Five reasons why you still can't sleep

If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, struggling to sleep despite feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, you may be among the estimated 35% of adults who suffer from insomnia. But while it’s comforting to know you’re not alone in your sleep struggle, solving the problem requires a look at your lifestyle to identify the habits that may be contributing to your difficulty dropping off. 


Below, five possible reasons why you can’t sleep and suggestions for ways to adjust your routine so you can finally get some rest!


1. You’re Drinking Too Much Caffeine

While there’s nothing wrong with using coffee as an occasional pick-me-up, drinking too much, too often can lead to difficulties falling and staying asleep. It takes approximately eight hours for caffeine to fully exit your system, which means that 3:00 PM espresso may be to blame if you cringe even thinking about bed before 10:00. 


Coffee lovers should limit consumption to the morning and take care not to exceed the recommended daily allowance of 400 milligrams.  If you find yourself reaching for sugary colas because you crave something fun and flavorful, consider switching to a caffeine-free alternative. 


2. You’re Using Screens Too Close to Bedtime

Research has shown that the blue light emitted by tablets, televisions and smartphones can significantly impact your body’s sleep-wake cycle. A bit of scrolling before bed might seem like just what you need to wind down before sleep, but try to resist the temptation. Even a few minutes of blue light at night decreases your production of the sleep hormone melatonin, according to one Harvard study. 


Instead of reaching for an electronic device, consider meditation or deep breathing as a way to relax your body and mind before bed. Charging your devices outside the bedroom may also help prevent late night exposure.


3. You Need to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

Good sleep hygiene, according to The Sleep Foundation, means setting yourself up for success when it comes to bedtime by developing habits that support high quality sleep. In addition to avoiding caffeine and screens close to bedtime, good sleep hygiene might mean creating a bedtime ritual for yourself to ease the transition from wakefulness to sleep; changing out your evening glass of wine for a mug of a natural sleep aid like chamomile tea or even changing up your bedroom decor to maximize coziness and comfort. Other examples of good sleep hygiene include avoiding late afternoon naps, dining early and reserving your bed for sleep and intimacy only. 


4. You’re Unusually Stressed

Ironically, the best cure for normal stress is often a good night’s sleep and a fresh perspective. Chronic, intense stress, however, like what you might experience after a job loss, divorce or serious illness, often leads to insomnia which, in turn, creates even more stress! Breaking this vicious cycle may require the help of a mental health professional, but you can also take steps to improve your body’s ability to cope with pressure. Meditation and other mindfulness techniques, for example, have been shown to reduce the production of cortisol and adrenaline, the two main stress hormones. 


5. You Have Undiagnosed Anxiety or Depression

According to researchers at Duke University Medical Center, both conditions can lead to insomnia. Those with anxiety may struggle to fall asleep, while individuals with depression suffer from decreased overall sleep quality. If racing thoughts have you staring at the ceiling in the early morning hours, or you wake in the morning feeling as though you haven’t slept at all, it may be time for a mental health checkup.


The Bottom Line

If you find yourself constantly unable to sleep despite feeling both mentally and physically exhausted, the answer may lie in adjusting your lifestyle. Cutting down on caffeine and blue light, both of which can interfere with sleep, as well as developing a bedtime routine, may be all you need to get a good night’s rest. For those who continue to struggle with insomnia after taking these steps, it may be time to consult a mental health professional to rule out more serious causes, such as anxiety, depression or chronic stress. 

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