Why can't I fall asleep?

Why can't I fall asleep?

Sleep is essential for health. Without sleep, we feel tired and fatigued. Even after one night of a poor sleep you begin to feel weary and simply not interested in life. A lot of people of course we'll make fun of this and make a bit of a joke of it. It is no joking matter if you have chronic insomnia. So, let's look at the top reasons why you may find it difficult to fall asleep and sleep well.


  1. Anxiety and stress. If there is something on your mind it is incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Stress can come in many forms and you can be worried about many things. You can have racing thoughts that go through your mind and these thoughts may not be rational. Either way, if your mind is active, you will find it very difficult to fall asleep and relax at the end of the day. Try to unwind with fun activities before sleep (yes, sex can be fun!)


  1. Caffeine and other stimulants. These days a lot of people are going to the gym or doing some formal exercise after work which is terrific. The only problem with this is that a lot of people like to take caffeine or other stimulants before they exercise. If you do this first thing in the morning, by the end of the day the caffeine will be out of your system and you should sleep soundly. However, if you exercise at 5pm or even after dinner, and you consume stimulants, you may find it very difficult to fall asleep. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours[1] so don’t consume caffeine after noon.


  1. Your phone. Your phone could be keeping you awake at night. It sounds like a strange idea but if you look at your phone late into the evening and you don't have the blue light emitted turned off or turned down on your phone, this can suppress the secretion of a hormone called melatonin[2]. Melatonin is required to regulate sleep and if you suppress this hormone, you may not be sleeping well that night. 


  1. Poor sleep routines. If you work for example like a shift worker, your time to go to bed May vary dramatically from day today. For example, if you work night shift you will be going to bed at about 7:30 in the morning. This is an incredibly difficult time to sleep and unfortunately a lot of people that work shift work overuse sleep aids such as benzodiazepines to help you sleep. Short-term these drugs can help but long-term use of these drugs is not recommended by anybody. 


  1. Environmental factors. From it simply being too hot in the evening or loud noises such as a noisy party next door can be incredibly annoying at the best of x and can really adversely affect your sleep at the worst of times. Most Australians don't mind a party on Saturday night but if your neighbour is one of these people, you could be in for a restless night. Even the morning mow from your neighbour can stuff up your sleep.


  1. Physical pain. A lot of people live with physical pain that can come in many forms such as a bad back or even a sore knee. If you suffer chronic pain, this can cause problems with your sleeping hygiene. There is no quick fix to this except to get the cause of the discomfort treated so as you can sleep better at night. Sleeping on medications such as opioids are not recommended as they can be highly addictive. 


  1. Medications. There are certain medications that you could be consuming on a regular basis that can disrupt your sleep. For example, a lot of children are prescribed amphetamines for their mental health/ADHD. Amphetamines are induces of wakefulness/poor sleep because they stimulate the body and this can lead to chronic insomnia in children and in adults. These medications should never be withdrawn without medical supervision.


The take home message


Chronic insomnia is incredibly debilitating and can lead to physical and mental health problems. Is vitally important that you deal with the cause of your insomnia and not just treat the symptoms with addictive drugs or even over the counter sleep aids. You need to get to the cause of your insomnia to treat it at the source so as you can enjoy a healthy, long night sleep and wake up feeling invigorated so you can get your day done and become motivated to improve your health through healthy eating and exercise.



[1] Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 2, Pharmacology of Caffeine. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/

[2] Tähkämö L, Partonen T, Pesonen AK. Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm. Chronobiol Int. 2019 Feb;36(2):151-170. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2018.1527773. Epub 2018 Oct 12. PMID: 30311830.