Why Can’t I Sleep?
Every night across America, millions of adults toss and turn, failing to get the deep, restful sleep they need. In fact, the Institute of Medicine estimates that 50 million to 70 million adults struggle with sleep. But why is sleep so elusive for so many people?
Sleep disorders and insomnia, a general term that characterizes the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, are not without consequence. Getting poor or too little sleep can make it difficult to stay focused and productive, cause you to make more mistakes, make you feel constantly fatigued and even create mood issues such as depression and anxiety. Taking sleep meds can also make it difficult to wake up and have you feeling drowsy the next day.
Sleep quality and duration can be affected by many facets of life and health conditions. If you have been wondering why you can’t sleep, here are the most likely causes of insomnia and what you can do about them without turning to sleep drugs:
Stress and poor mental health – The worries of the day can have your mind racing as soon as you lie down to sleep. Whether it’s work, school, family problems or health issues on your mind, stressors can make sleep seem impossible. If you find yourself unable to drift off because you’re focusing on your worries, intentionally set aside some time every evening before bed to unwind. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling and progressive relaxation are all great strategies to try. Ensure you are getting enough regular exercise and seek out professional help with a therapist if you are experiencing depression or anxiety or for help overcoming the damaging effects of stress.
Poor sleep routine – If you’re hopping into bed right after watching TV or exercising, it’s no wonder you’re not sleeping well at night. Getting a good night’s sleep is often a simple matter of establishing good sleep hygiene. This includes not napping after 2 p.m. and setting a regular sleep and wake schedule that is consistent every day – even weekends. Turn off electronic devices and finish any workouts or rigorous exercise at least an hour before bed to give your body and brain some time to wind down.
Poor sleep environment – A room that’s too brightly lit, noisy or hot doesn’t create a restful environment and can make it difficult to sleep. Create a relaxing sleep environment that’s dark, quiet and cool for your best chance at sleep.
Eating too late – Eating a spicy, heavy meal just before bed is a recipe for a bad night’s sleep, even causing heartburn and acid reflux. If you feel the pangs of hunger just before bed, have a light, healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, oatmeal or a smoothie. Avoid alcohol, heavy carbohydrates, spicy foods and, obviously, caffeine.
Medications and medical conditions – Both medical conditions and the medications used to treat them can interfere with sleep. Medications used to treat pain, allergies, depression, asthma, blood pressure, ADHD and other conditions can produce a side effect of insomnia. Meanwhile, chronic pain, asthma, acid reflux, thyroid disorders, cancer, diabetes and other conditions can make sleep difficult as well. Work with your doctor to ensure your medications are right for you and your chronic conditions are well managed. If you have been prescribed insomnia medicine, make sure you are taking your sleep medicine at the appropriate time.
Sleep disorders – In addition to all of these causes of insomnia, there are a variety of sleep disorders that can make it incredibly difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep – including restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
When to see a doctor
If your poor sleep persists for more than a few weeks, makes daily life difficult and cannot be improved with the strategies above, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician who can start the process of working with you to determine the cause of your sleep problems. It is important to identify and treat any underlying issues causing your sleep disturbances so that both your nights and your days are the best they can be.
At Avail Hospital, we encourage you to make sleep one of your top health priorities.