Not sleeping? Feel like you’ve tried everything and can’t figure out why this is happening to you? Read my 11 surprising reasons you’re experiencing sleeplessness.
We all know the bad sleep totally transforms our daytime experience. Have you ever thought about the effect the opposite way around? To have consistently good sleep it’s absolutely key to manage your lifestyle during the day so that the natural signals the body needs to know it’s time for sleep are ready and waiting when it comes to rest time. Getting good sleep is a 24 hour game.
As humans, we tend to choose coping mechanisms that interfere with the body’s natural cycles. This is often subconscious – alcohol blocks and sedates parts of the brain to make us more social, caffeine masks the body’s tiredness signal, sugar gives us fast energy etc – the problem with these substances is that when it comes to night-time these ‘body-blockers’ are still in place and either being over-stimulated or sedated isn’t good for sleep.
If you get to sleep at all, you’ll have poorer quality sleep leading to more tiredness the next day. When you’re tired the next day, you’re more likely to go for a coping mechanism…. and the cycle continues.
Sometimes sleeplessness is a sign that there’s something you’re uncomfortable with in your life. Your mind is keeping you awake as your knight-in-shining armor, making sure that nothing can harm you.
Security is a big deal to the brain. We used to be tribal-people and still have those cave-man instincts despite living in the modern world.
If it’s a better lock on your front door, taking action on a toxic relationship, moving apartment or even changing jobs to something with greater job security, feeling more secure can have massive knock-on effects on your sleep.
The body likes consistency. It likes to be able to predict your movements so it can best serve you. It likes to know when a challenge is coming so it can give you Adrenalin, when a rest is coming so it knows when you an unwind and it can complete essential maintenance.
If you go to sleep and wake up at various time your body gets confused. It can’t prepare and adapt properly. It makes sleeping well or getting to sleep so much harder.
So ask yourself how can you adapt your schedule for greater consistency around wake times, sleep times and break times?
This one is simple: when you don’t give your mind chance to process new information and experiences throughout the day i.e taking breaks, you are far more likely to experience the ‘endless-thinking’ trap at night. Breaks aren’t just to refuel – although why wouldn’t you want to do that – but also to process and upload information mentally in order that the brain keeps on top of it’s job and doesn’t keep you awake to do this later.
This is a phrase I hear over and over as a sleep therapist. Perhaps you’ve been so busy for so long that relaxation has become a lost-art. If you want to sleep better it’s crucial to learn the skills of relaxation. Relax in the daytime, relax at the weekend, take time out for you and the body will love you for it. There are 100s of ways to relax, the most important thing is a willingness to try.
Negative thoughts give us surges of unhelpful chemicals like adrenalin. Adrenalin puts us into a ‘fight or fight’ mode when we really need to be in a ‘rest and revive’ mode to sleep. Take steps to practise and learn how to think more positively or at least in a neutral, rational way to keep these chemicals at bay and keep your body and mind restful.
Sometimes the reason we aren’t sleeping well is the space we are in. Check your sleeping space for
- • Temperature
- • Ventilation
- • Light – is there too much natural light or street light?
- • Is your bed comfortable?
- • Is your space cluttered?
- • Are you able to move freely and easily in the space?
- • Is your space noisy or too quiet for you?
Make changes to your space. In an optimum space it’s likely your quality and quantity of sleep will improve.
Blue-light emitted from devices disrupts a natural sleep rhythm called the ‘circadian rhythm’. Essentially, the light tells the body it is daytime when it is night-time. This plus the stress that social media can spiral us into when we emotionally react to content doesn’t help sleep. My tip: avoid social media for 90 minutes before bed.
Here’s the thing: if you tell yourself a statement over and over again, eventually your mind will start to believe it.
A useful example of this is perhaps appearance, if a person tells themselves ‘I’m unattractive’ eventually when they look in the mirror they will begin to see ‘unattractive’ human, even if that’s totally untrue. The mind has accepted their mantra as a truism and begins responding to the world as if this was true, Oh no! Right?
Do you do this for insomnia? Do you call yourself an ‘insomniac’/ ‘bad sleeper’? Do you tell people ‘oh my mother was the same, it runs in the family’?
If this is you stop-this-immediately. The good news is this can be un-done but first you need to stop adding fuel to the fire by reinforcing it. Start saying statements such as ‘I can be a good sleeper.’ ‘I’m exploring how to sleep better’ and start re-wiring the brain for better sleep.
Now admittedly this one is a little tricky. Sleep has become so important to you, so absolutely vital in your success/relationships/wellbeing that IT-MUST-HAPPEN. The problem is when we get into a desperation state we really are setting off that stress and adrenalin response.
Focus on relaxation and rest. I know and you know that sleep is the best thing for our wellbeing.
Yet, we can all most likely accept that rest is the second best.
It’s certainly better than tossing and turning in anger/rage/frustration/desperation/anxiety/stress and the rest all night.
When we accept sleeplessness we give the body less ‘extra stuff’ to deal with by sorting-out our stress responses on top of it’s usual night-time to-do list.
Often by accepting insomnia it gets better quicker and we can often cope that bit better the next day.
So there you have it 11 things to take action on right away!
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I’m Steph Clarkson, sleep coach and holistic wellbeing expert. Sleep is one of my specialties. Enjoy my free-sleep mini course Get to Sleep Tonight by joining my Sleep Club newsletter below.
Or jump right in an enjoy good quality, consistent sleep with my 8 week sleep program The Natural Sleep Strategy