7 Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep Properly At Night

can't sleep

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that one third of the U.S. population gets less than the recommended hours of sleep. This consequently leads to problems like stress and anxiety, heart disease, obesity, and depression, in addition to poor concentration during the day and also adversely affects work performance.

If you are or have ever faced problems sleeping at night, then go through the list compiled below to learn more about some of the possible causes.

Artificial light inhibiting melatonin production

We are prone to overusing our digital gadgets like smartphones and tablets and often tend to use them the most right before we sleep. The blue light emitted from these sources suppresses melatonin production; a vital hormone required for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The light from our laptops and mobile devices causes our circadian rhythms to become jumbled up as our bodies can’t distinguish whether the light is from the sun or from an artificial source like our phone.

Artificial light affects the circadian rhythm leading to your inability to sleep, upsetting the body’s recognition making it unable to determine whether it’s time to sleep or not.

To fix this, don’t take mobile devices to bed and turn everything off at least one hour before your bedtime. Without the artificial light, the body can start producing melatonin which is essential for a good night’s sleep.

Medications resulting in sleep disturbances

In addition to lifestyle changes, some of the medications you are taking can also be the culprit, causing you to lose sleep. Many everyday medications are known to cause sleep disturbances including alpha blockers, beta-blockers, anti-depressants, corticosteroids and many others.

Alpha-blockers are commonly administered to treat hypertension, something 40% of the adults aged 25 and above have been diagnosed with worldwide. They are linked to decreasing the REM (rapid eye movement), thus causing sleep disturbances.

Similarly, beta-blockers, which are used to treat angina, migraines and sometimes blood pressure, can also lead to sleep disturbances by inhibiting the nighttime secretion of melatonin; the hormone for regulating both sleep and the body’s circadian clock.

If you notice changes in your sleep pattern after starting a new medication, then consider discussing this with your physician. He will hopefully help you find an alternative treatment for your problem.

Hormonal changes

A person goes through hormonal changes throughout their life. Women, in particular, are prone to sleep problems owing to menopause and resulting hot flashes. In fact, perimenopausal women often report difficulties initiating as well as maintaining sleep with frequent nighttime sleep disturbances.

One of the main symptoms reported by women due to menopausal transition is sleep disturbance and this could be the reason for your inability to sleep properly through the night.

Depression, PTSD, and other psychological illnesses

People who are going through major stressful life events, like loss of a loved one, stressful job, or major depression also face trouble while sleeping properly at night. People who have PTSD especially face problems when it comes to sleeping through the night. Moreover, going through an emotional trauma or psychological issues can also result in poor sleep quality.

Thus, depression, stress, anxiety, and other related symptoms could also be the underlying reason of your sleep disturbance.

 stress in the workplace

Brain trauma

People who have had some brain injury or trauma in the past can also experience trouble sleeping or suffer from insomnia. Researchers have identified a few processes that lead to insomnia after head trauma:

  • Injury to the areas of the brain controlling the sleep-wake cycles may be directly linked to sleep disturbances in individuals. In addition to sleep disturbance, traumatic brain injury can also manifest itself in the form of other cognitive deficits including depression, disorientation, and anxiety and stress which are also linked with insomnia and sleep problems.
  • Traumatic brain injury is also associated with a disturbance in melatonin production which is one of the hormones which regulates the sleep

Brain trauma and injury can seriously affect sleep-wake cycle in addition to causing other problems. If you have had a physical brain trauma recently and suspect that your sleep disturbances are related to the presence of any of the brain diseases, then schedule a brain test to find out the underlying cause. The only way to find about brain trauma is through deliberate brain testing; it may be expensive but it can screen out a lot of possibilities.

Sleep apnea

It is estimated that around 1 in 3 people have mild insomnia. Insomnia can be caused by a plethora of reasons, including psychological or certain medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

People who have sleep apnea also have insomnia. Sleep apnea causes the airways to be blocked during sleep, which makes a person wake up repeatedly throughout the night disrupting the sleep cycle.

Poor lifestyle choices – heart burn

Your lifestyle and behavior can also be a leading cause of your inability to sleep properly during the night. Eating heavy food, consuming alcohol and coffee right before sleeping, for instance, could also be the culprit leading to heartburn.

Heartburns usually result when a person lies down right after a heavy or late meal. Caused by the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus, heartburn isn’t really a pleasant feeling and causes you to lose sleep for obvious reasons.

You can easily manage this by refraining from eating heavy or fatty foods late in the evening along with alcohol and coffee after 8 pm. If you have been facing this problem occasionally then you should definitely consider seeing a doctor and getting a prescription.


Whatever the reason for your sleep disturbance is, it is important that you take it seriously and have it checked. Lack of sleep can lead to many related problems including poor performance in your personal and professional life as well as irritability, stress, and anxiety and even debilitating brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The inability to sleep properly is going to affect your overall health, something you should never compromise on. Hence, it’s essential that you look into this problem and get it treated at the earliest.


This guest post was authored by Kamil Riaz Kara

Kamil Riaz Kara is an HR Professional and Inbound Marketer with a Masters in Administrative Sciences from the University of Karachi. He frequently blogs on management, technology, lifestyle and health and is associated with Brain Test Team.

You can find him on LinkedIn & Twitter.


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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