All of us have been in a situation where we’re desperate to fall asleep but can’t seem to. There are many reasons why you could be tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep, such as having too much caffeine or battling with anxious thoughts. When this occurs, it’s important to remain calm and do activities that will distract your brain from overthinking the situation. To help you out, we’ll share our best tips about what to do when you can’t fall asleep.
But first, to avoid situations like these in the future, it’s important to get to the bottom of it and discover exactly why you’re unable to fall asleep at night. For that reason, we will start off this article with a section on some of the most common reasons why you might be struggling to fall asleep at night. After sharing all the activities that can help you doze off, we will share some tips on what to avoid doing to prevent exasperating the situation. Lastly, we’ll end the article with a detailed FAQ section.
Reasons Why You Can’t Fall Asleep
Here are the most common reasons why people find it hard to fall asleep.
All of us suffer from anxious thoughts at one point or another, but if your mind is racing at night and you’re worried about the future, that could be what’s preventing you to catch some z’s.
A large percentage of those who suffer from anxiety disorders report being unable to fall asleep at the time they desire, so it should come as no surprise that anxiety can be a major culprit for tossing and turning in bed.
If you notice that your anxious thoughts are the reason why you’re up every night, we recommend speaking to a professional. After all, staying up at night could be a symptom of a bigger issue.
You Drink a Lot of Caffeinated Beverages
We all know the feeling of tossing and turning in bed after we’ve had a cup or two of coffee late in the evening. A highly overlooked reason for being unable to fall asleep is overdosing on caffeine throughout the day. Most of us can get away with drinking a couple of cups of coffee or tea early on in the day, but if we do it in the late afternoon or evening, we’re risking not getting enough sleep. Caffeine can stay in our system for many hours, so don’t be surprised if your morning coffee is to blame for your lack of sleep.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, avoid drinking more than one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea during the day. If you love the taste of coffee and you drink it out of habit, you could opt for decaf coffee instead.
Just like caffeine, alcohol disrupts our sleeping patterns and can make falling asleep and staying asleep incredibly difficult. One glass of wine with dinner shouldn’t negatively impact your sleep, so you don’t have to cut it out entirely. However, try your best to keep it in moderation since even a single night of excessive drinking could easily disrupt your sleep cycle.
Another overlooked reason why we can’t seem to fall asleep is the impact of blue light. Let’s face it – most of us stare at some kind of a screen in the last hour before going to bed. It turns out, the blue light that emits from our screens is detrimental to our sleeping patterns. It tricks our brain into thinking that it’s daytime, so our bodies stop producing melatonin and increase our energy levels.
You might have a habit of watching your favourite TV show or scrolling through Instagram before you go to bed, but try to observe if this habit has any impact on your sleeping schedule. If you notice that your sleepiness seems to evaporate shortly after you’ve exposed your eyes to a tablet, a smartphone, or a laptop, then blue light might be to blame.
To protect yourself from the impact of blue light on your melatonin production, either stop using screens at least one hour before you go to sleep, or make sure you set your screens to the lowest brightness possible. If you’re struggling with ideas of what to do that doesn’t involve screens, just keep reading – we will give you plenty of ideas of activities you could incorporate into your nighttime routine instead.
When planned strategically, naps are an amazing way to get more energy and restore your focus during the day. However, many of us fall into the trap of taking longer naps during the day, which, in turn, can negatively affect the quality of our sleep that night.
If you notice that your naps are the reason why you can’t go to bed at your desired time, it might be time to start implementing power naps.
Power naps are short naps that last around half an hour. The purpose of power naps is to get you energized and focused, but without entering the REM stage of sleep. The short duration of the nap ensures that you get all the health benefits that come with naps without the negative side effects like grogginess or sleepiness.
Another strategy you could implement to ensure that your naps aren’t keeping you up is to schedule them at the same time every day. That way, your body will know what’s coming and it will start to anticipate napping without letting it influence your overall sleep.
One palpable reason why someone could be struggling to fall asleep is having insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that’s characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, resulting in detrimental consequences on our overall health and our productivity levels.
Some of the most common symptoms of insomnia include trouble falling asleep, feeling fatigued, trouble staying asleep during the night, and difficulty paying attention. If you suspect that your inability to drift off into dreamland isn’t occasional and that you might be suffering from insomnia, consult your doctor.
Even though most of us associate depressive episodes with oversleeping, depression could be another reason why you’re struggling to fall asleep at night. Many people who suffer from depression report having trouble falling asleep, in addition to other sleep-related issues.
One of the reasons why depression could be influencing your sleeping schedule in this way is because it disrupts our internal clocks, leading us to have chaotic sleeping schedules or be chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation can exasperate the symptoms of depression, creating a negative loop that’s hard to get out of. The best way to determine if your depression could be to blame for your sleep deprivation is by talking to a professional about it.
Not Sleeping Alone
Another common reason why some people struggle to fall asleep is because they share a bed with someone. Whether it’s your dog who’s constantly moving as it dreams, or your partner who can’t stop snoring, your sleeping partner might be to blame for keeping you up.
While this isn’t something you can change, if their movements are to blame, we recommend investing in a mattress with good motion isolation.
What To Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep
Now that we went over some of the potential causes of your inability to fall asleep, it’s time to share some of our best tips on activities that could relax you and help you doze off faster.
Adjust the Temperature
We’ve all experienced hot, humid nights where getting any sleep seems almost impossible. High temperatures bring lots of discomfort and our bodies prefer colder environments for sleeping. In fact, you should keep your room temperature at around 19 degrees Celsius for optimal high-quality sleep. Conversely, if you’re too cold, you won’t be able to fall asleep due to the discomfort, so warming up is also in the cards.
Adjusting your temperature could make you fall asleep faster if you’re someone who is more sensitive to the temperature around them.
Try Essential Oils
Even though many people are sceptical of the effects of essential oils, some types of essential oils, such as lavender, have a calming effect on our bodies.
While essential oils aren’t a cure for insomnia or anxiety, they can be used as a tool to help you relax when you’re out of options. Next time you can’t fall asleep, try putting some lavender essential oil on your wrists or on your neck. Alternatively, you could also put some on your
Listen to Music
Some people swear by listening to music as means of falling asleep faster. But it’s not just any music that will do the trick – soft, gentle music is the type of music that’s going to have a calming effect on you and help you sleep faster.
When you find yourself tossing and turning, put on your headphones and play some gentle tunes. Classical music is an excellent option, but you can choose whatever puts you in a relaxing mood. Just make sure you stay away from music that’s aggressive and fast since that can have the opposite effect.
Get Out of Bed
Even though it might sound paradoxical, getting out of bed is one of the best ways to fall asleep faster. Staying in bed and worrying about all the sleep we lose is counter-intuitive and rarely helpful. Instead, if you’ve been in bed for longer than half an hour and you’re still finding it hard to sleep, get up and do something with your body.
It doesn’t have to be much – you could simply walk around in your home, or do a couple of relaxing stretches. Whatever it is, make sure it doesn’t include any screens since, as we already stated, they can have a detrimental effect on your sleep schedule.
Darken Your Room
Just like lowering the temperature of your room, darkening your room can significantly speed up the process of falling asleep. Our bodies are programmed to sleep in the dark, so if you’re someone who likes to sleep with a lamp on or dim light, you should consider making your room pitch black at night. That way, your melatonin production will remain intact and you’ll fall asleep faster.
If you sleep with someone who likes to keep the light on at night, or if you can’t control the outside influences, try sleeping with a mask on. Sleep masks are incredibly practical and shouldn’t be reserved only for when we’re travelling. Invest in one made of gentle materials and see how quickly your sleep improves afterwards.
As we established earlier, anxious thoughts are a common reason why people stay up at night. If you’re struggling with anxious thoughts before bed, why not write them down in a journal?
Writing down the thoughts that cause you worry has an immediate therapeutic effect. Not to mention, you will be emotionally processing your thoughts and getting them out of your head. At the end of your writing session, you will be much calmer and more relaxed, and some of those anxious thoughts might evaporate.
Focus on Your Breathing
We all know how important proper breathing is, but did you know that it can also be used as a tool to help you nod off faster?
Breathing techniques can immensely help when we’re struggling to fall asleep. You can improve your breathing by following a couple of cues, like paying attention to the length of your inhales and exhales and extending them for a couple of seconds, as well as breathing deep into your belly. Another thing you could try is placing one hand on your belly while placing your other hand on your chest and feel your chest and belly rise as you breathe.
Apart from helping you fall asleep, deep breaths have a whole host of positive effects on your body, such as lowering your heart rate and relaxing your muscles.
Reading is one of the best activities you can include in your bedtime routine. You probably already know all about the positive effects of reading – it helps you destress, it increases your empathy, and it significantly improves your vocabulary. Reading before bed is a good way to tire out your eyes without straining them too much. Unlike staring at a screen that emits blue light, books don’t inhibit our melatonin production but actually promote long, healthy sleep.
While reading before bed is generally a great idea, you’ll want to avoid choosing genres like thriller and horror. Anything that could potentially get your heart rate up and excite you is a bad idea before bed – it will have the opposite effect on your body and make it even harder to fall asleep.
So, next time you find yourself tossing in bed, pick up that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for ages and see how quickly your eyes want to close after a couple of minutes.
What Not to Do When You’re Having Trouble Falling Asleep
Here are some of the things you should avoid when you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Don’t Look at the Time
We’ve all been tempted to check the time every couple of minutes when we’re lying in bed, unable to doze off. As natural as this impulse is, it’s rarely a good idea.
Obsessively counting down the hours remaining until you have to wake up could lead to more anxious thoughts about losing sleep and make you even more restless and impatient. Not to mention, you’ll be staring at a screen every couple of minutes, which could further disrupt your sleep.
Instead of checking your phone for the time and counting down the hours remaining, do one of the relaxing activities we mentioned above and you’ll fall asleep in no time.
Don’t Succumb to Screens
The temptation to check our social media or put on a comfort show is rarely greater than when we’re having trouble falling asleep. However, as we discussed earlier, electronic devices are not your friends when it comes to getting quality sleep.
Before going to bed, put your phone away where you can’t reach it and turn off your laptop. If the temptation ever comes, you can try opting for another activity that is equally stimulating, such as reading.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It
If you’re in a situation where you can’t fall asleep but you need to be up bright and early, it’s natural that you would start to worry about the number of hours of sleep you’ll get. Beating yourself up about the sleep you’re losing wouldn’t lead to anything productive. If anything, it could just worsen the situation and make you feel even more impatient.
Instead, accept the situation as it is and promise yourself that you’ll make up for the lack of sleep in the following days.
Lying in bed full of energy could easily make us think that exercising instead of lying in bed is a good idea. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Your body will become even more energized and the situation will likely worsen. In fact, working out too close to bedtime is one of the main contributing factors to disrupted sleeping patterns and internal clocks.
Instead, if you feel like moving your body, you’ll be much better off doing some gentle stretches or a calming yoga workout.
Why Can’t I Sleep Even Though I’m Tired?
One of the worst feelings is struggling to sleep at night despite being incredibly tired. It’s natural to wonder why your body is resisting falling asleep despite the tiredness, but there are several culprits as to why this might happen. For instance, you could be overly caffeinated – caffeine stays in our system for much longer than we anticipate, so it might be the reason to blame for your inability to fall asleep. You also might have an undiagnosed sleep disorder or poor sleeping habits, like having long daytime naps.
What to Do When You Can’t Sleep and Are Bored?
We get it – lying in bed at night without sleeping isn’t the most thrilling activity and it’s natural to want to find something to remedy that. However, we strongly recommend staying away from activities that can bring some excitement, such as watching TV or working out. Instead, opt for a calmer activity, like journaling or reading.
We hope you enjoyed our article on what to do when you can’t fall asleep and that we provided you with some ideas of activities you can include in your nighttime routine
There are many things you could do when you’re struggling to fall asleep that have been proven to help. However, the first step should be determining what caused your sleeplessness in the first place. Some of the main causes of this phenomenon include anxiety, depression, sleep disorders like insomnia, drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages, and staring at screens that omit blue light. If you suspect that some of these is the reason why you’re staying up, do your best to fix the root of the problem before trying out some of the activities we recommend.
If you find yourself unable to fall asleep, first make sure the sleeping environment is right – this includes adjusting the temperature to around 20 degrees Celsius and turning off all the lights. Incorporate some relaxing activities, like reading, journaling, listening to calm music, and stretching. If you can’t fall asleep within half an hour after going to bed, you should get out of bed and try to occupy your mind with something else instead.
As for what not to do, stay away from exercise too close to bedtime, looking at the clock every couple of minutes, and beating yourself up about it.
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