8 Reasons Why You're Not Sleeping Well

Are you tired of waking up more tired than when you went to bed? Does it seem like a good night’s sleep is more elusive than your half-remembered dreams?

If you’ve been having a tough time falling or staying asleep, chances are the cause is either something you’re doing or something you’re not doing. If one of these common causes of not sleeping well applies to you, you may be able to address it.

1

Nighttime Exercise

Men and women jogging along waterside at night

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A casual around-the-block stroll with your dog before his bedtime is fine, but a heart-pumping, sweat-dripping cardio workout within three hours of your own bedtime is too much. Your body temperature and heart rate naturally drop as you fall asleep. Exercise raises those two body functions and stimulates your entire nervous system, making it tough to snooze.

The fix: Schedule your workout for the morning, or hit the gym on your lunch hour.

2

Alcohol Before Bedtime

Woman drinking a beer

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A single glass of wine can be a forerunner to romance—and romance itself is one of the best preludes to sleep. But indulge in much more alcohol before bedtime and you’ll probably find that your sleep is impaired.

The initial effect of alcohol is relaxation, so you’ll probably drop off to sleep quickly after imbibing. But alcohol interferes with your sleep cycle, especially the REM sleep that includes dreaming. The result is fragmented, unrefreshing rest. Plus, you’re likely to wake up needing to use the bathroom during the night, a definite hit to your sleep quality.

The fix: Limit alcohol use, especially in the evening.

3

Room Temperature Woes

Woman in bed wrapped in a blanket and wearing a beanie

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Most sleep experts recommend keeping your bedroom at a moderate 65 to 72 degrees at night, but many people like to cut energy costs by turning the thermostat down to the freeze zone during the winter, and switching the AC off during the summer, leading to a sweltering bedroom.

Both of these extremes hijack your trip to the land of Nod, however. Your body needs to cool slightly at night for the most refreshing sleep, which is impossible in an overly heated bedroom. A too-cold room, on the other hand, will wake you up.

The fix: If you don’t want to adjust the thermostat, wear thick socks to a well-blanketed bed during cold snaps and use a fan in the summer. 

4

Stress and Worry

Top of woman's head and face peeking out of sheets in bed

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Probably the most common non-medical reason for short-term insomnia is a mind filled with worries or stress. During the day, the activities of life tend to distract you, but once you settle yourself into bed, your mind is free to roam. For most people, it’s not the good aspects of their lives that their mind chooses to focus on, but rather, the negatives.

The fix: You can combat this in several ways.

  • Write down your worries before bedtime, along with a few things you are grateful for.
  • If you really start to fret, get out of bed, without turning on any lights, and go sit in another dark room. This can break the worry cycle and calm your mind quickly enough to return to bed.
  • Try a daily meditation practice. You don’t need to be an expert yogi or spend hours sitting on a mat. Even 10 minutes a day is beneficial. 
5

Late Afternoon Caffeine

Woman's hands holding a cup of coffee

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You know a bedtime cup of coffee is a bad idea, but did you know that the half-life of caffeine is three to five hours. That means only half the dose is eliminated during that time, leaving the remaining half to linger in your body. That’s why a late afternoon cup of joe can disrupt your sleep later that night.

The fix: Although caffeine’s effects on you depend on your tolerance, the dose, and your age, it is best to keep your consumption below 400 mg per day and stay away from caffeine sources after lunchtime. 

6

Sharing Your Bed

Woman holding her ears while partner snores in bed

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Sharing your bed with a partner, whether human or four-legged, greatly reduces the quality of your sleep if your partner snores, crowds you, hogs the covers, or otherwise makes you uncomfortable. While you’re probably not going to banish your spouse from the bedroom—although a surprisingly high percentage of married couples do sleep in separate rooms—you do need to catch some shut-eye.

The fix: Give Mittens and Fido beds of their own and encourage your snoring partner to sleep on their side, not on their back. Use a white-noise machine to block out the sound of soft snoring or try earplugs if the decibel level reaches a crescendo.

7

Too Much Light

Couple using phone and computer in bed

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Whether it’s coming from your bed partner’s reading lamp, the television, or outside your window, light exposure at bedtime impairs your quality of sleep. For some people, even the glow of a bedside alarm clock is enough to signal their brain that it’s time to wake up.

The fix: Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. If light from an outside source shines into your bedroom and cannot be eliminated, hang blackout shades or curtains (this is especially important if you work nights and need to sleep during the day). Close your bedroom door to shut out light from other areas of the house. For the simplest solution, don a satiny sleep mask before closing your eyes.

8

The Wrong Snack

Man eating pizza

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Is your typical bedtime snack a slice (or two) of pizza or a bag of chips? If so, don’t be surprised when you’re lying awake staring at your ceiling.

A full load of fat or protein right before bedtime sends your digestive system into overdrive, making it difficult to sleep and potentially giving you heartburn. But hunger pains can wake you up as well, as can precipitous blood sugar drops during the night.

The fix: Have a small snack before hitting the hay. It should be heavier on complex carbs, lighter on protein, but including both. Good choices include a small bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk, a slice of deli turkey wrapped around a celery stick, or a piece of fruit spread with peanut butter.

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