Why Can’t You Sleep Right? 10 Reasons You’re Tossing and Turning at Night

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Are you struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night? You’re not alone. Millions of people have trouble getting the quality shut-eye they need. Here are 10 common reasons why you may be tossing and turning instead of getting your Z’s:

1. Your Sleep Schedule is Out of Whack

Inconsistent Bedtimes

One of the biggest culprits behind poor sleep is having an erratic schedule. Going to bed and waking up at different times each day confuses your body’s internal clock, making it harder to settle into a regular sleep rhythm.

How to Fix It

Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps align your body’s circadian rhythm so you feel sleepy at bedtime and alert in the morning.

2. You’re Exposing Yourself to Too Much Light at Night

The Problem with Blue Light

The screens on our phones, tablets, computers and TVs emit blue light, which can be stimulating and interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Exposure to blue light in the evening tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.

Limiting Screen Time Before Bed

To improve your sleep, avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime. If you must use a device, turn on the night mode setting or wear blue light blocking glasses.

3. Your Bedroom Isn’t Conducive to Sleep

Creating the Right Environment

Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and cool – around 60 to 67°F is ideal. If there’s too much light, noise, or the temperature is off, it can disrupt your sleep.

Investing in a Comfortable Mattress

An uncomfortable mattress can also lead to poor sleep. If your mattress is over 7 years old or saggy and lumpy, it’s time for an upgrade. Choose one that provides proper support and pressure relief.

4. You’re Consuming Caffeine Too Late in the Day

The Long-Lasting Effects of Caffeine

Drinking coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks even in the afternoon can negatively impact your sleep later that night. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours, meaning it takes 5 hours for your body to get rid of half the caffeine you consumed.

Sticking to a Caffeine Cutoff Time

To prevent caffeine from keeping you up, avoid it after 2 p.m. If you’re extra sensitive, you may need to cut yourself off even earlier. Opt for decaf or herbal tea in the afternoon and evening instead.

5. You’re Not Getting Enough Exercise

The Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

Engaging in regular moderate exercise, like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, can improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Exercise helps relieve stress and tires you out so you’re ready to fall asleep at bedtime.

Finding Time to Fit in a Workout

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days. If you struggle to find time for a full workout, break it up into 10-minute chunks throughout the day. Just avoid vigorous exercise within 3 hours of bedtime, as it can be stimulating.

6. You’re Worried About Things

Stressing When You Should Be Sleeping

If you’re lying in bed worrying about work deadlines, money troubles, family issues, or other stressors, your mind isn’t able to unwind and drift off to sleep. The anxiety activates your fight-or-flight response, even though there’s no real danger present.

Getting Your Worries Out of Your Head

If stress and worries regularly keep you up at night, try scheduling a “worry time” during the day where you write down everything that’s bothering you. Then, when those worries pop up at bedtime, remind yourself that you’ve already addressed them. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can also help calm your mind.

7. You’re Going to Bed Too Full or Too Hungry

How Eating Habits Impact Sleep

Eating a big, heavy meal right before bed can lead to indigestion and discomfort that makes it difficult to fall asleep. On the flip side, going to bed with a growling stomach can also keep you awake.

Finding the Right Balance

To set yourself up for sleep success, avoid large meals within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry, have a light snack that contains both carbs and protein, like whole grain crackers with cheese or an apple with peanut butter. These combos boost serotonin to help you relax.

8. You Have an Underlying Medical Condition

Health Issues That Steal Sleep

Certain medical conditions, like sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, chronic pain, heartburn, and an overactive thyroid, can wreak havoc on your sleep. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are also notorious for causing insomnia.

When to See Your Doctor

If you suspect an underlying health issue is to blame for your sleepless nights, schedule a checkup with your doctor. They can properly diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment. Addressing the root cause can get you back to getting restorative rest.

9. You’re Taking Certain Medications

Drugs That Disrupt Sleep

Some over-the-counter and prescription medications contain ingredients that can interfere with sleep. Common culprits include antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, antidepressants, ADHD meds, and medications for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease.

Talking to Your Doctor or Pharmacist

If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether they could be impacting your sleep. They may be able to adjust your dose, switch you to another drug, or suggest taking the medication at a different time of day to minimize sleep disturbances.

10. You Rely on Alcohol as a Nightcap

Why a Glass of Wine Backfires

While a glass of wine or a cocktail can make you feel sleepy initially, alcohol actually prevents you from getting deep, restorative sleep. Once the sedating effects wear off during the night, you’re more likely to wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep.

Giving Yourself Time Between Drinking and Bed

To prevent alcohol from sabotaging your sleep, stop drinking at least 3 hours before bed. That way, your body has time to metabolize the alcohol so it’s less likely to impact your sleep quality.

If you eliminate these common sleep stealers but still have trouble getting adequate rest, talk to your doctor. They can do a thorough evaluation and refer you to a sleep specialist if needed. Don’t settle for subpar sleep – you deserve to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your day!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How many hours of sleep do most adults need?
    Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
  2. What is a circadian rhythm and why is it important for sleep?
    Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal 24-hour clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Keeping your circadian rhythm in sync by sticking to a regular sleep schedule optimizes the quality and duration of your sleep.
  3. How can I tell if I have a sleep disorder?
    Signs of a sleep disorder include taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, waking up frequently throughout the night, snoring loudly, gasping for air during sleep, and feeling excessively tired during the day despite spending enough time in bed. If you regularly experience any of these, see your doctor for an evaluation.
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