Why Am I Having Trouble Sleeping? (And How To Fix it)

7 min read
Hindi Female

"Why can't I fall asleep? Why do I have trouble sleeping?"

I've asked myself this question on many nights. Maybe you've felt it too.

One in three people, a little more than 37% of people around the world, reported problems sleeping during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study by The Lancet analysed over 330,000 people to arrive at its results.

Inadequate sleep can lead to poor memory, poor decision-making, changes to appetite, increased anxiety, and a host of other problems.

If you've been having trouble sleeping, or you know someone who has trouble sleeping, keep reading. We're going to take a closer look at why you're having trouble falling asleep (and STAYING asleep), and how you can fix it.


Sleep Disorders vs. Difficulty Sleeping

Sleep disorders are different from trouble falling asleep or an inability to get adequate sleep.

Sleep disorders are usually a condition that need medical treatment - like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or even restless leg syndrome.

Remember, a problem becomes a disorder when it starts to disrupt your daily functioning.

If you suffer from a sleep disorder you will need to treat the cause of the disorder. Consult a health professional about this, and you can integrate these other solutions that.

Now let's examine some of the more common causes for sleeping troubles, and how to fix them.


Screen Exposure

Increased screen exposure has been tied to broken sleep or trouble sleeping in adults and children.

(File photo)

Increased screen exposure is one of the most common causes of sleeping trouble. If you've been lying in bed tossing and turning despite being tired, you might be losing sleep because of your time looking at a screen.

Whether it's your mobile phone's screen or your PC screen, they all emit blue light.

Blue wavelength light is good for you during the day - with links to improved reaction times, mood, and alertness. But the same blue wavelength light at night disrupts your body's circadian rhythm and suppresses the production of melatonin - the all-important sleep hormone.

This makes it harder for you to fall asleep, and when you do eventually fall asleep, it lowers the quality of sleep you get.

How Can You Fix It?

The fastest way to fix this is to put your phone and PC away an hour before bed. This reduces your exposure to blue light and gives your body time to start melatonin production.

But it's hard to put your phones away before bed. So if you have to use electronics, install a blue light filter, like F.Lux for PC or Twilight for phones.

Most phones come with an inbuilt night mode option now, anyway. So make sure to schedule your phone to activate night mode at sunset.

Also, invest in a pair of blue light filtering glasses. The combination of these two, along with avoiding watching anything that's too stimulating, can help you sleep better.

To top this off, if you're like me and enjoy extremely stimulating things like action movies or fast-paced video games, avoid them within two hours of bed.

Resist the temptation, because it WILL mess your sleep up even with blue light filters and glasses.

Lack of Sunlight

Doctors recommend daily, direct exposure to sunlight.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Ironically, while screen exposure at night can disrupt your sleep, not getting enough sunlight exposure during the day can ALSO disturb your sleep.

Your body is very sensitive to light cycles. Not getting sun exposure in the day can confuse your body's biological clock, making it hard to fall asleep at night.

How Can You Fix It?

Get more sun exposure. This doesn't even need to be time spent in the sun, just ensure you have access to natural light during the day - whether this is from a window or just regular breaks from work to get sunlight, it all helps.

Sunlight is also essential for Vitamin D, but you can always include supplements to balance this out.


Some Types of Medication

Antidepressants, cold medicine, amphetamines, and psychostimulants could all cause trouble sleeping.

(Photo: iStock)

Some types of medication can cause you to stay awake longer than usual. Medicines like psychostimulants, amphetamines, some types of antidepressants, steroids, and even some cold medication can disturb your sleep and keep you up at night.

Some over-the-counter pain medications also contain caffeine, which can keep you up.

In some instances, nicotine patches or nicotine gum, used to replace cigarettes in smoking cessation treatment, can stimulate you and keep you up at night.

How Can You Fix It?

If you're on prescription medication, speak to your doctor about your affected sleep. On no account should you stop or change your course of medication without first consulting your doctor.

Your doctor might give you an alternative that doesn't cause sleeplessness. They might also suggest melatonin or other sleep aids to help improve your sleep.


Excess Caffeine

Anyone who loves their coffee knows that it can cause

(Photo: iStock)

If you're a coffee or tea drinker, you've probably encountered the sleeplessness that it comes with.

Caffeine found in coffee and tea promotes alertness and wakefulness. So, drinking coffee or tea within 8 hours of your usual bedtime will affect your sleep quality.

Caffeine, like blue light, can be good for you during the day. It helps you stay awake and focus better. The same at night will keep you up and can make it very hard to fall asleep.

How Can You Fix It?

Try to avoid having coffee or tea after 4 pm.

That gives your body 8 hours to return to normal from the caffeine, and you'll likely be able to sleep well by midnight. If you'd like to fall asleep earlier, around 10 or 11 pm, have your last cup before 2 pm.

Another recommendation to balance the impact of caffeine's stimulatory effect is to get a good, vigorous workout done after you have your evening beverage. The energy expenditure can help you fall asleep a little faster.

If that alone doesn't work, try having a little something sweet to eat before bed. The sugar crash that comes with sweet food, could help put you off to sleep.

Alternatively, you could eat some chicken or turkey as well. Both contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help you sleep better.


Hunger or Thirst

Thirst can be surprisingly disruptive to your sleep. Your body loses fluids and electrolytes when you're asleep.

Inadequate hydration from the previous day can exacerbate this and wake you up feeling dehydrated.

You also lose fluids from your throat and mouth during sleep. Similarly, hunger can prevent you from falling asleep and also wake you up feeling famished.

And conversely, getting inadequate sleep lead to increased levels of ghrelin, the hormone that triggers the sensation of hunger. Which leads you to eat more and be hungrier.

How Can You Fix It?

Make sure you drink enough water on daily basis and keep a close eye on your salt intake. Excess sodium can increase thirst, which could leave you feeling dehydrated.

Make sure you're getting the fluids you need, and eat well before bed.

But, conversely, also make sure you don't eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime.

Keep a couple of hours between your last meal and bedtime. Digestion is a pretty energy-intensive process, and eating right before bed can disrupt the quality of your sleep.

Also, while this seems like confusing advice, don't drink TOO much water right before bed as well. Because you will, if you have a tiny bladder like me, wake up to go to the toilet multiple times, or just wake up early because you drank so much water.

If you experience heavy sweating when you're asleep, without any environmental cause, speak to a doctor.

Night sweats can be an early indicator of diabetes.


Mental Health Disorders

Untreated mental disorders or disturbances can cause broken sleep. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and ADHD can cause sleep disturbances. Anxiety can cause you to stay up imagining worst-case scenarios and worrying about the future.

Similarly, clinical depression can lead to a feeling of hopelessness about the future, which can lead to trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

Many victims of PTSD also report waking up in a state of panic, or waking up multiple times at night, or just trouble falling asleep.

How Can You Fix It?

Disorders like PTSD, depression, anxiety, or ADHD need a combination of therapy and medication to be resolved.

Speak to a mental health professional about what you've been feeling and follow the treatment they recommend.

With the right care, you'll be able to fix this too. Getting started is usually the hardest part. Our guide on therapy and medication might help you decide what's best for you.



The same Lancet study that showed the link between increased sleep issues in people during the pandemic, showed a marked increase in problems with sleep in COVID-19 patients or former patients.

The breathlessness or coughing that comes with COVID-19 are some of the primary reasons for this. Unfortunately the solution for this is not that simple, since there's a lot to still discover about COVID-19.

Speak to your doctor and they'll suggest the best remedy here. It could be anything from cough medication to a decongestant to help you breathe easier.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Insomnia   Sleep 

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