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9 Reasons You Can't Sleep and What to do About Them.

Updated on June 29, 2016

Sleep is the most natural thing in the world. Isn’t it? Well not for an estimated 1 in 3 of us at some time in our lives. So what stops us from sleeping like the proverbial baby? There are plenty of reasons but one of the most common is that, in our busy busy lives, we’ve forgotten how to slow down and switch off enough that we can get to sleep.

Here we’ll look at some of the reasons you might be struggling to sleep or stay asleep and what you might do about them.

For more on getting better sleep so that you wake feeling refreshed, look at

1. Stress and anxiety of specific or general problems.

If you’re mind is over active there’s probably constant background chatter in your head, churning problems over and re-living past stressful events or future possible scenarios. This is never going to let you switch off and get to sleep, so...

  • Use a journal to write down these issues. Give them the attention they’re clamouring for in a structured session with a good pen and a nice notebook, as if you were listening to a friend’s woes. Specify the problem(s), how you feel about it/them, who else is involved and what you think/know they feel about them. Write down all the possible (and impossible) solutions to the problems you’re facing and brain storm to see if there is something that will let you plan to take action to reduce the stress this is causing you.
  • Learn to meditate. This is easier than you think – just follow the simple instructions in the article linked here. Millions of people are getting the benefit from meditation and if you’re lying awake at night you may as well try something constructive.
  • If life is really busy and lots of things are competing for your attention, make a list of everything you need to do the next day. Prioritise these and decide which really don’t need to be done or can be done by someone else. Set the list aside and tell yourself that you can cope now that you have a plan.

2. Depression

Depression is often a consequence of long term insomnia but can also cause insomnia.

  • Journal writing and meditation are good for mental wellbeing so try these (see above) if you haven’t already.
  • Look up Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on Google or find articles on Hubpages about this very effective form of therapy.
  • Seek professional help sooner rather than later.

3. Pain.

Pain in any form is bound to keep you awake and insomnia will also lessen your tolerance to pain during the daytime.

  • Talk to your doctor about your pain meds and make sure you’re on the right doses, with the right timing of the right combinations of meds. Always, always read the labels and take your meds as prescribed or as recommended by the manufacturer if they’re over the counter drugs. If in doubt ask the pharmacist – she’s there to help.
  • Take your pain meds to bed and have them and a glass of water handy in case you wake in the night in pain.
  • Look at your pillow positioning for better sleep. This is especially useful for people with arthritic conditions and muscular problems, MS and sports injuries. Consider a body pillow too.

4. Drugs

Drugs. Prescription and recreational drugs can leave you feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you really want to be sleeping.

  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, sugary drinks and alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime. Do this consistently for a month to see if this makes a difference to your insomnia.
  • Discuss your prescription medication with your doctor to see if they may be causing the problem.
  • If you take recreational drugs then get professional help to stop them if you need it.

5. Allergy.

Allergy. Some of us are sensitive to dust mites/dust mite droppings, feathers or dust in our bedding and bedrooms. If you can’t sleep well because you’ve got a snuffly nose, this may be your problem. The lining of the nose is irritated by the allergens and becomes swollen, decreasing the nasal passage size, and may also produce extra mucous.

Consider buying a new bed if yours is more than 10 years old. Look at this article on when to know if you need a new bed. And use a mattress cover and anti-allergy pillow covers .

Use hollow fibre or memory foam pillows which are better than feather pillows for allergy sufferers.

Use a hollow fibre duvet for the same reason.

6. Your bed is keeping you awake.

Similar to the point above, if your mattress is old or allows you and your partner to roll together, interrupting each other’s sleep, it’s time for a new bed/mattress. Your bed should give you support and comfort for refreshing sleep.

7. Too much/too little exercise

Too much or too little activity/exercise. The key is balance. If you’re sitting about at home or in the car all day and not stretching your muscles and getting enough fresh air, your body won’t be getting enough stimulation. Similarly too much exercise can make it hard for the body to settle and rest.

  • Think about your daily routines and work out where you can increase or decrease your exercise. Just a ½ hour walk each day might be enough to help you to better sleep, or a yoga DVD at home perhaps. It doesn’t have to be a big change but keep trying new things until you find something you like and want to do regularly.

8. Too much mental stimulation.

Just as our bodies need to settle down to sleep, our minds do too and even if you’re not feeling stressed, too much stimulation before bedtime can be detrimental to our ability to switch our minds off.

  • Have a bedtime routine that helps you relax and get into going-to-bed mode.
  • Avoid TV, DVDs and video games for at least 2 hours before bed and read something relaxing or listen to gentle music instead. And take the TV out of the bedroom.
  • If thoughts are racing about your head, write them down – see point 1 above.
  • If you still can’t drop off to sleep then get up and do something monotonous like ironing or vacuuming instead (just don’t wake the rest of the house!) and go back to bed when you feel tired.
  • Use white noise CDs – see the Amazon box to the right.

9. Your sleeping environment

Your sleeping environment is cluttered. A cluttered room is often the sign of a cluttered mind so get organised and make your bedroom a sanctuary that you love being in.

  • Clear away all the ironing, dirty clothes and other things that remind you of jobs that need to be done. Keep only the things that are special to you or beautiful to look at.
  • Use soft lighting and muted colours.
  • Use black-out blinds or drape/curtain material to get good levels of darkness.


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