5 reasons you can’t sleep and tips to help you sleep better

CATEGORY:  

15 min read

The Dalai Lama said, “Sleep is the best meditation” because the quality of sleep we get at night dictates the quality of life we lead. Sleep is a vital component of our day-to-day routine and a major contributor to our overall well being – physical, mental, and emotional. Sleep helps the body repair and rejuvenate while regulating the general flow of happy hormones. Rest nourishes our body, keeps us in a good mood and replenishes our much-needed energy on a daily basis. It’s important to understand the reasons that are disturbing your sleep before jumping to the tips for sleeping better.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s the quality of sleep that matters more than the quantity of sleep. Some people feel really rejuvenated even after sleeping just for a couple of hours because they experience deep sleep whereas a few others can sleep as long as 9 -10 hours and can still lack energy. 

But falling asleep is not easy for everyone. A few lucky ones sleep off as soon as our head hits the pillow but most of us struggle to sleep peacefully from time to time. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, over 35% of the world population is either sleep deprived or struggles to get a good night’s rest.  

Assessing if you’re getting enough sleep

Sleep deprivation can manifest itself in many ways and for a variety of reasons. For some of us, it’s a temporary condition, while for others the deprivation might be more long term. Persistent failure to fall asleep can grow into a case of full-blown insomnia. Here are some symptoms to assess if you’re sleep deprived:

  • Excessive yawning
  • Dozing off when inactive or while engaging passively in an activity or conversation.
  • Feeling groggy after waking up and/or for the better part of the day
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of focus and poor concentration
  • Incoherent thoughts and feelings.

Sleep efficiency test

This does require a bit of math skills so feel free to grab your calculators. Answer these questions:

  1. What time do you go to bed? For example, I go to sleep at 10:00 PM
  2. What time do you actually sleep? For example, though I go to sleep at 10:00 PM, I am actually only able to sleep by 3:00 AM.
  3. What time do you get out of bed to start your day? For example, I get out of bed at 6:00 AM

Now do these calculations:

  1. No. of hours actually spent sleeping = Count the no. of hours from ‘What time do you actually sleep’ to ‘What time do you get out of bed to start your day’? In the above example, it will be 3 hours. From 03:00 AM to 6:00 AM
  2. No. of hours spent in bed trying to sleep = What time do you go to bed for sleep – What time do you actually sleep (In the above example, it will be 5 hours. From 10:00 PM to 03:00 AM).
    Hence, Sleep Efficiency = (No. of hours actually Slept/ No. of hours spent in bed trying to sleep)*100 {In the above example, it will be (3/5)* 100 = 60%}

Reasons for not sleeping

Why can’t I sleep at night? What does it mean when you can’t sleep? How to get to sleep when you can’t? If these questions sound familiar to you, fear not- you are not alone. There are a variety of reasons associated with this sleeplessness:

Over-exertion  

One of the many reasons for not sleeping is workaholism. Workaholism and sleeplessness go hand in hand. A growing number of professionals regularly prioritize work oversleep, as they don’t recognize the latter as necessary nourishment for the body. In other cases, most college-going children and young adults compromise sleep for binge-watching TV shows and socializing instead of hitting the sack at a reasonable hour. 

Illness

One of the first parts of our routines to be compromised by sickness is sleep. Whether you’re running a high temperature or are under the weather with a cold and cough, you will find yourself sleeping sporadically. Moreover, some medicines and procedures taken for cure can also cause sleep disruption. Frequent-waking in the middle of the night can diminish the quality of sleep and hamper health. 

Travel

Those of us who travel often for work or leisure have erratic sleeping habits. Being on the move constantly might demand long hours spent on flights and in airports through different hours of the day and night. People serving the aviation industry are most affected by sleep deprivation due to this reason.

Sleep disorder

A host of sleeping problems can affect the quality of sleep. Various conditions such as sleep apnoea, sleep-walking, dyssomnia, and snoring can cause disturbances in sleep during the night. 

Change in environment

Moving to a new city or a different house within the same city can cause disturbances in sleep. A new mattress, combination of smells, different lighting and even changes in room temperature can take some getting used to. Good sleep is the by-product of a peaceful mind and the subconscious mind takes a bit of time to feel rested in a new space.

Pregnancy

The body experiences a whole host of changes during pregnancy. Variation in appearance, mood swings, and hormonal changes are major deterrents of sleep during and post-pregnancy. In addition, sleeping patterns are also affected by the baby’s erratic sleeping timings and eating schedules. Pregnancy can be a trying time for both parents, but women experience poorer quality of sleep than men. 

Work Stress

Work has ceased to be an activity that takes place in the office; it’s now a  24/7 phenomenon. Most of us think about deliverables at work long after we have gone home and stress about things that need to be done or tasks we could have performed better. This constant worry about work is a leading cause of poor sleep.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs can severely impair the proper functioning of your body if they are routinely abused. Substance abuse can also disturb the normal flow of hormones in the body which in turn disturb the sleep schedule.

Lack of Routine

It’s necessary to have a fixed bed-time. The timing can vary by a few minutes on and off, but it’s necessary to train the mind to switch off and rest at a certain time every day. Lack of routine can be very harmful in the long run and can cause insomnia in some cases. Let’s get to some tips to help you sleep better at night.

Tips to help you sleep better

  1. Let your mind relax. Get rid of negative thoughts. Try to think about all the good things that have happened to you during the day or week. You can try meditation and CBT for re-framing the negative thoughts to a positive mindset. Take a gratitude exercise so that you can remember all the things you are grateful for.
  2. Use a calming mantra with soothing sounds while you sleep. Certain Vedic chants and rhythmic repetitions create certain harmonic vibrations in the environment that can calm your senses and put your mind at ease. You can try listening to these on your phone.  We have an amazing library of sleep stories and calming sounds on our sleep app.
  3. Trick your brain into believing you’re tired. Tuck yourself in comfortably, adjust your head right on the pillow and droop your eyes. Going through the repetitions of sleeping can make your body believe that you are ready to sleep.
  4. Read a book, listen to music, or listen to our sleep stories. All these activities will engage your mind, soothe nerves and distract you from the day’s stresses. 
  5. Take a few breathing exercises and clear your head for a few minutes to release your day’s tensions and retire into slumber.
  6. Add a routine to your life. Regulating your sleep and work schedule, eating meals on time can help you improve your sleep cycle.
  7. Taking a balanced and nourishing diet helps you sleep better. For example, cut down on caffeine

FAQ

Why can’t I sleep?

Insomnia or the lack of one’s ability to sleep may be caused due to multiple reasons. Reasons include stress, depression, jet lag, various health issues that cause uneasiness and/or medications that have side effects leading to insomnia. 

What’s a sleep disorder?

A sleep disorder is any irregularity in an individual’s sleeping pattern that is causing too much sleep, inadequate sleep or poor quality of sleep.

List of sleep disorders

1. Insomnia – the lack of one’s ability to fall asleep/ complete sleeplessness.
2. Sleep Apnea – breathlessness or having breathing problems while sleeping
3. Narcolepsy – experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness
4. Parasomnia – also known as REM sleep behavior disorder. Parasomnia causes abnormal activities during sleep, such as sleep terrors, nightmares and sleepwalking.

What are the Sleep disorder symptoms?

Fatigue, body pain, headaches, mood swings, are some of the symptoms of insomnia, sleep apnea and parasomnia. Narcolepsy may cause the individual to fall asleep anywhere unexpectedly. Lack of sleep can cause many minor and major dysfunctions in the body due to a lack of rest.

What is Rem sleep behavior disorder?

Rapid Eye movement sleep behavior disorder is one where the individual experiences abnormal activities during sleep, such as sleep terrors, hallucinations or nightmares. These dreams often occur in the initial hours of sleep and the individual may not remember these after waking up. Other instances may be twitching in bed, incessant kicking or even sleepwalking.

What to do when you can’t fall asleep?

There are various prescription drugs one can take if one cannot fall asleep. The best thing to do however is to address the issue that’s causing insomnia. Try a healthier lifestyle, meditate, exercise, take a vacation or pick a hobby that helps you unwind.

What are the 5 types of sleep disorders?

Insomnia – the lack of one’s ability to fall asleep/ complete sleeplessness.

Sleep Apnea – breathlessness or having breathing problems while sleeping

Narcolepsy – experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness

Parasomnia – also known as REM sleep behavior disorder. Parasomnia causes abnormal activities during sleep, such as sleep terrors, nightmares and sleepwalking.

Restless leg Syndrome – an uncontrollable sensation in the arms or legs causing a twitching or tingling sensation in the limbs. Some people describe it as the feeling of something slimy creeping or crawling on one’s legs.

Why can’t I sleep at night?

Insomnia or the lack of one’s ability to sleep may be caused due to multiple reasons. Reasons include stress, depression, jet lag, various health issues that cause uneasiness and/or medications that have side effects leading to insomnia.

What is sleep anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is the fear of falling asleep. This may simply be because of one’s pending work and the stress it brings, the fear of having a bad dream or just an activity that may wake you up suddenly like the sound of your neighbors returning late on Saturday.

bbc
wntrepreneur
orcha
wall street
bloomberg