why can't I sleep?

Why Am I Having Trouble Sleeping?

If you’re frequently struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, you’re unfortunately not alone. 

Insomnia is an extremely common issue, with studies estimating that 30-48% of adults experience insomnia symptoms. There can be many different underlying causes for persistent insomnia, including several mental health conditions. 

Let’s explore some of the reasons you might be having trouble sleeping, and highlight some easy tips to find relief and improve sleep habits.

Mental Health Issues & Insomnia 

Difficulties with sleep are often intricately connected to our mental and emotional well-being. Several mental health disorders are associated with higher rates of insomnia:

Depression: People with depression frequently experience insomnia, with inability to sleep being one of the core symptoms. The mental preoccupation and negative thought patterns of depression can make it very hard for the mind to quiet down at night.

Anxiety Disorders: From generalized anxiety to PTSD, anxiety disorders can lead to a harsh cycle of worried thoughts preventing quality sleep, and then sleep deprivation exacerbating anxiety the next day. The fight-or-flight state keeps the body hyper-aroused, making natural sleep patterns difficult to achieve.

Bipolar Disorder: People with bipolar disorder often experience sleep disruptions, both during manic episodes with decreased need for sleep as well as depressive episodes with insomnia.

Substance Abuse: While alcohol may help induce sleep initiation, it is linked to poor sleep quality and increased wakefulness later in the night as it metabolizes. Other substances like stimulants can also greatly impair sleep.

If you have a mental health condition, addressing treatment for it should be a top priority, as improving your overall mental well-being will have positive effects on your ability to sleep. Therapy, medication, or a combination of both can help get you on the right track. 

Simple Tips for Better Sleep Habits 

Regardless of any underlying condition, developing good sleep habits and routines is crucial for consistent high-quality sleep. Here are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene:

Set a Sleep Schedule 

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time(s) each day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythms.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Build habits like reading, light stretching, or taking a warm bath in the hour before bedtime to help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.

Optimize Your Sleep Environment

Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Use blackout curtains, a sound machine, or earplugs to reduce external disruptions. Invest in a comfortable, supportive mattress.

Limit Screen Time

The blue light emitted from TV, laptop, and smartphone screens can suppress melatonin production. Try to avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bed.

Be Careful with Naps

While a short power nap early in the afternoon can be rejuvenating, longer or later naps can interfere with your ability to sleep at night.

Avoid Stimulants Too Close to Bedtime

Avoid caffeine, nicotine or alcohol too close to bedtime, as these can delay sleep onset or reduce sleep quality.

If sleeplessness persists for more than a few weeks despite your best efforts at sleep hygiene, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. You may need to explore treatment options for any underlying physical or mental health issues. 

Once you address any underlying physical or mental causes of insomnia, and follow the simple sleep habits above, you will sleep more soundly, for longer periods of time, and will feel the results in your emotional and physical well-being.