Why can’t I fall asleep at night?

For the past week, it has been impossible for me to fall asleep before 3 am unless I take ZzzQuil. I’ve heard that using electronics before bed can impact your ability to fall asleep, but it has never taken me so long to get some rest. I want to find out what else may be causing my restlessness.

One reason, according to WebMD, may be stress, “when you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands release hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which keep you amped up and struggling to snooze.” With school work, extra curricular activities, and all the new experiences college has to offer, I have definitely been stressed and anxious lately.

Additionally, eating too much before bed can cause reflux, according to Alon Avidan, MD, associate professor of neurology and associate director of UCLA’s Sleep Disorders Program. This can lead to coughing, heartburn, and more pain, which all obviously cause discomfort while trying to sleep. I find myself, like most college students, eating late at night while trying to finish up homework, or when I have cravings.

Forbes offers another interesting cause: exercising too late. They say, “If you exercise within three hours of trying to sleep, you’ll overstimulate your metabolism and raise your heart rate causing restlessness and frequent awakenings throughout the night.” As a busy college student, I sometimes find it hard to figure out a time to go to the gym. Thus, I have been going later in the day, sometimes after dinner. This could definitely explain why I am wide awake and energized at night.

Now that I know what may cause my sleeplessness, I want to know how to fix it. CNN offers several tips to help. They say to try the “4-7-8” exercise in which you inhale your breath for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. This will slow down your heart rate and regulate your breathing, helping you sleep faster! A funny tactic is to put on socks when you sleep. Professor Ancoli-Israel says that while sleeping, the perfect temperature is to be cooler in the core and warmer on the outside of your body. Further, “one study revealed that wearing socks dilates your blood vessels and can help blood flow, leading to a more optimal temperature for snoozing.”

From now on, I will watch my exercise, food intake, and stress levels more carefully. Also, when I can’t sleep, I will try these simple tasks and see if they work!

9 thoughts on “Why can’t I fall asleep at night?

  1. Kelly Elizabeth Bare

    I found this post to be very interesting and helpful because I too have been having problems falling asleep. I almost always attribute this to stress, but I never thought about eating or exercise before bed so this was very informative for me. I wonder if the type of food that you eat before you go to bed has anything to do with your sleeping habits.

  2. Alyssa Hope Cooper

    I can completely relate to this post. I haven’t been able to go to sleep before 2 am since I have gotten here and I have no idea why. At first I thought it was because of the change in scenery, a new bed, and unusual homework/study hours. But after reading this blog it makes sense why I can’t fall asleep. I go on my computer right before I try going to sleep and watch Netflix. Additionally, I eat at the most random times. That includes right before bed. Now that I know why I can’t fall asleep, I am going to try to not eat right before bed or go on my computer so I can get a good night’s sleep.

  3. Jessica Nicole Greenhut

    I have never really had a problem falling asleep at night, but what really caught my attention within your post was the topic of acid reflux. All of my life I have suffered from acid reflux and I am on daily medicine to prevent it from happening. I knew that eating before bed was bad for this sort of problem, but I never really tried to stop it. After reading your post and the side effects of what can happen if you eat too close to bed time, I should look further into this and maybe I will eventually be able to go off of the medicine I am taking. Thanks for the tips! Really interesting post.

  4. Colleen Byrne

    My mom always warned me about eating right before I went to bed because it keeps you up. I’ve had a lot of trouble with waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep since I’ve gotten here. I wonder if some of the techniques you mentioned will work for me. I’m going to try it next time I wake up at 3 am and can’t seem to fall back asleep!

  5. Benjamin N Seltzer

    Often times when I can’t fall asleep, it is due solely to the fact that I have electronics around me. With the world of distraction that a TV, a computer, and a phone can cause, I find it very hard to turn away. This can be linked to stress as well, for if you are having problems with family, or a significant other, toy will be more likely to stay up in order to hash it out. My strategy for combatting this is that I set a hard deadline for me attempting to fall asleep each night, based on what classes I have the next day. Another exercise I use to help fall asleep is deep breathing. It has been well documented that this is an effective strategy for insomniacs. Here is a link to a relaxation exercise that might help you out!

  6. Jiamin Shan

    I love eating before sleeping and now I am thinking I probably should quit the habit. I am still interested in whether electronic device use will affect the sleeping quality, because using electronic device before sleep seems to be something everyone does now. I am happy to see that you provide people a way to help go to sleep, and I will definitely try that because I really do not what to waste my time on just lying on the bed and doing nothing. Probably in a week, doing a survey on how 4-7-8 exercise work will provide interesting results.

  7. das5959

    This definitely sounds like something small and easy that wouldn’t hurt anything to try. Sleep is an extremely tough thing to get the hang of, especially something as simple as The position you sleep in. It’s taken me years to find a comfortable position that I can almost instantly fall asleep in; which surprisingly happens to be my stomach. I am a firm believer also that the comfort of your bed is important to your sleep, as well as how used to the environment you are at. In cities, it’s so loud and noisy it’s a wonder anyone could fall asleep there. The opposite is that in the country, sometimes it’s so quiet you can’t fall asleep. I do like the idea of 4-7-8, and will try it before I take a test in an attempt to calm my nerves.

  8. Annamarie Rose Sassi

    Bailee- I find your topic interesting, and definitely very relatable for all college students! I’ve also been finding it impossible to cram in all my to-do’s during the long schooldays, and I’m very overworked and stressed out when it’s time to go to bed. I can see how the “silly” remedies you listed above could actually work! I personally always fall asleep with socks on regardless of how hot it is in my dorm room, and usually consciously take them off at some point in the night. However, contradictive to the study you researched, I think that working out before bed time can be beneficial! When your already tired from a long school day, exerting the last of your energy exercising should prompt you to fall asleep even faster! Research supporting this idea can be found here http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/04/sleep-survey-exercise-insomnia/1955117/.

  9. Erin Marie Stephenson

    Since being at school I have yet to fall asleep at a decent hour which is very unlike me. At home I usually was always asleep by 10:30 on a normal night but that seems to be almost impossible here and I have yet to figure out why. Stress definitely comes into play here. Being in a new environment can be very stressful and it definitely has hit me. Falling asleep at 2 in the morning each night will eventually catch up to me so I am definitely going to try the 4-7-8 exercise. I hope it helps!

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