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Why Do I Have Trouble Sleeping?

“While sleep is a natural function, sleep doesn’t always come naturally for many people. If you have trouble sleeping – if you find it difficult to get to sleep or you wake during the night, for example – the problem might actually be down to bad sleep habits. Take a look at our list of bad sleep habits to identify if you’re doing something that keeps you awake and learn what you can do to help yourself”. Dr Ranj, Furniture Village sleep ambassador
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You’re tossing and turning, peering over at your bedside clock watching the minutes pass by. Having trouble sleeping is not only very frustrating, but it can impact your physical health, brain function and general mood. If you’re regularly wondering “why can’t I fall asleep?”, you may have a common bad sleep habit. Learn how to kick bad sleep habits and get a better night's rest.

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1. Eating too close to bedtime

Whether it’s dinner, dessert or snacks, eating right before bed is a bad sleep habit, as it can cause nausea, acid reflux and heartburn, making it too uncomfortable to sleep. Although your digestive system does not shut down with sleep, muscle contractions within the stomach may slow down, so it’s best to give your body time to digest all that food before you lie down.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, it's also important to take note of the food and drink you have before bed. Foods and drinks high in caffeine and sugar will likely keep you awake. Find out more about top 5 foods to avoid before bed.

Break the bad sleep habit: eat dinner (and dessert) a few hours before bed and avoid night-time snacks, particularly those high in sugar. Try herbal drinks like chamomile tea or malted milk drinks instead of coffee, fizzy drinks and caffeinated tea.

2. Exercising too close to bedtime

If you’re questioning “why can’t I sleep at night?” but have been working up a sweat right before settling down for the night, there’s your answer. While daily exercise is important, exercising too close to bedtime can raise your body temperature, and release various hormones which can create a level of activity in the brain that keeps some people awake. High intensity and endurance training can lead to higher levels of the hormone cortisol which may cause fragmented sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.

Break the bad sleep habit: your body needs time to get back to its normal temperature as well as wash out the increased levels of chemicals and hormones caused by activity. Heavy endurance and HIIT exercises should be done at least two hours before bedtime. Why not try some yoga or stretching right before bed instead?

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3. Using your mobile, tablet, laptop and other devices in bed

These days, most people wind down at night by scrolling through their phones, reading an e-book, watching some TV, or playing video games. Unfortunately, this type of screen time is often the reason why many people have trouble sleeping. The blue light that is emitted from the screens of these devices can delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and this keeps your body more alert and awake.

Break the bad sleep habit: turn off all devices for at least an hour before bed. Try reading a book or listening to a soothing sleepcast instead.

4. Drinking alcohol before bed

Some people who have trouble sleeping think that drinking alcohol before bed actually helps you sleep better. While a glass of wine may seem like the perfect relaxing nightcap, especially as it makes you feel drowsier, even a small amount of alcohol can disrupt your sleep as it tends to make you spend more time in deep sleep and less time in the restorative REM stage of the sleep cycle. Alcohol can also interfere with your sleep schedule if it encourages you to go to sleep at different times than you normally would.

Break the bad sleep habit: avoid late-night alcohol consumption by limiting any consumption of alcohol to early evening. Trying to stick to the 14 units per week UK intake recommendation will also help your general health.

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5. Staying up too late

While the odd late night isn’t going to harm your sleep schedule, regularly staying up late is going to make getting up the next day that much harder. If you sleep in after a late night, you’re likely to have trouble sleeping that night which might cause you to fall asleep later again. It’s all too easy to set up a new sleep pattern like this – with negative consequences.

Break the bad sleep habit: avoid too many late nights and try to stick to regular bedtimes and wake up times. If you need to adjust your sleep cycle and get it back in sync, do it gradually by 30 minutes at a time.

6. Trying to catch up on lost sleep

One of the most common mistakes made by people who have trouble sleeping is trying to catch up on sleep at the weekend to pay off their sleep debt. If you have trouble sleeping, having a lie in or a long nap can actually make things worse. Use our sleep calculator to see just how much sleep you might be losing out on and what you can do about it.

Sleeping in depletes our sleep drive – our body's need for deep, restorative sleep. If you sleep in or have a nap, your body will have less time for being active and building up the need for sleep.

Also, weekend sleeping in and naps – to compensate for reduced sleep during the week – can lead to what’s known as social jet lag. This is when the body is forced to shift between different time zones enforced by work and social routines which conflict with its own natural rhythms.

Break the bad sleep habit: avoid big weekend lie-ins and long naps throughout the day.

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7. Going to bed too early

If your body is not ready for sleep, you’ll naturally have trouble sleeping. An error we often make is confusing quality of sleep with quantity of sleep. Trying to go to sleep too early, before your body is ready, can be counterproductive. You may lie in bed for a long time not sleeping because your need for sleep simply isn’t high enough and this can lead to sleep anxiety. Your mind begins to wander which increases your alertness. Then you lay awake wondering "why can't I fall asleep?" and worry why you're not sleeping and what will happen if you don't get enough sleep.

Break the bad sleep habit: only go to bed when you’re feeling tired. If you’re struggling to fall asleep and getting frustrated, get out of bed and do something then go back and try again later.

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8. Spending too much time on your bed not sleeping

If you like to relax and lounge on your bed, you may have trouble sleeping at night. This is because your brain will come to associate stimulating activities – like watching TV, looking through emails, texting on your phone and so on – with the act of lying down in bed, rather than associating your bed with the act of sleep.

Break the bad sleep habit: try spending more time in your living room, lounging on your sofa, until you’re ready to fall asleep in bed.

If you have no bad sleep habits and you’re still asking “why can’t I sleep at night?” you may want to visit your doctor to discuss your sleep problems and why you’re having trouble sleeping. Sleep can be affected by a range of medical problems, and sleep disorders, as well as by stress, depression and anxiety.

If you have trouble getting to sleep, why not check out our top tips for getting a better night’s sleep?

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