By: Sarah Cummings
Why am I tired but I can't sleep?
There’s a silent epidemic going around. It affects our mood and our behaviour, it impacts our relationships and it wreaks havoc with our health… but nobody seems to be talking about it.
What is it? Our inability to sleep, that’s what! Everyone I speak to these days seems to be having trouble either getting to sleep or having problems staying asleep. Or both.
There’s a very good reason for people saying things like “lets sleep on it” or “things will look better in the morning”. Sleep plays an unbelievably strong role in our physical and mental health and yet, for some reason, we don’t give it the attention it deserves.
As a society we’ve never been busier. Every day is “go, go, go!”
We’ve never worked harder, we’ve never played harder and whaddya know, we’ve never slept worse.
To be honest, we all need a good wake-up call. It’s time to cop on and realise how important good sleep is to almost every facet of our existence. Below we’re going to take a quick look at a few of the reasons you might be unable to sleep; despite the fact that you probably spend the better part of every day exhausted.
1. You’re stressed and anxious
The demons of stress and anxiety can be the biggest cause of sleepless nights. Because even though the thoughts that crowd our minds can wear us out, they simultaneously send our minds into overdrive, causing a feeling of alertness that makes it impossible to sleep. Bummer.
When you lie down at night, your mind is filled with regrets of the day passed. Or plans for the days ahead. Or random thoughts and worries which might never happen, yet which you can’t seem to let go.
How to overcome this? Well, there’s plenty of ways really.
You could keep a journal, to quickly jot down your thoughts before bedtime; the act of physically noting your thoughts can calm your mind. Or you could make a mental list, ticking off all the positive things that happened that day (as opposed to the negative), so you drift off with a smile on your face.
Or you could try meditation to relieve stress. These simple steps can reduce your night-time anxiety, helping you get the sleep you deserve.
2. You’re too attached to screens
This is a pretty common problem, for many people during the day as well as night. But while being addicted to your phone is a whole different problem, depending on screens near bedtime can totally destroy your sleep.
Things like watching TV in bed, or checking messages before lights out, or updating your social media profile may feel like pre-sleep habits – but they’re pretty unhealthy ones.
Why? Well, these screens emit blue light, which block the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone we normally rely on to keep us calm and relaxed. Instead, they overstimulate the mind, causing us to be extra alert when we should be winding down.
So to get a better sleep, turn off these devices at least half an hour before you go to bed. Buy a proper alarm clock if you must. Old-school, maybe, but definitely effective!
3. You’re not getting enough exercise
A lack of exercise is one of the biggest risks to our health. And while I’m not advocating running yourself into the ground – it’s all about balance, after all – you really should be getting half an hour of exercise in a day.
Whether it’s a workout at the gym, a jog around the block, a gentle swim or a power walk, a little bit of exercise a day goes a long, long way.
For your mind, your body, your mood, your health, and especially your sleep! If you challenge yourself physically, your body and mind will feel more tired and calmer at night.
And if some of that exercise can be in the great outdoors, even better! Nothing like a dose of fresh air to rock you closer to sleep.
4. You’re forgetting crucial wind-down time
In today’s fast-paced world, we often forget to slow down. We rush from place to place and activity to activity, right up until we’re supposed to go to sleep. We expect ourselves to magically fall asleep after a busy, busy day and it just doesn’t work like that!
No, you need to slowly ease yourself into slumber.
So as evening approaches, start the winding down process. Dim the lights in your home, play soft music and avoid any over-stimulating activities (leave that bouncy castle for weekends!) Have a long bath, read a book, do some gentle yoga stretches; whatever it takes to calm your mind and body.
5. You’re eating the wrong foods
Of course, we all love to indulge in a bit of chocolate from time to time. And that cup of coffee in the morning can be something that we won’t give up without a fight. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
Well, it depends. If your caffeine and sugar fixes stretch into the late afternoon, then you have a problem.
Since caffeine can take up to 5 hours to wear off, that cup after dinner is a pretty bad move. So why not swap it for a herbal tea instead? While you’re at it, ditch the sugar evening snacks and swap to sleep-promoting foods like bananas or almond butter on toast instead.
Your sleep will thank you for it!
Which one of these things is keeping you from sleep?
So, that’s just 5 reasons why you might be having trouble getting to sleep. But we’re all different, so there might be plenty of more reasons.
To figure out what could be affecting your sleep every night – and for ways to help you sleep better – check out some tips from the Sleep Advisor. They know what it takes to sleep well; so even if you’re struggling now, there is light at the end of that wide-eyed tunnel!
In the meantime: exercise regularly, watch what you eat, steer clear of those devices before bedtime and create a wind-down routine that reduces your pre-bedtime anxiety.
Start sleeping better and awaken a more positive, healthier person each morning!