Why You Cannot Sleep

  • Feb 08, 2018
  • Mental Health

Man With Beard Lying On Bed With Headache Trying To Fall Asleep

We spend around a third of our lives asleep, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Sleep is a necessity for all of us, our bodies need it to function just as much as we need food, drink and air to breath. The NHS reveals that not only can lack of sleep leave you feeling grumpy and lacking focus, it can also put you at risk of serious medical conditions. It is important to understand the reasons that may be causing your lack of sleep, and how to solve them.

Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next day is also known as insomnia, according to the NHS. Here are 7 reasons that could affect our sleep and different ways to help solve them.


According to The Sleep Council, although consuming an alcoholic beverage before bed may help you feel sleepy and relaxed, it actually interferes with your sleep.Drink Aware explains that alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle, you may nod-off into a deeper sleep with the help of a drink, but you spend less time in this deep sleep through the night, and more time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep which is less restful.You can simply solve this by avoiding alcohol too close to bedtime. Give your body enough time to process the alcohol in your system before you attempt to sleep. According to Drink Aware, an hour is the average time it takes to process one unit of alcohol, although this can vary from person to person.

Stress and Anxiety 

Mind Charity also points out a link between sleep and mental health; poor sleep can have an effect on your mental health and living with a mental health problem can also affect your sleep. Mind also recommends some ways to help manage mental health and sleep: establish a regular sleeping pattern, relax before going to bed, make sure you sleep somewhere comfortable, keep a sleep diary which may help you understand your sleep problem and what’s affecting it, try to resolve your stresses and worries and visit your GP to check for any physical problems that may be disturbing your sleep. Along with reducing stress, reading could help you get a better night’s sleep. Many people turn to technology before going to bed, but screens may affect your sleep. Reading helps you to relax by winding down after a stressful day.

Bad Sleeping Environment 

The bedroom and bed should be the main places that you associate with sleep. There are many environmental factors pointed out by the Mental Health Foundation that can affect the quality of your sleep, such as using electronic screens, watching TV, temperature, eating in bed, noise levels and light.The Sleep Council says that the foundation of a good night’s sleep is a good bed, one that is supportive and comfortable.The NHS also recommends ways to make your bedroom a sleep-friendly environment: keep your bedroom only for sleep and sex, keep your bedroom tidy, dark, quiet and between 18C to 24C in temperature.


Going to sleep hungry can interfere with sleep. Whilst the Sleep Council doesn’t recommend eating a large meal before bed, they do suggest that a small bedtime snack may be helpful, otherwise you may wake up in the middle of the night with hunger pangs. The Independent recommends five small snacks you can have before bed: bananas, almonds, honey, oats, and turkey. This is because these foods are rich in chemicals that help promote sleep, such as magnesium which relaxes muscles, serotonin and melatonin which encourages sleep and tryptophan which helps to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function whilst steadying your heart rhythm.

Clock Watching 

The Sleep Council say that persistently clock watching through the night can create anxiety, counting and calculating the hours you have left to sleep until your alarm goes off. They recommend removing or covering up clocks in your bedroom to break the clock watching routine. 

Digital Screens 

According to The Telegraph, waking up to check your smartphone is also a bad habit that can negatively affect your sleep. Waking up to check your phone may ruin your sleep pattern as your brain is processing a bright screen and you may spend the rest of your night tossing and turning. This is because the artificial light emitted by screens on digital gadgets blocks the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle and promotes feelings of sleepiness. Artificial light may also stimulate brain cells associated with alertness. The National Sleep Foundation recommends staying away from gadget screens for at least 30 minutes before you sleep, or even make your bedroom a technology-free room.


Some prescription or over-the-counter medications can result in insomnia as a side effect. These include some antidepressants, epilepsy medication and medications for high blood pressure. It is advised by the NHS to check the leaflets that come with any medication you’re taking and check the possible side effects listed, and always consult your healthcare professional or GP.

There are many reasons that could be contributing to your sleepless nights. Finding the ones that affect you in particular can sometimes involve a trial and error process and it could take a while, however it is better to try to solve these issues as soon as they appear to avoid any long term physical or mental damage.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.