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Why Can't I Sleep? The 9 Main Causes of Insomnia

What is Causing My Insomnia? Identifying Root Problems of Sleep Problems

If you have trouble sleeping, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is so common among Americans, it qualifies as a public health epidemic . If you aren't getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, here's what you should know.

Why it Matters

Poor sleep can make us feel miserable at work and school, especially when it goes on for days or weeks. According to medical experts, insufficient sleep can also put our physical and mental health at risk in some pretty alarming ways.

Research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a number of serious health problems, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and early death. Other studies have found that poor sleep also leads to anxiety and depression.

What Causes Poor Sleep?

While countless people suffer from insufficient sleep, the reasons can vary. That said, the most common culprits include:

  1. Travel: Regarded as internal clocks, our circadian rhythms help to regulate our body temperatures, metabolisms and sleep-wake cycles. When we travel across time zones, we may experience so-called jet lag, which can disrupt our circadian rhythms and make it more difficult to go to sleep.
  2. Late-night meals: It's generally a bad idea to eat within two hours of bedtime, since this can amp up our metabolisms and promote wakefulness. At the same time, late-night snacking can also lead to heartburn, since food and acid are more likely to flow up into the esophagus when we are lying down.
  3. Caffeine: Most people understand that caffeine promotes wakefulness. That said, many people are surprised to learn that caffeine has an exceptionally long half-life, which means it stays active in the body for six to ten hours. For this reason, it's best to limit your caffeine consumption to the early part of the day.
  4. Alcohol: Since alcohol is a depressant, many people mistakenly believe that it can help promote better sleep. In reality, alcohol promotes shallow sleep that can make you feel tired and groggy in the morning. Since it is also a diuretic, alcohol can awaken you with the urge to urinate. To prevent these problems, avoid drinking alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
  5. Blue light: According to research cited by the Harvard Medical School, more and more Americans are having sleeping difficulties due to their tablets, smartphones and LED televisions. This is because these devices emit blue light, which reduces the body's natural production of melatonin. This makes sense when you consider that humans have evolved to be wakeful when the sun is out and sleepy when it is dark. You can avoid blue light-related insomnia by putting aside your devices within an hour of bedtime.
  6. Irregular Schedules: When we stay up too late, it can negatively affect our circadian rhythms. Avoid this by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays. You should also limit or avoid napping during the day, so you will be more tired at night.
  7. Sleep disorders: Some people have physical disorders that promote insomnia or frequent waking. These include obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. If you suspect that you may be suffering from one of these disorders, visit your doctor for an evaluation.
  8. Medications: There are a number of medications that can promote wakefulness. These include prescription and over-the-counter stimulants, antidepressants and diuretics. If you suspect that a medication might be keeping you awake, talk to your doctor about potential alternatives.
  9. Stress: When people are concerned about school, work, finances, health or family life, they tend to have trouble sleeping. Traumatic events, such as a major illness, job loss, divorce or death of a loved one, can also make it harder to go to sleep - and stay asleep.

Our caring therapists can help you identify the reasons behind your sleeping difficulties, so you can live a better life. Contact us today!