Your eyes burn, you feel tired, and you're in a perfectly comfortable bed, but still, something keeps you up. Gone are the days when sleep was simple. Instead of counting sheep, you may catch yourself calculating how many hours you'll get if you can just fall asleep in the next 20 minutes and scanning your schedule to see the minimum amount of brainpower you'll need to get through the next day.
If you've been experiencing this struggle, you can take some comfort in knowing that you are in good company. According to the CDC, over 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep, and the Sleep Foundation reports that close to 50% of adults report feeling tired during the day.
Side Effects of Lack of Sleep
Fatigue and a lack of energy aren't the only consequences of a lack of sleep. Insufficient sleep may also affect your:
- Mental health and mood, leading to issues such as irritability
- Physical health and immune system, putting you at greater risk for diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain and heart disease
- Relationships and sex drive
- Productivity, concentration, creativity, and problem-solving abilities
Causes of Poor Sleep
The reason you can't get a good night's rest is likely to fall under one of the following three areas:
- Mental health and medical conditions.
There is a strong association between mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, and insomnia. Sleep difficulties may also be a symptom of various health conditions or a side effect of medication, such as anti-depressants. If you think this may be the case, talking to your doctor should be your next step.
- Stress, worry, and overwhelm.
If you've been feeling stressed, under pressure, or overwhelmed, talking with a counsellor, getting support from someone you trust or addressing the anxiety-provoking issues would be most helpful.
- Lifestyle and daily habits.
Your sleep quality is affected by what you do throughout the day- not just at night. Excessive caffeine and alcohol, taking naps, and working from your bedroom are some examples of habits that may feel good in the moment but work against you at night.
Making small tweaks to your daily routine can help you to improve your sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene refers to a set of habits and bedroom environment that help you get a better night's sleep. Below are four steps that you can take to achieve this.
Four Steps to Sleep Better
- Get intentional with your night and morning routine.
First, you want to create a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day (including the weekends). Other options that you may enjoy adding to your nighttime routine include taking a warm bath/shower, watching a slow show, reading or journaling before bed.
- Reserve your bed for sleep.
That means no eating, reading or working from bed. The goal here is to train your brain to associate the space with sleep so that you can get to a point where you automatically begin unwinding and falling asleep the moment your head touches a pillow.
- Avoid small screens 2-3 hours before bed.
Small screens, such as your phone, laptop or iPad, emit blue light, which suppresses the secretion of melatonin and in turn messes with your circadian rhythm. Blue lights, hormones and circadian rhythms are not my forte, so to read further, you can check out this article.
- Keep a journal nearby.
If you find that stress and overwhelm are the main things keeping you up at night, get into the habit of keeping a worry journal. By writing out what's on your mind, you can get these stressors out of your head and onto paper, where you'll be able to come back to and deal with them the following day- after you've had some rest and are in a better frame of mind to tackle the issues.
Bonus: Declutter! Messy Bedroom = Poor Sleep.
Not only is falling asleep easier when your room is clean, comfortable, and organized, but you may also find yourself waking up more refreshed in the mornings too.
What To Do If You Still Can't Sleep At Night
If you still find yourself unable to stay or fall asleep after consistently maintaining a healthy nighttime routine, then it's likely time to reach out to a professional. In addition to going to your doctor to rule out medical conditions, speaking with a counsellor if you've been feeling anxious, stressed or depressed is highly recommended here.