8 Reasons Why Sleep Seems Impossible

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Millions of Americans suffer from insufficient sleep, which the CDC reports is linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Next-day grogginess, trouble falling asleep, or wakefulness during the night may be signs of a sleeping disorder such as insomnia. Here are some common sleep-trouble triggers, and what you can do to prevent them.

Screen time

If you find yourself often using free time before bed to catch up on social media, work emails, or relaxing in front of the TV, it may be contributing to what medical professionals refer to as screen-time related insomnia. Blue light screen emissions can alter our natural sleep cycle, so avoiding electronics, and using darkening curtains or sleep masks at bedtime can help.

Emotional Distress

Receiving emotionally distressing news going through an emotional transition in life, can cause our mind to also to cycle through distressing thoughts. Sleep troubles that persist more than once or twice a week, without any physical symptoms, is most likely a psychological issue. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible, as unresolved stress can lead to anxiety and/or depression.

Medical Conditions

There are many medical conditions and treatments that not only impact life but can trigger a sleep issue such as insomnia. Allergies, thyroid issues, neurological conditions, arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, depression, or chronic pain may contribute to lack of sleep but don’t have to be persistent. Don’t ignore sleep symptoms and schedule a consultation with your doctor.

Eating and drinking habits

Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and even the type of meal you eat, or how late in the day you eat it can not only affect our body, but affect our sleep. In fact, alcohol before bed can reduce our normal number of REM cycles and leave us feeling more tired than if we had skipped the drink. In addition to better food and drink habits, consider natural sleep aids such as melatonin.

Life changes

Similar to emotional changes, anticipating or undergoing a life change such as divorce, marriage, a big move or job, menopause or new parenthood may keep you awake at night. This is typically caused by the body trying to process all of the emotion and change at once. Staying active, changing your sleep position/support, and certain therapies can help alleviate symptoms.


Overstimulation may occur when you are excited about a project or have too many things on your plate.You have so much going on in your life that it becomes hard to shut your brain off and allow yourself to sleep. Whether a hectic schedule or night-owl tendencies, a proper sleep environment, a designated “wind down” time, and a set sleep schedule can help get your body prepared for sleep in time.

Irregular sleep habits

Minimal hours of sleep during the week and sleeping through the weekend, can lead to an irregular schedule and contribute to insomnia. It’s also possible the insomnia will begin to perpetuating itself as your body struggles to find a regular sleep schedule. If you are a shift worker and odd schedules are unavoidable, adapting a set sleep schedule to work hours can help your body settle in.

Anxiety and stress

Getting improper sleep is known to affect our mood, but it can also work the other way around. Research shows that anxiety and stress agitate the body causing hyper-arousal and trouble sleeping. Everyone handles stress differently, but setting aside personal time to relax, engaging yourself socially, or exercising regularly are great starting options for stress management.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.