likely an underlying reason that needs to be addressed. Once you identify this reason, you might be able to find a solution and pave a path to better sleep.

Here are some of the most common causes of sleep disorders and some tips for solving the problem.

Poor sleep environment

Examine your bedroom. Is it too bright, with streetlights shining in at all hours? Do you have noisy neighbors or heavy street traffic that’s keeping you awake?

Creating a comfortable, dark and quiet sleeping environment is one of the first steps to falling asleep. If things are too loud or too bright, you may be too distracted to fall asleep or will have a greater chance of waking up during the night.

Invest in a good pair of ear plugs, a white noise machine and blackout curtains to create the optimal environment.

You’re uncomfortable

It’s nearly impossible to fall asleep when you can’t find a comfortable position or feel like you’re sleeping on rocks. Old, worn-out mattresses and pillows that don’t give your body adequate support and can make you toss and turn in discomfort. If your mattress and pillows are old or uncomfortable, upgrade to new ones that give you the support you need.

The temperature in your bedroom may also be making you uncomfortable. Your body temperature usually lowers as night, so if it’s too warm, you may have trouble falling asleep.

Stress and anxiety

When your brain is wracked with worry or you’re running through a long to-do list in your head, it’s likely that you will have a hard time drifting off into peaceful slumber.

Chronic stress, as well as mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, are some of the top causes of insomnia. If you suffer from these issues, you may also find that you’re able to fall asleep, but you aren’t able to wake up feeling refreshed.

Find ways to manage your stress or mental illness so that they don’t take a toll on your sleep (which can also make your mental illness worse!).

Health conditions

There are many health conditions that can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, including respiratory illnesses like allergies, asthma and bronchitis; chronic pain; acid reflux and others. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome are other common problems linked to poor sleep.

Additionally, medications you may be taking to treat health problems may also be interfering with your sleep, such as stimulants, antidepressants, blood pressure medication and corticosteroids. Ask your doctor about switching medications or how to manage sleep while treating health issues.

Too much caffeine

Did you have a cup of coffee late in the afternoon to get you through the end of the work day? If so, caffeine may still be in your system, stimulating your brain and body and preventing you from sleeping.

Aim to avoid caffeine at least six hours before bed so that it has ample time to work its way out of your body by the time you’re ready to sleep.

Pre-bedtime stimulation

Engaging in stimulating activities and getting your body and brain riled up before bed may be interfering with your sleep. Instead, you should aim to calm down before bed by taking a soothing bath, reading a book, journaling or practicing yoga.

Try to avoid using electronic devices before bed, as well. The blue light emitted from phones and televisions can stall the release of melatonin, a hormone that gets your body ready for sleep.

Jet lag or sleep schedule problems

If you’ve recently traveled to a different time zone, you may be experiencing jet lag, which is caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour body clock that controls numerous bodily processes, including the production of melatonin. Time zone changes can throw the body out of whack and make you feel tired much earlier or later.

Your circadian rhythm may also have been thrown off by a disruption in your schedule, such as staying up late for a few nights in a row or changing shifts at work. Always try to maintain a regular sleep schedule to keep your body’s rhythms consistent and make falling asleep easier.

Good sleep leads to a healthy body

Sleep is imperative to happiness and health. If you’re experiencing sleep problems, try to make lifestyle changes that promote better and easier sleep. If you’re still having trouble with sleep, visit your doctor to discuss other causes of insomnia and how to fix them.

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