Why Am I Not Sleeping? 4 Reasons You May Be Suffering From Insomnia

If tossing and turning at night, staring into the black void of your room sounds like you - you’re not alone.

While we’ve been told since childhood that sleep is essential, what do you do when you genuinely TRY to sleep… but can’t?

Maybe this has become a recent problem for you and you’re lost on how to navigate insomnia. Or, perhaps you’ve struggled with sleeplessness for years and are curious about what factors may be impacting your ability to get a full night’s rest - this article is for you.

Let’s discuss a few things that may be contributing to your sleepless nights and a few ways you can fight back.

Why Is Sleep So Important?

We’ve all seen those sleep charts that show us how much sleep we SHOULD be getting a night based on our age. If you’re like many people, you chuckle a bit when you read that. There’s no way some of us (especially if you’re a parent) can get that much sleep!

However, learning why sleep is so crucial to our overall physical and mental wellbeing is the first step in prioritizing healthy sleep habits so you can begin to carve out time for a full night's rest.

How a lack of sleep is damaging:

  • Lack of sleep can affect our behaviors

  • Lack of sleep can cause us to make poor decisions

  • Lack of sleep can put us at risk for anxiety and depression

  • Lack of sleep can lower our immune system - making us prone to sickness

  • Lack of sleep can cause us to perform worse in school or at work

  • Lack of sleep can cause slower reaction times while driving

  • Lack of sleep can put us at risk for substance abuse

As you can see, there are a few reasons why sleep is incredibly important. Not only does it affect our bodies - by hindering our immune system and causing us to become more prone to short and long-term illnesses, but it also hurts our minds and puts us at risk for mental illness.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is characterized by an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get back to sleep after waking. To be given a formal diagnosis, these symptoms must occur despite all attempts at improving sleep and happen 3 times a week for 3 months.

While there’s no specific test for insomnia, your healthcare provider will often run a series of physical exams and questionnaires to see if you’re struggling from insomnia, or if there’s an underlying condition at play.

For individuals with insomnia, it’s much more than just a night of sleeplessness. Insomnia is persistent and relentless. It follows a person into their daily life affecting their mood, relationships, performance, and lifestyle.

Even if you’re not technically suffering from insomnia, you may still be experiencing frequent sleepless nights which are just as frustrating and debilitating.

Why Am I Not Sleeping?

There are many different reasons you may not be able to sleep. Let’s discuss some.

#1: Poor Sleep Hygiene

If you’ve never heard of sleep hygiene before, don’t worry. Hygiene is not limited to taking showers and putting deodorant on. Hygiene itself simply means any actions you take that improve your health and ward off diseases.

So, what is sleep hygiene?

When you take intentional actions to promote better sleep, you’re practicing sleep hygiene. This can mean altering your environment, changing your behaviors during the day, or creating a nighttime ritual.

Ways to improve your sleep hygiene include:

Maintaining a Consistent Sleep Routine:

When we create a sleep schedule, we are training our brains to normalize sleep as an essential part of our day. This means having a fixed wake-up time - even on weekends. This also means prioritizing sleep and not skipping it to go out with friends, stay up binging Netflix, or studying late into the night. No matter how important a task may seem at hand, sleep always reigns.

If you’re realizing you need to create a consistent sleep schedule, don’t try to do it all at once. This can actually do more harm than good as it may throw your entire schedule out of whack. Try gradually easing into it in increments of an hour or two at a time.

Create a Nightly Routine:

Giving ourselves time and space to wind down at the end of the night is crucial. Our brains are often in overdrive for a majority of the day, making it quite difficult to shut down come night time.

Calming music, reading, journaling, or meditating for 30 minutes before bedtime can do wonders for your sleeping habits.

Avoid screen time within 2 hours before bed. This allows your brain to detox from the blue light emitted by devices.

Keep Your Bed For 2 Activities Only:

Those two activities are sleep and sex. When you do anything else in your bed besides sleep, you’re unknowingly training your brain to associate those activities with bedtime. Watching tv, eating, or drawing in bed creates a connection between your brain with wakefulness.

If you can’t live without your television in your room, invest in a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses and wear them at least 2 hours before bed to help keep your circadian rhythm in check.

#2: You Aren’t Getting Enough Sunlight During The Day:

Our circadian rhythm is our body's natural clock. It keeps all our functions, including sleep, on a biological schedule.

Daylight is one key factor that kick-starts our brain's signal to stay awake. Sunlight creates serotonin - a neurotransmitter that comes before melatonin (our sleep hormone). When we spend time during the day exposing ourselves to light, our brains make higher levels of serotonin, and thus, higher levels of melatonin come nightfall.

Since our bodies respond to light as a signal to stay awake, in turn, it responds to dark as a signal to sleep. Getting out into the sunlight makes the shift much more drastic once evening rolls around, ensuring our brains make no mistake it’s time for bed.

#3: You’re Stressed Out:

Okay, who isn’t stressed out these days? But, when we experience high levels of chronic stress our sleep is the first thing to go.

Maybe you lay in bed for hours with your mind running like a hamster wheel. This can easily keep your brain in overdrive, giving it no time to rest.

A persistent sense of worry, dread, hopelessness, or overall anxiety can make it incredibly difficult to wind down at the end of the night.

Common reasons for stress include:

  • Finances

  • Work

  • Relationship

  • Health

  • Life events

  • Family

  • Marital problems

  • Trauma

If you feel as though your insomnia is triggered by stress try journaling before bed as a way to “brain dump”. Muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, and meditation have all been proven to help alleviate levels of stress before bed.

#4: Your Environment Isn’t Ideal For Sleep

Did you know? The ideal temperature to sleep in is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you like to stay warm during the day, make sure to turn your thermostat down if you want to achieve a better night’s rest.

Your environment plays a huge role in setting the mood for sleep. Even a few simple tweaks can make a big difference in how your brain is able to settle down at the end of the night.

A few ways to set your room up for sleeping success can be:

Keeping Your Room Dark:

As we’ve discussed, any exposure to light can increase wakefulness. This isn’t limited to sunlight, though. Even artificial light can suppress the production of melatonin. This means covering nightlights, electronics, or any other light source in order to get the full amount of sleep hormones you need.

If your bedroom faces the sunrise, it’s not a bad idea to invest in some room darkening curtains - ideal for those who enjoy sleeping in.

Consider a White Noise Machine:

Traffic, noisy neighbors or even your spouse watching tv in the living room can all make it difficult to fall asleep.

Even if you aren’t conscious of waking, noises can impact your deep sleep cycles. So, when you ARE able to fall asleep you may not wake feeling all too rested.

White noise machines are an inexpensive solution to those pesky sounds keeping you awake at night. You may just be surprised at how much relief they can give.

How Can Seeing a Therapist Help With My Sleeping Problems?

One solution to sleeping difficulties many people don’t realize is seeing a therapist. Sleeping disorders can disrupt every aspect of your life - especially your mental health. Getting your sleep back on the right track is crucial if you want to feel healthy, balanced, and keep your emotions in check.

While sleeping medications may help in the short term, they are not a long-term solution and typically come with many side effects.

Seeing a mental health professional for your sleeping disorders gives you a long-term fix and equips you with skills and tools you can take with you for the rest of your life.

Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify any behaviors, lifestyle factors, or internal beliefs that may be hindering you from overcoming your insomnia. From there, you and your therapist can create a plan to change those behaviors and establish healthier ones.

If you feel as though your sleepless nights are impacting your health and sanity, it’s never too late to reach out for help.


https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/therapy-for-sleep-disorders.htm#:~:text=Cognitive%2Dbehavioral%20therapy%20(CBT),that%20impact%20your%20sleeping%20patterns. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene


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