Why Can’t I Sleep – As crucial as it is, many of us find ourselves suffering from sleep deprivation. Night after night, we have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Then morning comes, and we have problems waking up or suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness.
Problems maintaining a proper sleep schedule are a global issue and increase with age . In particular, people with Alzheimer’s often experience “sundowning” – they get agitated as the evening develops .
Furthermore, it now appears that sleep disruption may contribute to the development of the protein that contributes to the onset of Alzheimer’s .
It seems there are circumstances that will disrupt the sleep stages that all of us need to go through to restore our brain and body at any age. Whether you are dealing with a baby’s sleep schedule, an older child who experiences night terrors, your own health conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, or an elderly parent who experiences night waking, your health and well-being are often at risk of being compromised.
Why Can’t I Sleep – Basics Of Sleeping
To best understand how to get the most out of your sleeping hours, you should first understand the basics of sleep.
In a typical night, a person will cycle through a single sleep cycle about every 90-120 minutes . During this time, a person will experience both REM and non-REM (NREM) sleep.
In the U.S., we follow a sleep-wake cycle in which we sleep for a single block of time and are awake the rest of the 24 hours. Healthy adults typically start with NREM sleep.
- During N1, we go from wakefulness to light sleep. This can take seconds to minutes .
- The second stage, N2, lasts 10-25 minutes. During this stage, our brain experiences sleep spindles, during which a burst of brain activity is visible on an EEG. 
- During N3, the third stage of sleep, brain waves slow and we transition to deep sleep. This is when we are the least reactive and our brain and body undergo a rejuvenation process. This slow-wave, or delta sleep, lasts 20-40 minutes. It is very difficult to be awakened during this time .
- Finally, we enter REM sleep when we experience dreams .
Studies show that the cycling incorporating both NREM and REM sleep changes in length as the night goes on. However, scientists do not yet understand these sleep dynamics. In older adults, the sleep schedule often changes so that they have difficulty falling asleep .
When one suffers from insomnia or chronic sleep deprivation, the person does not complete the necessary sleep cycles. When your body doesn’t cycle through these stages, you are more likely to experience fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, and irritability .
Why Can’t I Sleep Through The Night?
You actually may be contributing to your chronic sleep deprivation. For those who are wondering, “Why can’t I sleep through the night,” several factors can trigger those sleepless nights.
Caffeine has long been considered a lifeline for many to get through the day. If you find you need that burst of energy, consider limiting the amount you take in and stop drinking by early afternoon .
Poor sleep hygiene.
Poor sleep hygiene is experienced by many people who have a hard time falling asleep. This means more than just creating a healthy sleep regimen. It also means creating a bedroom that is conducive to sleeping. Dim the lights in time for bed, turn off your gadgets at least half an hour before bedtime, move your alarm clock so that the light does not shine on you, and use earplugs if necessary to avoid sleep disturbances .
Exercising later in the day.
It’s true that we need to exercise daily but resist exercising three hours before your bedtime – your elevated heart rate and increased metabolism can make it difficult to fall asleep. Consider moving your workout routine to the morning so that your body will have ample time to go back to its usual calm and relaxed state .
Some of us like watching TV when we can’t fall asleep. This hinders us more than it helps. Screens and other devices emit a blue light that prevents melatonin production. Also, many of the programs we enjoy have a stimulating effect.
Most of us experience daily stressors but when it gets in the way of your health and well-being it’s time to take action. Work with a therapist, learn sleep training, or take physician-prescribed medications. All can go a long way towards easing anxiety and inducing sleep .
Wine before bedtime.
Many people think that drinking wine, or other alcoholic drinks will help them unwind and drift off to sleep. However, alcohol adversely affects the circadian rhythm (internal clock) of your body, disrupting your sleep-wake cycle .
Why Can’t I Sleep – Sleep Disorders
Aside from the factors mentioned above, sleep problems can also play a part in why you can’t sleep very well at night. So which ones hinder us from falling asleep?
Insomnia is defined as having difficulty with either falling asleep or staying asleep . Although there are over-the-counter sleep medications that can help alleviate the symptoms of insomnia, most of the time there is an underlying cause as to why you can’t easily fall asleep. Contact your doctor should you find yourself being adversely affected by insomnia .
A snoring partner may be another factor in why you can’t fall asleep. Snoring is actually triggered when the air that we breathe rattles the loose tissues in and around the throat. Most of the time, it is the sound of your partners snoring that disrupts your sleep. In more severe cases such as sleep apnea, the snorer’s breath may actually stop and the snorer’s sleep is affected. This triggers the body to wake up several times throughout the night .
Another reason why you can’t fall asleep may be linked to depression. Depression symptoms can be experienced in two ways, extreme sleepiness or no sleep at all. This can lead to chronic insomnia if not treated immediately by a physician .
Restless leg syndrome.
It is also possible that your sleep quality is interrupted because of restless leg syndrome. This disorder is best described as the constant need to move your legs due to extreme discomfort while sitting or sleeping. Those who have this condition often complain about crawling, burning, creeping, or a tingling sensation in their legs. This constant moving often prevents sufferers from getting a restful sleep .
Tips On How To Fall Asleep At Night
For those of us that have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, it can be daunting. The tossing and turning plus the constant thinking make getting to sleep seem impossible. However, it turns out that sleep researchers and sleep experts have come up with some simple tactics that may help you get the slumber you so desperately need. Here are some ways to induce relaxation and get and sleep better at night.
Take advantage of natural light.
Our body’s internal clock relies on light to cue the brain to decrease melatonin production, leaving us awake and energized. As the day progresses and the day moves into evening, the amount of melatonin in our body slowly increases. Take advantage of the natural light during the day and start winding down as day goes into night. This way, by the time you’re ready to go to sleep, you are already in a calm and relaxed state .
Monitor sleep cycles.
Another way to fall asleep better at night is to make use of smartphone apps that track your sleeping patterns. If your sleep is often disrupted by outside noise, there are additional phone apps that can provide you with white noise that will help drown out the other noises in your area. This makes it easier for you to drift off to sleep .
Turn your phone away or put it away.
If you are suffering from insomnia, resist the urge to grab your phone and start scrolling through it. As mentioned earlier, the light that is being emitted from your screen can prevent your body from producing sleep hormones .
Follow a bedtime routine.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleep training if you suffer from insomnia. By establishing a bedtime routine, you will be able to teach your body to slow down. As part of your routine, perform some light stretches or read. Pretty soon your body will look forward to that relaxing part of the day .
Take daily a power nap.
Taking a power nap may be a good way help establish a successful sleep wake cycle. Your biological clock will be in the right state at night if you take a 20 minute nap before 4pm. Make sure that you don’t go beyond 25 minutes as you might end up feeling groggy for the rest of the day .
Don’t count sheep.
There is a common misconception that counting sheep can help you fall asleep at night. The last thing you want to do is stimulate your mind. Try looking at relaxing images in a book (not on your mobile phone) to help your mind go into a relaxed state. You can also hang a photo of your favorite place in your bedroom and gaze at it. Try using the power of your imagination to conjure a relaxing place in your mind .
Adjust room temperature.
The National Sleep Foundation has already found a correlation between restful sleep and room temperature. According to the NSF sleep occurs best if your room temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit .
There are many reasons why we can’t sleep at night, but by developing good sleep habits, you may find that you’ll have less trouble sleeping and you’ll wake up more refreshed in the morning.
Why Can’t I Sleep Resources:
 National Sleep Foundation; What Causes Insomnia.
 National Sleep Foundation; Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep.
 Havard; Healthy Sleep, Natural Patterns of Sleep, A resource from the Division of Sleep Medicine at
Harvard Medical School, December 18, 2007.
 WebMD; Understanding Sleep Problems — The Basic, Carol DerSarkissian, July 30, 2018
 National Sleep Foundation; Alzheimer’s Disease And Sleep, Michael Vitiello, PhD, and Andrew Monjan, PhD, MPH.
 National Sleep Foundation; Depression and Sleep.
[16-30] Mayo Clinic; Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?, Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D., September 21, 2017.