Why Aren’t You Sleeping?

Why Aren’t You Sleeping?

Feeling more groggy than usual? You know you’re not waking up refreshed from a good night’s sleep. But what’s keeping you from sleeping? Turns out, there are many potential obstacles to getting and staying asleep.

You can improve your life by finding out what’s behind your sleeplessness. It isn't jut that you feel mentally and physically tired. Not getting enough sleep can harm your health in many ways. It can be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. It can make people more likely to gain weight or have memory problems.

It's worth the effort to figure out what's causing your sleep issues.

Your Life Is Getting in the Way

Paying attention to sleep hygiene can set you up for better sleep. Good sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that support regular, uninterrupted sleep, says the Sleep Foundationleaving site icon  

About 1 in 3 Americans say they aren't getting enough good quality sleep. If you’re one of them, take a look at some everyday habits that could be keeping you from waking up well-rested.

Nightcaps: Maybe you’re drinking alcohol a few hours before you go to bed. That might help you fall asleep, but it won’t keep you asleep. And it can lead to poor quality sleep that doesn’t give your body the benefits it should. It can also cause more sleep disturbing middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.
The fix: Watch the amount you drink and make last call earlier in the evening.

Medicine timing: You may be taking your medicine at the “wrong” time for restful sleep. Some medicines, such as those for high blood pressure, depression or asthma, can keep you awake.
The fix: Check with your doctor to see if any of your medicines could be interrupting your sleep. Adjust the timing of your medicine as needed and track your results to find the best time for you.

Late snacks and caffeine: If you’re eating heavy or spicy foods that cause heartburn, it can keep you up. Too much caffeine can keep you awake, too, even if it’s been hours since you had your last soda, coffee, tea or chocolate.
The fix: Change what you eat and when. And have caffeine in moderation.

Exercise: Exercising at the wrong time can cause sleep problems. And if you aren’t getting enough activity, you may feel overly tired but still not be able to sleep.
The fix: Get your body moving, just not near bedtime.

Your environment: Your bed is lumpy. Your clock glows too brightly. You can hear cars on the street. You’re too hot. These types of things can make it hard to sleep.
The fix: Invest in a good mattress. Block the light from your alarm clock or other tech gadgets. Get a white noise machine or try a fan to block out noise. Try keeping your bedroom cooler, too.

Too much going on before bed: Are you binge watching TV or reading when you should be sleeping? Are you a little too devoted to social media or texting at night?
The fix: Practice moderation. Put down the remote and ditch the mobile devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Sleep schedule and naps: If you’re a big fan of naps or don’t keep a regular sleep schedule, it can make it hard to go to sleep — and get up — when you need to.
The fix: Give up the naps or limit them to brief (10 to 20 minutes) ones before mid-afternoon. And try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day — even weekends.

Bigger Changes

Sometimes the issues causing your sleep troubles aren’t just bad habits or timing. Addressing some problems takes more effort for that sweet payoff of better sleep.

Stress is a major barrier to good sleep. But it isn’t something that you can change in a night. If you are a life-long worrier, consider taking up meditation. Or learn to focus on your breathing or relaxing different parts of your body to help you go to sleep. There are many ways to manage stress, and it’s worth the effort.

If you’ve had a major life change, like losing your job or experiencing a divorce or the death of a loved one, reach out for help and support.

Health problems also contribute to poor sleep. Talk to your doctor if you’re one of the many people who have pain or illness that gets in the way, including:

  • Sleep apnea (long pauses in breathing while asleep)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Menopause
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Chronic pain

Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. If you regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your doctor.

Track Your Sleep

If you’re feeling tired all the time, it might be time to start keeping a sleep diary. You can do it with pen and paper on a handy sleep log or in a journal.

Or you can make use of technology. Your fitness tracker may have a sleep area. Just don’t use an app on your phone too close to bedtime. That pesky blue light may be one of the things keeping you from the restful sleep your body needs.

Try tracking your sleep times and related details for several weeks, then look at the factors behind your good or bad nights. You can even share your sleep log with your doctor. This information can help you find out what works for you.

Try this sleep diary leaving site icon you can download from the National Sleep Foundation that has areas for tracking detailed information about your sleep habits and experiences. Or download the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s two week sleep diary. leaving site icon 

Sources: Top 4 reasons why you’re not sleeping through the night, leaving site icon Harvard Health Publishing, 2022; Healthy Sleep Habits, leaving site icon National Sleep Foundation; Binge-watching is stealing your sleep, leaving site icon American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2019; Mastering Sleep Hygiene: Your Path to Quality Sleep, leaving site icon Sleep Foundation, 2023; What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?leaving site icon National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2022

Originally published 2/12/2020; Revised 2021, 2024