Common Reasons Why You Cannot Fall Asleep

Sleep is essential to our overall health. It helps our immune system function. Not sleeping or getting enough sleep can sometimes interfere with the healing and growth of tissue, and the ability of the body to regulate its memory, brain function, metabolism, and temperature. 

Does staring at your bedroom ceiling, counting sheep in vain, tossing and turning in bed sound familiar? This is attributed to one possible explanation, which is a sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, stress-related causes (depression and anxiety) or insomnia, relate to having issues falling asleep. Lifestyle habits can also cause trouble falling asleep. 

Here are 9 common reasons why people struggle to fall asleep.

1. Stress 

Worry and stress from events or trauma in your professional or personal life might keep you active during the night.

Being anxious, overthinking, or concerns about family, finances, health, school, and work might also cost you valuable sleep. Usually, a good workout routine can help you clear your thoughts but for more serious things such as marital issues, you may wish to consult a trained counsellor such as those from New Vision Psychology.

Dealing with stress is critical if you also suffer from poor sleep. This is because poor sleep is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and obesity.

2. Have An Inconsistent Bedtime Schedule

The circadian rhythms in your body act as an internal clock; it guides your body temperature, metabolism, and sleep-wake circle.

Disrupting your circadian rhythms may be due to work or travel schedule can lead to difficulty falling asleep. Causes include frequently changing your shifts, an early, or late shift, or jet lag. Therefore, if your daily schedule is all over the place, it may be time to rethink and reprioritize your sleep.

3. You (May) Suffer From Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea may not typically have difficulty falling asleep per se but they may wake up feeling not refreshed at all despite getting 7-9 hours of rest. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where a person’s throat with OSA narrows to such a degree that they cannot get adequate oxygen. Essentially, the brain cannot get enough oxygen and as a survival mechanism, wakes the person up. This causes the loud snoring.

According to WebMD, half of people presenting with OSA are overweight. Therefore, implementing regular physical exercise is beneficial in two ways. First, physical exertion makes you tired and thus, can fall asleep easier and secondly, helps with weight loss.

For sufferers of OSA, a sleep expert may prescribe you with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. For Australians with OSA, you can consider CPAP Direct as they are registered NDIS providers.

4. Too Much Blue Light Exposure Before Bedtime

The light emitted from electronics like TVs, smartphones, computers or video games can delay sleep onset, making you to find it difficult to fall asleep. This is due to the blue wavelength which tricks your brain that it is still day time.

5. Medications 

Some prescription drugs like medications for blood pressure or asthma and antidepressants can interfere with your sleep. Other over-the-counter medicines like weight-loss products, cold, allergy, and pain medications contain stimulants like caffeine that can disrupt your sleep.

6. Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine

Caffeinated drinks like coffee, cola, and tea are stimulants. When you drink them in the late evening or afternoon, they can keep you awake at night. Similarly, nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant, which can keep you awake. As for alcohol, it may help one fall asleep; however, it can cause waking up in the middle of the night and prevent deeper sleep stages.

7. Medical Conditions 

Conditions linked to sleep disorders include:

  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Asthma
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease 

If you have one of these conditions, consult your doctor for help.

8. Aging 

Sleeping disorders become more with age. Getting older comes with changes in health, the need for more medications, changes in activity, and sleep patterns. As you get older, you become less socially and physically active interfering with a great night’s sleep. Chronic pain, which is a common condition affecting the aged, can also interfere with sleep.

9. Sleep-related disorder 

Sleep-related disorders like sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep by causing you to halt breathing periodically during the night. Restless legs syndrome can also cause unpleasant sensations in the legs, which may keep you awake.


Poor sleep can result from a combination of lifestyle, environmental and physiological factors. If you find yourself feeling lethargic during the day, you should consult a physician to get to the bottom of it.