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Why Can’t I Sleep: the Most Common Reasons

Flipping your pillow, changing sleeping positions, feeling tired but still not being able to sleep. You keep looking for the answer to the question - “why can’t I sleep?”, however, nothing seems to be helping? If you’re experiencing this problem, then you’re suffering from insomnia. 

Even though it’s a vital problem that strongly affects your quality of life, it’s much more common than you think. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30% of adults experience insomnia[1]. However, only about 10% of them experience sleeplessness severe enough to cause daytime consequences. Also, this problem is more commonly associated with women than men.

Today, there are many treatments and non-traditional methods that can help you fall asleep faster, and, finally, get a quality rest you deserve. 

In this article, I will introduce you to some of the most common sleep-related problems, the causes and symptoms of insomnia along with various tips that can actually help. Most importantly, you will find out the answer to the question - “why can’t I sleep?”

Amy Landolt

Licensed Acupuncturist

What is the main reason a person cannot fall asleep? What are some quick & easy ways to solve this issue?

Sometimes it is the sleep environment. You may need to eliminate all sources of light. You may also need to add a white noise machine for consistent background noise, turn down the thermostat (around 65 F is optimal). Also, magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. You can get extra magnesium by taking a bath with Epsom salts or using a magnesium citrate supplement. Some people have problems sleeping because they cannot stop thinking about their worries. In this case, I recommend set aside 30 minutes each day to go through their concerns, identify what is in their control, and any actions they can take to address these things. Lastly, working out in the evening can prevent you from falling asleep as your core temperature may still be elevated for 4-5 hours.

Why Can’t I Sleep? Introduction to Insomnia

As you probably know, Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep. When you’re not experiencing the deep sleep and not go through the REM stage, your brain doesn’t get enough rest, or simply said, does not “recharge” that is actually vital for daytime processes. 

Let me briefly introduce you to the sleep cycle to explain what I actually have in mind.

When you sleep, your sleep cycle goes through four stages, including REM and NREM sleep. Since such a cycle lasts from 90 to 120 minutes, you should go through it 4 or 5 times during the night. 

During stage three, which is actually the deep sleep stage, all the recovery processes are happening. Your body repairs itself - regrow tissue, repair bone, muscle, and, as mentioned before, “recharge” your brain. 

People who suffer from insomnia might experience very short periods of deep sleep, which is vital due to the above-mentioned reasons. That’s why, insomnia may lead to daytime drowsiness, inability to concentrate and think clearly. 

Why can't I sleep: Inability to sleep

Here are all the symptoms that people who suffer from insomnia (probably you too) experience: 

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Frequent waking ups during the night
  • Waking up in the morning way too early
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Lack of concentration and inability to think clearly 
  • Irritability 

If these symptoms seem familiar to you, and you keep asking - “why can’t I sleep?”, then it’s clear you’re suffering from insomnia. So, now that you actually know that you have a sleep disorder, let’s check out what may have caused it and fix this problem. 

Causes of Insomnia

Without a boring introduction, let’s go through the causes of “why can’t I sleep?”.

Chronic insomnia that is caused by: 

  • Stress. It’s the most common problem for all diseases. If you have personal problems, recently lost a loved one, experience stress at work, have problems with your finances and even suffer from a serious health issue, then high chances are that's one of the reasons that caused insomnia. 
  • Poor habits. If you watch TV, sit by the computer, play video games or eat unhealthy snacks right before bed, then it’s a possible answer to your concern - “why can’t I sleep?”. Stimulating activities before bed or regular daily naps can lead to disruptions in your sleep cycle. 
  • Irregular, nightly traveling or work schedule. When you sleep during the day and work during the night, or have an irregular schedule, it can lead to the circadian rhythm disruptions that affect your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, and even body temperature. Traveling through multiple time zones will most likely to have such an effect on you. 

Why can't I sleep: stress

If these causes helped you to understand “why can’t I sleep?”, then you can implement some changes in your habits and fight insomnia (in most cases). However, there are more serious causes of this disease that are associated with medical conditions or the usage of certain medications. Such cases include: 

  • Medical conditions. There are many diseases linked to insomnia, even if it seems that they should cause excessive sleepiness instead. Such medical conditions include cancer, heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, GERD, Alzheimer's disease, and others. 
  • Mental health disorders. People who suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder often experience the inability to sleep. 
  • Sleep disorders. There's a possibility that you have a sleeping disorder that you're not aware of. Such conditions include Sleep Apnea, Parasomnia, and Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder
  • Medications. Drugs that are most likely to affect the quality and quantity of your sleep include hearth, asthma, depression, anti-smoking and ADHD medications. If you’re using any of these medications, then it's conceivable cause for why you can’t sleep at night.

If you have any questions or concerns about these conditions, you should contact your doctor without hesitation. He will examine each of the cases individually. 

Moving further, insomnia is often associated with age. Here are the reasons why:

  • Disruptions in the sleep cycle. As we age, our sleep cycle changes. Even though the elderly need the same amount of sleep as adults, they tend to experience shorter periods of deep sleep and much longer stage 1 and stage 2 sleep that causes daytime drowsiness and can lead to some serious accidents. 
  • Changes in activity are another reason why the elderly can’t fall asleep. Older people tend to be less active. Needless to say, it can lead to daily naps that might disrupt nighttime sleep.
  • Sleep medications. The elderly often take sleep medications to help them fall asleep. While it might seem the only option, such medication is easy to get used to. If that happens, they’re unable to rest without a sleeping pill. 

Why can't I sleep: sleeping pills

Therefore these are the main reasons why you can’t sleep at night. I strongly believe that you have already figured out the question - “why can’t I sleep?”. Now, it’s time to move further, and see what actions you can take to make yourself more comfortable and fall asleep quicker. 

What to do When I Can’t Fall Asleep?

Bedroom Environment 

The solution to the problem of “why can’t I sleep” can be an uncomfortable sleeping environment and inappropriate bedtime routine. There are a few fixes that you can apply if you want to improve the quality of your sleep: 

  • Turn off the lights, they can strongly affect the quality of your sleep. When it gets dark, the production of melatonin increases and prepares us for rest. However, when you look into the bright lights, your body interprets it as daytime and decreases the production of melatonin. Pretty simple, right? 
  • Get a comfortable mattress and sleeping accessories. If you feel uncomfortable in your own bed, then it’s completely understandable why you can’t sleep at night. You should pick the right mattress size, firmness, and type based on your personal preferences. If you want a more conforming mattress then consider choosing memory foam beds. And, if support is your number one priority, then the innerspring mattress is just the right fit. 
  • Your bedroom should be dark and cool. When we sleep, our body temperature drops by two degrees. It means that you should also make sure your bedroom environment is cooler. Also, if the light spreads into your bedroom and distracts you from going to sleep, you can use an eye mask or dark curtains. 
  • Use the bed only for sleep, and, of course, one on one time. You shouldn’t eat, watch movies or study in your bed. If you follow this rule, the quality of your sleep will get so much better and you will never ask - “why can’t I sleep?”, again.

Why can't I sleep: dark bedroom

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Bedtime Routine

If you haven’t yet, then you should start creating your bedtime routine right away. Start from: 

  • Sleep-wake schedule. I get that we’re all busy and going to sleep/waking up at the same time every day seems quite challenging. However, it’s all for better sleep. After all, you were asking -“why can’t I sleep?”. So, I guess parties until the early morning is the answer. Now, if you’re actually concerned about your health and sleep quality, then it’s a must to change your bedtime routine. 
  • Keep track of your sleep. Sometimes we forget that people need 7 and 8 hours of sleep per day and tend to shorten this time almost twice. When your sleep cycle gets out of balance, it’s no longer that easy to control how much you sleep. Thus, I recommend using sleeping apps that will help you to get back into the rhythm.
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Relax Before Sleep

You should avoid any type of stimulating activities right before going to bed, and should rather: 

  • Start meditating. Meditation will allow you to create a stronger connection with yourself, understand what your body wants and needs, and of course, relax before going to bed. 
  • Listen to relaxing music. Music is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a rest. You can find various playlists on Youtube or Spotify. Even listening to binaural beats is a great idea - it can prolong the REM stage of your sleep and make your dreams more clear and vivid as well as help you to calm down. 
  • Yoga. Practicing yoga is a perfect idea for those who suffer from insomnia. It will allow your toxins to be released as well as calm your mind and take the daily stress off your shoulders. However, if you practice yoga, it shouldn't be too stimulating. 

Why can't I sleep: meditation

Change Your Lifestyle

Changing your lifestyle is one of the most crucial aspects you should pay attention to if you want to fight insomnia. After all, if you keep repeating “I can’t sleep” without taking further actions, nothing is going to change. Thus, you should: 

  • Quit smoking. Smokers often experience insomnia, so, if you have this nasty habit, get rid of it right away. 
  • Limit caffeine. When you experience a poor night's sleep, the need for coffee is indisputable. However, it does more harm than it actually helps. When you drink coffee during the day, it gets more complicated to fall asleep at night. It creates a circle that you can't get out of. 
  • Exercise. Exercising will allow you to clean yourself from all the bad thoughts as well as to wind down. It will allow you to fall asleep much faster and experience a high quality sleep. 

Such changes can be difficult to implement but if you’re tired of repeating “I can’t sleep”, then you should start making better choices.

Dietary Supplements that Can Help

There are various dietary supplements that can benefit those who feel tired but can’t sleep. However, you should know that even if many of them claim to be natural, that’s not always the case. To make sure that the supplement is a good fit for you, contact and consult your doctor first

Why can't I sleep: melatonin

Many sleep remedies that are in the market, may not be proved to be working, yet. However, some of them might be just the right option for you. Check out the most promising supplements that actually work for people who can’t fall asleep: 

  • Melatonin[2]. Our body produces the melatonin hormone naturally at night. It can be really helpful for people who keep saying “I can’t sleep'', especially those who prefer to sleep during the day and work during the night. It can regulate your sleep-wake cycle and seems to actually make a difference
  • Valerian. All-natural, the herb that has mild sedative effects that help you to calm down and relax. It’s quite a common supplement that students prefer to take the night before a test. 

As I said earlier, these supplements seem to be working but it’s a must to talk to your doctor before taking further actions.


Therefore, there are many reasons that can be an answer to your question - “why can’t I sleep?”. Before implementing major changes, you should always contact your doctor. Of course, while you wait, you can start from the basic steps that actually help. 

There are various causes of insomnia that include stress, poor sleeping and eating habits, irregular sleep schedule and night shifts. It can also occur due to medical conditions, sleep disorders and various medications. 

However, you can make changes and start from setting your bedroom, getting a comfortable mattress, adopting a healthier lifestyle and using relaxation techniques. 

I hope you will start solving your sleeping problems and will no longer feel tired but being unable to sleep. 

Amy Landolt

Licensed Acupuncturist

Contributed By Amy Landolt, Licensed Acupuncturist

Amy Landolt is an acupuncture sleep specialist who graduated from the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine. Her thesis was on the treatment of insomnia using Chinese medicine. She is a board licens...

Read Full Bio...

Scientific References

Contributed by Amy Landolt, Licensed Acupuncturist

1. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine: ' Insomnia'

2. Sylvie Tordjman, Sylvie Chokron, Richard Delorme: 'Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits'

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Recent User Reviews

I have insomnia too

Lately I'm waking up in the morning too early. I didn't know it could be insomnia, although I do feel like getting not enough sleep lately. Thanks for informing me about this.

Thank you!

Thanks for this article ! Indeed it’s a very important topic to talk about.

It's not that easy sometimes!

We all would like to change our lifestyle, however, quiting smoking or caffeine, isn’t that easy at all. I think it should be done progressively.

Insomnia and medications

Insomnia is a very serious problem, especially if you experience it very often, I recommend you to visit your doctor in such case, take care

Glad i found a new job

Yeah, i used to work during the night, i was always feeling like i wasn’t a human being anymore, always feeling tired. I’m glad i found a new job.

I got rid of my insomnia

Indeed, the changes i made to my daily lifestyle were very useful. I got rid of my insomnia.

Starting by my bedroom

Great tips, thank you ! I think if you had to pick one advise to start with, it would be to handle your bedroom environment.

Thank you!

Thank you so much for everything!

Drinking, smoking

Quit drinking coffee is possible, but smoking is all another level. Anyway thx, useful article

I should change my lifestyle

Struggling to get some sleep recently, feeling so tired and unhappy

I agree with your solutions!

I completely agree with your solutions, i used to suffer from insomnia during years and years, then i decided to implement some changes to my environment and my behaviour, i can finally say that i’m sleeping very well !

Great content!

Oh amazing and very useful content ! Thank you so much for this article ! I’m sure it will help a lot of people.

Music helps!

Listening to music can help!!

Good guide !

The light usually the most common reason. In my case I'm just using sleep mask and it works perfectly for me. Good guide !

Melatonin vs Valerian

My grandma was always using valerian (because it is all natural). Which one is better??

It's totally worth visiting a doc!

I think a lot of people under estimate this problem, and judge that it’s not worth a visit to the doctor. I wish there were more campaigns to urge people to understand the importance of insomnia.


Yea. Simple. Insomnia.

Insomnia is a serious deal

A lot of people think Insomnia is not a big deal, i hope they'll change theirs minds while reading this article.

Dietary supplements didn't help!

I’ve suffered from insomnia during years, i’ve tried a lot of solutions, some worked better than others. Dietary supplements didn’t help at all, i dont know why.

I'll try them all

Thank you for this article. I will try all these solutions, hope things will get better for me.


Why can't I fall asleep at night?

If you cannot fall asleep at night or wake up frequently, then you're experiencing what's called insomnia. It's a common problem that appears due to stress, disruptions in a sleep cycle, night shifts, and many other reasons.

How to improve the quality of my sleep?

To improve the quality of your sleep, you should pick the right mattress, sleep in a cool and dark bedroom. You can also meditate, listen to relaxing music, or read a book to relax.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.