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Top Five Reasons You Can't Sleep Throughout the Night

Top Five Reasons You Can't Sleep Throughout the Night

We've all been there: you spend the day missing your warm sheets and comfortable mattress. You tell yourself you'll go to sleep the second your head hits the pillow. But as the clock ticks, you wonder why you can't sleep!

Missing your night's sleep can negatively affect your mood, productivity, energy levels, and ability to function. It can also impair your immune system, worsen mental conditions, and increase the risk of chronic diseases. That makes it crucial to figure out what's interrupting your sleep. 

Fortunately, there are countless ways to recognize and combat your sleep difficulties. In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at the top reasons you're struggling to rest and how you can beat sleep deprivation:

Four Questions to Determine What Causes Insomnia and Sleep Difficulties

Over 70 million people in the U.S. face trouble sleeping at night, and all wonder why they can't sleep at night. If this is you, here are several questions to ask yourself to determine why you can't fall asleep:

Question 1: Is Your Sleep Drive too Low?

A low sleep drive can occur when you aren't awake or active enough to build up adenosine. Sleeping in, napping too late in the evening, or going to bed before you're sleepy can inhibit the production of this sleep pressure chemical.  

The rate of adenosine metabolism can impact the quality of deep sleep, increase sleep disturbance, and lead to sleep deprivation.

How Does Adenosine Affect Sleep?

Adenosine is crucial in sleep control, promoting sleep drive, and initiating sleepiness. Experts suggest this neurotransmitter can affect the complex behavior of sleep, particularly sleep-wake homeostasis. 

A boost in adenosine increases your need for sleep, also called sleep pressure or sleep drive. Thus, the longer you stay awake, the more sleep pressure builds and the stronger your sleep drive becomes. When you're sleep deprived, the sleep drive prompts a deep sleep.

Conversely, adenosine concentrations decrease during sleep, making you feel refreshed and energetic when you wake up. Research also shows that the front of the brain releases adenosine as energy for sleep pressure. Then sleep allows the adenosine to clear out of the brain and regulate the sleep-wake cycle. 

Question 2: Is Your Wake Drive too High?

Much like having a low sleep drive can cause sleeplessness, a wake drive that's too high can also impact your internal body clock. Typically, your wake drive skyrockets when you experience intense emotions, whether excitement or worry. 

Stressing about not sleeping can also mess with your wake drive. Unless you don't get in sync with your wake-sleep cycle, you'll experience high or low sleep pressures.

Question 3: Is Your Circadian Rhythm Off?

An unsynchronized circadian rhythm can promote sleepiness during the day and wakefulness during the night. Insomnia and general sleeplessness can occur due to jet lag, irregular work hours, overnight shifts, mood problems, injury, or excessive daytime sleepiness. 

These factors alert your body to activate certain hormones and regulate your metabolism, thus disrupting your sleep schedule. 

How Does Your Circadian Rhythm Affect Sleep?

Circadian rhythms are a vital process that approximates homeostasis based on environmental cues. The circadian or biological clock has a 24-hour rhythm that runs longer than 24 hours but resets with the sun/light-dark cycle. Thus, circadian rhythms impact our alertness levels, causing an increase and decrease in wakefulness throughout the day. 

Scientists reveal that the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) - part of the brain- controls our circadian biological clock. The SCN contains over 20,000 nerve cells that respond to light and dark signals. When our eyes perceive light, the SCN picks up on this information and triggers a chain reaction affecting body temperature, appetite, sleep drive, and mood.

However, when darkness creeps in, the retina signals to the SCN to increase melatonin production and reduce cortisol. As long as your body perceives bright light, melatonin production dips, which is why using blue-light electronics during the evening can increase the risk of sleeplessness.

Question 4: Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

Research shows that having unrealistic expectations about sleep quality and duration, like "I wish I could sleep within five seconds" or "I should fall asleep like I used to," can cause sleeplessness. Putting these expectations on you can cause sleep disturbance and increase distress.

In addition, ads can also set unrealistic expectations and put pressure on people. For instance, you might see an advertisement for a supplement and device promising "instant" sleep.

Five Reasons You're Suffering From Sleep Problems

Once you've figured out the root of your sleeping difficulties, try identifying the sleeping habits that cause them. Here's a closer look at the five things that can exacerbate sleep problems:

You Have a Poor Sleeping Environment 

A well-lit, noisy room with a lumpy mattress and rock-hard pillow is a recipe for a bad night's sleep. Some of the most common causes of sleep disruption are your sleeping environment, including:

  • A Room That's Not Dark Enough- Ideally, your bedroom shouldn't have bright lights on during bedtime, whether from your T.V. or mobile. When your eyes perceive light, it tricks your brain into thinking it's time to be active, suppressing melatonin production. Consequently, you feel awake and experience sleeplessness.
  • A Room That's too Warm - Your body tends to cool down while sleeping. However, a room that's too warm can mess up the cool-down process, causing sleeplessness. Having a fan in your room can help maintain body temperature and provide a consistent level of white noise to ease you into sleep. 

You Have an Underlying Condition 

In many cases, sleeping issues occur due to underlying sleep disorders. People with sleep disorders frequently struggle to get enough quality sleep, which can affect their mental and physical health. It can also cause daytime sleepiness and distress.

Here are several types of sleep disorders that can impact your sleep:

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Circadian rhythm disorders can disrupt your biological clock, which leads to an out-of-sync sleep-wake cycle. As a result, you experience daytime sleepiness and wakefulness during the night.

Restless Leg Syndrome 

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) triggers an irresistible, sometimes painful, sensation in your legs that urge you to move your legs or arms during resting. Since the urge occurs while lying down, it's most intense at night.


Insomnia is a pervasive sleep disorder that causes daytime fatigue and sleeplessness. People with insomnia struggle to stay asleep, fall asleep, and stay awake during the daytime.

You Have a Poor Diet

What you eat and drink can impact your sleep quality significantly. Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime, consuming excessive caffeine, and smoking can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and cause sleeplessness. 

In addition, eating two to three hours before bedtime and intaking too many calories can also negatively impact your sleep. 

You're Clockwatching 

While it sounds counterintuitive, don't look at your clock when you wake up in the middle of the night. Why? Habitually clockwatching can train your circadian rhythm the wrong way, which means you'll start waking up at 3:30 every night!

You Use Electronics with Blue Light before Bedtime 

Watching T.V., playing video games, or scrolling on your mobile before bed can interfere with your sleep. Using electronics not only stimulates brain activity, but the blue light it emits signals your brain to stay awake. 

The result? Sleeplessness and daytime fatigue! 

The Key Elements to Cultivating a Relaxed Sleep Environment: How to Combat Insomnia 

Wave goodbye to your dark circles and say hello to a fitful night's sleep by learning how to cultivate a relaxing environment. Here are the key elements to remember to improve your physical and emotional well-being:

A Quiet Environment 

Quiet does not mean complete silence. Listening to calming music or using a white noise machine can help you lull into sleep.

A Comfortable Temperature 

As we discussed, a warm or cold temperature can disrupt your nighttime sleep. An uncomfortable temperature can cause you to wake up during the night.

A Passive Attitude

Accepting that your mind will wander removes the anxiety associated and allows you to stay at ease.

A Comfortable Position

You can't sleep well if you're uncomfortable! Find a cozy place and a comfortable position to fall asleep.

A Focus of Attention

Repeating a phrase or mantra, practicing breathing exercises, or imagining your happy place are excellent ways to focus your attention and shut out intrusive thoughts.

The Bottom Line-Treatment For Insomnia

There are lots of reasons that can disrupt your wake-sleep schedule. On the bright side, there are innumerable solutions. 

Making a few tweaks to your sleeping environment, developing healthy sleeping habits, and improving your sleep hygiene can go a long way in boosting your sleep quality. Talk to a sleep coach or doctor if you take these steps and still struggle with falling or staying asleep.

Learn actionable strategies and coping habits to improve your sleep schedule by visiting my website. Click on the link to schedule a complimentary sleep consult with me, Morgan Adams, a certified sleep coach. Until then, sweet dreams!