Tired But Can’t Sleep: Why and What to Do


Nothing is worse than lying in bed all night and being unable to sleep. Although you are completely exhausted, sleep seems to evade you. You have tried counting sheep, singing to yourself, listening to a podcast and clearing your mind of all thoughts. Despite all of your efforts, you are just as awake as ever. To find out why you can’t sleep and what to do about it, read on.

The Reasons Why You Are Tired But Can’t Sleep

There are several reasons why you may be tired, but unable to sleep. We will cover some of the most common reasons.

1. Anxiety and Stress

When you are worried about things at work or school, it seems impossible to sleep. Stressful, traumatic events like a break up, divorce or job loss can also leave you sleepless at night. If you are dreading something that will happen in the future, then you may also find yourself unable to sleep.

2. Overactive Thoughts

Most of the time, the reason why you cannot sleep is entirely in your head. If you have a racing mind that is filled with thoughts, then you might not be able to sleep. You may be daydreaming about future goals or events. Because you are so excited for these future plans, you stay awake far longer than you normally would. These thoughts are basically keeping you mentally alert, so you are going to find it impossible to sleep properly.

3. Change in Your Environment

You already know that traveling can give you jet lag, but it can also keep you awake at night. It interrupts your circadian rhythm so that you cannot sleep. Shift work at night can also ruin your natural body clock. When your circadian rhythm is messed up, it can mess up your body temperature, metabolism and sleeping patterns as well.

4. Medications

Over-the-counter medication like weight loss medication, pain relievers and decongestants sometimes contain caffeine that can keep you awake. Meanwhile, prescription medication like blood pressure, medicine, allergy medication, antidepressants, heart medication and stimulants can keep you up at night. While antihistamines could make you drowsy, they can cause frequent urination that could keep you up.

5. Depression

In the movies, people who are depressed sleep all the time. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in real life. While you feel completely exhausted when you are depressed, you also might feel unable to sleep. This is most likely because of chemical imbalances within your brain. Depression can also cause doubts, fears and troubling thoughts in your mind that lead to insomnia.

6. Stimulants and Exercise

Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can certainly keep you up at night. Meanwhile, intense exercise before bedtime will also keep you up. You need to stop consuming stimulants and exercising at least a few hours before bedtime. If you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid drinking any after your lunchtime.

7. Medical Conditions

Chronic medical conditions can cause insomnia. These include chronic pain, arthritis, GERD, frequent urination, diabetes, overactive thyroid, cardiovascular disease, menopause, cancer, breathing difficulties, sleep apnea and obesity.

What to Do When You Are Tired and Can’t Sleep

If you find yourself tired but can’t sleep, there are a few ways that you can get sleep to actually happen. We will cover some of the ones that work immediately as well as long-term changes that you can make to ensure a restful night’s sleep.

1. Regular Exercises

Exercise is good for your body, but it can also help you to sleep. It helps to use up your energy so that you can easily fall asleep at night. You have to make sure to exercise at the right time of day though. If you exercise right before bedtime, it will end up giving you insomnia. Try to exercise in the morning or early evening so that it does not impede your sleep.

2. Stop Being Active Before Bed

While many people have sex after they go to bed, this might not be helping your insomnia. You want your mind to associate the bedroom with sleep. Plus, extra activity before bed can keep you up. Make sure that you do not turn your bedroom into your at-home office or library.

3. Stick to the Same Routine

Your mind easily learns new habits. If you do the same bedtime routine each night, it will make it easier for your body to sleep. In addition, you should make sure that you are going to bed early enough each night. Your body creates a chemical known as melatonin to signal that you need to go to sleep. Your circadian system also regulates your body temperature and heart rate. These activate at night, so becoming a late owl can disturb your body’s natural cycle.

4. Skip the Stimulants

You do not want to take any stimulants near your bedtime. Stimulants like nicotine and caffeine can keep you awake. Nicotine stays in the body for several hours, while caffeine has a half-life of five hours. You should stop drinking coffee around lunchtime if you want to ensure a good night’s rest.

5. Skip the Internet and Television

If you want to fall asleep, you need to turn off the television and computer. Reading news online or watching a television show infuses your eyes with light. This ends up disrupting your body’s production of melatonin. Any light can do this, but the blue wavelengths of light from your mobile devices have a heightened effect on your wakefulness.

6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

There are some treatments that can help you overcome mental or behavioral problems that keep you from sleeping. CBT helps you develop a healthy sleep cycle and makes it easier to automatically fall asleep. There is a course by Sleepio that is supposed to help you fall asleep 50 percent faster after taking the course.

7. Set the Environment

Try to take a warm shower or bath before bedtime. Anything too hot or too cold will serve as a stimulant though, so keep it warm. You can also set up a comfortable bed and mattress to make sleep easier. Relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, progressive relaxation and meditation can also help.

If you are chronically sleep deprived, there may be something wrong with your body. If nothing seems to help you sleep and you find yourself staying awake for hours every night, then you may need to go to your doctor. Your doctor can determine which medications or lifestyle factors are keeping you awake. He or she can also check for any sleep disorders. You may also want to record when, how long and how deeply you sleep. Keep track of any symptoms so that you can report them to your doctor at the next appointment.


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