You are tucked up in bed. Your eyes are shut. You are ready to slumber. But we’ve all had it when the gears in your brain are whirring while you’re tossing and turning. You are tired but can’t sleep - that's when insomnia has struck.
Well, imagine having this every night for weeks or months or even years. That’s insomnia. The main symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking up regularly during the night, waking up too early in the morning and feeling fatigued during the day. As you’d expect, when you can’t sleep you can have difficulty concentrating the next day with low energy levels and higher irritability.
Insomnia is defined as when you can’t sleep or have trouble sleeping for at least three nights a week over a three-month period. And insomnia is very common too. Direct Line Group’s ‘Need for Sleep’ campaign found that 7.5 millions Brits have under 5 hours a night of shuteye while insomnia has risen from 20% before the pandemic to over 40% of the adult population now. Those are some terrifying numbers.
So, What Causes Insomnia?
Of course, insomnia can be a result of many different factors. They can be wide ranging from physical health, to mental health to certain medicines and even environmental factors.
Some reasons you're tired but can’t sleep or have insomnia include:
- Anxiety or stress: Constant worry or stressful life events might make it challenging to fall or stay asleep.
- Poor sleep habits: Disruptions can be a result of staying up too late, having an erratic sleep pattern, or doing overstimulating activities just before bed.
- Medical issues: Acid reflux, asthma, and chronic pain are a few examples of conditions that might induce insomnia.
- Medications: Some medicines, like stimulants or antidepressants, can disrupt your slumber.
- Environmental factors: If you can’t sleep or keep your eyes shut it might be due to excessive noise, light, even overly hot temperatures.
- Sleep disorders: Insomnia can be brought on by other disorders, such as sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome.
- Age: Insomnia is more common in older people.
How to Treat Insomnia?
What to do if you can't sleep? There are multiple ways to provide treatment for insomnia. Often that includes changing your lifestyle and becoming more healthy overall. From diet, to exercise, to the size of your bed, here are some simple strategies that may help alleviate insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Don’t eat too late before bed
Eating late at night may severely impact the natural production of HGH and melatonin and the quality of shuteye. The type and quality of your late-night snack may also be important.
One study found a high-carb dinner eaten four hours before bedtime aided participants in falling asleep more quickly.
Interestingly, a low-carb diet was shown to enhance sleep in one piece of research, suggesting that carbohydrates aren't always required.
Large meals eaten right before bedtime might upset hormones and cause a restless slumber. But certain suppers and snacks eaten a few hours before night may be beneficial. Eat earlier in the day if you're consistently tired but can’t sleep.
Cut down on the booze
Drinking a few beers at night is likely to have a detrimental impact on your hormones. Alcohol consumption is linked to snoring, sleep disruption, and sleep apnoea symptoms.
It also affects the circadian rhythm of your body by changing the amount of melatonin produced at night.
Another study discovered that drinking alcohol at night reduced the normal nightly increases in human growth hormone (HGH), which affects your circadian rhythm and performs many other vital tasks.
Avoid drinking alcohol right before bed since it might lower melatonin levels at night and alter your snooze cycles.
Avoiding drinking liquids before bed
The medical name for peeing a lot at night is nocturia. If you’re constantly going to the bathroom both the quantity and quality of your shuteye is impacted. Similar feelings can result from consuming a lot of drinks right before bed, however some people are more susceptible than others.
While being hydrated is important for your health, you should limit your fluid intake in the late evening. There’s nothing worse than being on cusp of sleep and having to get back up.
Additionally, you should use the loo just before turning in, as this may lessen the likelihood that you may wake up during the night.
Regular exercise, but not just before bed
One of the finest, most scientifically supported strategies to enhance your health and sleep is exercise. Exercise can lessen the signs of insomnia and can improve every element when your head's on the pillow.
According to one research based on senior citizens, exercise cut the time it took to fall asleep in half and increased duration by 41 minutes at night. In fact, exercise was more beneficial than the majority of medicines for persons with severe insomnia. That could even be as simple as climbing a few stairs with Mee's simple stairmaster workout.
Even though regular exercise is essential for getting a good night's rest, exercising too late in the day might interfere with sleep. This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline. Those, as it turns out, aren’t great if you can’t sleep anyway.
Reduce long naps during the day
Long or inconsistent naps during the day might have a drastic impact on your nightly rest. Even if quick power naps are advantageous, a snooze during the day might throw off your internal clock, making it difficult for you to keep your eyes shut at night.
In fact, after taking midday naps, participants in one study found that they slept more during the day. In contrast to prolonged naps, which have been shown to be harmful to health and sleep quality, shorter naps—those lasting 30 minutes or less—can improve daily brain performance.
However, other studies show that people who regularly take naps at the end of the day don't have low quality or interrupted rest at night. You shouldn't be alarmed if you regularly snooze throughout the day and slumber enough at night. The consequences of napping vary from person to person.
Long daytime naps may also impair sleep quality. Stop regular naps, or at the very least, shorten them, if you're consistently tired but can’t sleep at night.
Chill out before bed
A lot of people often relax before their nighttime routine.
And, as such, its a popular method for treating insomnia too. Research shows that these approaches enhance the quality of shuteye and help those who are tired but can’t sleep. In fact, in one piece of research, receiving a soothing massage helped sick individuals rest better.
Among the techniques include deep breathing, visualising, listening to calming music, reading, having a hot bath, and meditating.
Try out various techniques to see which one suits you the best.
Take a warm bath or shower
Another well-liked method to get more rest is to take a soothing bath or shower. According to studies, they can assist people, especially older people, who can’t sleep well to fall asleep more quickly and improve overall sleep quality.
In one study, having a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime increased the depth and quality of rest for participants.
If you prefer not to take a complete bath at night, you can relax to get a better night's slumber by immersing your feet in hot water.
Improve your bedroom environment
Many individuals think that having a good night's rest is dependent on the bedroom setting and atmosphere. These elements include air quality, background noise, outdoor lighting, and furniture placement.
Numerous studies have shown that exposure to outside noise, frequently from traffic, can result in restless night of shuteye and even long-term health problems. In research on women's bedrooms, about 50% of participants reported a better night when noise and light levels decreased.
What to do when you can't sleep? Reduce external noise, light, and artificial lighting from things like alarm clocks in your bedroom to the absolute minimum. Ensure that your bedroom is a peaceful, comfortable, tidy, and pleasurable space.
Change the temperature
Body and bedroom temperature can significantly impact sleep quality.
Often, one can’t sleep when it's too warm. If your bedroom is a sauna, as you may have discovered during the summer or in hot areas, getting to sleep is really difficult.
According to one study, internal noise had a greater impact on sleep quality than external noise. According to other research, a warmer body and bedroom might lead to worse night of slumber.
Most people find that 20°C is the perfect temperature, but of course, it depends on your personal preference.
Invest in some comfortable bedding
Some individuals wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
Well, high quality beds (and being relaxed on holiday) help those who are generally tired but can’t sleep.
One research examined the advantages of a brand-new mattress for 28 days and found that it decreased back pain, shoulder discomfort, and back stiffness by 57%, 60%, and 57%, respectively. The quality of sleep was also 60% better.
Some research has also shown that couples rest better in larger beds. Before the trial, only 15% of the couples said they’d buy a larger than standard bed. But afterwards, that rose to 50%.
Get some sunshine
Your circadian rhythm is your body's internal clock that keeps time. It has an impact on your hormones, body, and brain, keeping you alert and letting your body know when it's time to go to bed.
Exposure to natural sunshine or strong light during the day keeps your circadian rhythm healthy. This increases both the quality and length of the night's rest as well as daily energy.
In a study, exposure to bright daylight throughout the afternoon lengthened and increased the quality of people with insomnia’s sleep. Additionally, it cut down on how long it took to fall asleep by 83%.
Every day, expose yourself to sunshine if you are tired but can’t sleep at night. If that is not possible, invest in a gadget or light bulbs that produce artificial bright light.
Regular exposure to bright light enhances sleep length and quality. Especially if you struggle with insomnia or other serious problems.
Reduce blue light exposure before bed
Daytime light exposure is advantageous if you can’t sleep, but nocturnal light exposure has the reverse impact.
Once more, this is a result of how it alters your circadian cycle and deceives your brain into believing that it is still sunlight. This lowers the levels of chemicals like melatonin, which promote relaxation and a relaxed night of rest. The worst kind of light is blue light. Gadgets like computers and telephones produce it in enormous quantities. There are a number of popular techniques you may take to lessen your exposure to blue light at night. These include:
- Use an app to reduce the use of blue light on your laptop or PC.
- Download a blue light filtering app for your smartphone.
- Two hours before going to bed, pause any TV programming and turn off any bright lights.
- Wearing glasses that block blue light is one of them.
So don't you dare scroll through Instagram or Twitter if you're tired but can't sleep. It will only make it worse!
The Bottom Line
So, what to do if you can't sleep? As we've showed you above, there are so many ways to help with insomnia or if you're generally tired but can't sleep. Focus in one of the actions above or try a mix of them. At Mee, if you have problems when you can't sleep, we are here to help!