5 reasons you can’t sleep and what to do about them

Struggling to sleep and not sure why? We reveal five common problems impacting sleep and how to banish them for good

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. Eight hours of uninterrupted bliss to refresh you mentally and physically– it sets you up for the day, boosts your concentration and improves your mood.

Without it, we feel groggy, under the weather, less alert and in the long run could be putting ourselves at a greater risk of serious health issues including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

It’s an essential part of our wellbeing, yet an increasing number of us are struggling to drift off. Our phones, non-stop emails and digital addiction are often blamed, but did you know that factors in our diet, routine and even the menopause can all impact our sleeping pattern?

Before you spend another night tossing and turning, we explain what could be keeping you up and how you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

5 reasons you can’t sleep

Are you moving enough?

Preparation for bedtime starts long before you slip into your pyjamas and studies show that regular exercise can boost your chances of a good night’s sleep.

There’s no need to slog it out in the gym for hours on end – just 15 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking or swimming) each day has been shown to improve sleep. Just take care not to overdo it close to bedtime as it could wake you up.

Do you feel too hot?

Feeling too warm makes it difficult to relax and this can really impact on your sleep. The ideal room temperature for sleeping is somewhere between 16 and 18°C, with anything over 24°C making it difficult to snooze.

High temperatures can be part and parcel of the summer months, but if feeling too hot or waking up sweating is a regular occurrence, it could be a sign of the menopause.

During the menopause, the body’s sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) begin to fluctuate and fall, leading to symptoms that include hot flushes. This can lead to night sweats and disrupt your sleep.

Speaking with your GP can help to talk through your options, but simple changes such as having a fan in your room, wearing lightweight clothing and switching to sheets made from lightweight, breathable material (such as bamboo) can help you to feel more comfortable.

Do you struggle to switch off?

With friends, family and colleagues just a click or a swipe away, it’s becoming more difficult than ever to switch off.

Late night worries over a work email and troubling images on the news can all contribute to stress at a time when we’re trying to relax. Coupled with that is the blue light produced by smartphones and tablets, delaying the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Give yourself some quiet time and aim to turn your electronics off at least half an hour before bedtime, if not longer. It’s worth investing in an alarm clock too so you don’t need to rely on your phone to wake up.

Is your mood affecting your sleep?

We all feel grumpy after a bad night’s sleep, and feeling irritable can affect how well we nod off. It’s a vicious cycle!

Unfortunately, there are times when we’ll feel more anxious than others, whether you’re going through a break up, worrying about family or having problems at work. Relaxing activities, such as yoga or tai chi, can calm your mind, as can breathing exercises.

Talking to your GP is an option if you’ve been feeling low for a while and it’s also worth bearing in mind that changes in hormones can affect mood too.

Along with hot flushes, fluctuations in our sex hormones as we approach and go through the menopause can cause a range of symptoms, including anxiety and mood swings. Talking therapies can help to alleviate anxiety and it’s worth a chat with your GP to see what your options are.

Are you eating right?

The war between drinking caffeine and a good night’s sleep is well-documented (avoid it after 3pm to boost your chances of shut eye), but other foods can also have a profound effect.

Numerous studies show that those who sleep less are more likely to eat energy-rich foods (such as fats or refined carbohydrates such as sweets, white bread and pasta), fewer portions of vegetables and have more irregular meal times.

Balance your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein for a better night’s sleep and – if you’re prone to feeling hot in the night – avoid eating spicy food.

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