Why Can’t I Fall Asleep? How To Improve Sleep Quality

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“If you have insomnia, it’s important to know you’re not alone; there are millions of people also struggling with their sleep. Talk about what you’re going through with others, including your doctor, and continue trying new things to help manage your insomnia.”

~ Christina Applegate

Improve sleep quality

When young adults try to figure out why they can’t sleep, these things usually come to mind: heavy meals (like steak and potatoes or a heaping dish of pasta), too much chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine, being too cold or too hot in the bedroom, hormonal fluctuations or imbalances (like PMS, pregnancy, or menopause), back, muscle, or joint pain, a noisy environment, physical exhaustion, eating too late at night, and/or a full moon (a full moon is alleged to “mess” with your sleep cycle).

This article will provide you with tips that will help improve sleep quality by allowing you to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly throughout the night.

However, there may be psychological reasons why you can’t sleep; psychological factors that never even crossed your mind. The main reason why young adults have a hard time falling and staying asleep is because of fluctuating levels of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Addressing cortisol can improve sleep quality.

Other factors to change to improve sleep quality

Other psychological factors that can affect your sleep quality include:

  1. Sound – A sleep environment that is too quiet can prevent you from falling asleep. More specifically, it can cause your thoughts to roam, making it hard to shut them off so you can get a good night’s sleep. When it’s too quiet, it can cause you to stress over things you can’t control, which, in turn, prevents you from falling asleep.  
  2. A fear of the dark – If you are afraid of the dark, it can lead to a restless and sleepless night. In fact, according to a 2018 sleep study, young adults who described themselves as “non-sleepers,” who were afraid of the dark, experienced a more severe form of anxiety and more frequent panic attacks than those who described themselves as “good sleepers” who were not afraid of the dark.
  3. Mental and emotional exhaustion – When you are experiencing a lot of psychological stress, it can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion. In other words, if you feel like you are “emotionally spent,” there is a good chance you won’t be able to fall asleep at night. But, however, if you are able to fall asleep, there’s a good chance you won’t stay asleep throughout the night or sleep soundly when you are asleep. Mental and emotional exhaustion can also trigger depression making it hard for you to fall asleep. Long story short, your body cannot rest if it’s been battling stress all day.  
  4. Chronic stress – Lastly, if you have been overwhelmed and highly stressed lately, you’re probably going to have a hard time sleeping soundly at night. This is especially true if you are experiencing chronic stress. In fact, according to a study on stress and sleep, young adults who don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep each night have a higher risk of developing insomnia and depression.

There are many psychological reasons why a person may have a hard time falling asleep at night. The good news is this article will provide you with tips that will help you fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly throughout the night.

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Read the longer version

You can learn more about being unable to fall and stay asleep at night by reading the following articles: What Causes Insomnia, Your Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep, 10 Reasons You Can’t Get a Good Night’s Sleep, and Want to Fall Asleep Fast? Try These 10 Tips.


Practice mindful meditation

Worried that you can’t sleep? Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), helping you feel more relaxed, and less overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. According to a 2018 study on meditation and sleep, mindfulness mediation can help improve sleep quality in young adults by reducing or eliminating their worries, roaming thoughts, and mood fluctuations. And, guess what? A calm mind leads to a relaxed body – and a peacefully long sleep. If you are willing and ready to give mindfulness meditation a shot, check out the following articles: What is Mindfulness?, Mindfulness: How to Do It and Getting Started with Mindfulness. These articles will teach you how to practice mindfulness meditation in a safe and effective way.


Get some exercise

If you haven’t been able to get a good night’s rest, regardless of what you’ve tried, it may be time to ramp up your exercise. Studies have proven that exercise not only improves your mood, health, and energy, but also reduces stress, so you can fall (and stay) asleep at night. So, next time you have trouble falling asleep, go on an evening jog or brisk walk around your neighborhood, spend an hour at the gym doing cardio, go swimming at the YMCA or your neighborhood pool, or join at track or sports team.
None of those sound appealing? Cool. Crank up the music and dance around while you clean the house! It doesn’t matter what you do – just as long as you move!
NOTE: Refrain from exercising 3 hours before bed because it will spike your adrenaline, triggering or worsening insomnia and sleep disturbances.


Pamper yourself

Do something nice for yourself. Doing something you enjoy or that makes you feel good can improve your mood, relax your mind and body, and help you sleep more soundly at night. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, mentally and emotionally exhausted, frustrated, worried, depressed, or anxious, do something to pamper yourself
For instance, go out with your buddies for a Girls’ Night or Guys’ Night, do a little “retail therapy” at the mall, go on a romantic date with your significant other, pick up tickets to a concert, comedy club, festival, or play, and/or spend time doing things you love like painting, drawing, knitting, singing, reading, playing video games, or writing. Then, right before bed (1-2 hours before bed), take a warm bath to relax from all of the excitement. A warm bath will help you fall asleep faster, so you get a good night’s rest.
If you want to fancy your bath up, add some lavender-scented oil to it. Lavender is a natural relaxant. Add a couple of capfuls of bubble bath liquid to it so the tub is overflowing with bubbles. (Who doesn’t love bubbles?) Then, step in and allow the fragrant and bubbly water to wash your worries and stress away.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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