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4 Reasons Why You Might Have Trouble Falling Asleep

4 Reasons Why You Might Have Trouble Falling Asleep

Posted On: October 21, 2020

Sleep disturbance can have a variety of different causes. Here are four reasons why you might have trouble falling asleep.

If you have trouble falling asleep, you’re not alone. Americans don’t sleep well. Trouble sleeping can cause a cascade of other problems too. It can tax the heart, immune system, and more.

If you have had continued trouble falling asleep night after night, it’s time to identify the root cause. Today we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of sleep problems. That way you can speak with a doctor about your suspicions, get your troubles diagnosed, and hopefully be on your way to better sleep and healthier life!

Reason 1: Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing starts and stops in the middle of the night. It is commonly associated with very loud snoring but not everyone with sleep apnea snores.

This disorder broadly comes in three forms:

First, there is obstructive sleep apnea. This is the most common form of sleep apnea and occurs when the muscles in your throat relax. This change can then cause breathing issues you don’t normally notice while awake.

Second, there is central sleep apnea. This form of sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to send the right signals to the muscles associated with breathing. This in turn causes you to breathe chaotically as you sleep.

Finally, there is complex sleep apnea syndrome. This rare form of sleep apnea occurs if you have both of the above problems together.

Having your breathing start and stop in the night will greatly reduce the quality of your sleep. You’ll have trouble staying asleep and often be fatigued in the morning. This sort of light sleep is not especially refreshing to the body and mind.

Sleep apnea can be very disruptive to both your own sleep schedule and that of anyone sleeping near you. Luckily, it is also generally treatable once diagnosed by a doctor.

The doctor will probably have you undergo sleep testing if sleep apnea or a similar condition is suspected. This testing will then tell them what the most likely cause of your sleep issues is. From there, they can determine the best treatment.

One common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. While it can take getting used to, it can quickly resolve most of the issues associated with sleep apnea.

A CPAP machine will not cure your sleep apnea, but it can greatly improve the quality of your sleep by ensuring you upper airway passages are open. It will also usually stop your snoring, making it easier for others to sleep near you too.

Reason 2: Anxiety and Stress

It has been understood for several decades that anxiety and sleep problems are closely related. Insomnia is an incredibly common symptom of anxiety disorders. As much as 90% of people with combat PTSD report dealing with insomnia at least occasionally.

If you find your mind racing when trying to get to sleep, there’s a good chance anxiety may be the cause of your trouble falling asleep. Many people may even awaken suddenly in the night, anxious, even if they initially were able to drift off.

Unfortunately, this can start a cycle where you also become anxious about sleeping. This can feed your issues, making them even worse.

Less immediately long term problems like stress can also cause similar sleep issues. Problems at work or in school very commonly can cause all of the above troubles, even if there is no diagnosable disorder at fault.

There’s no shame in being under extreme stress or having an anxiety disorder, but it’s important to admit there’s a problem. That way you can talk to a medical professional who will be able to help you. You should not have to deal with sleep problems alone on top of other stressors in your life.

Reason 3: Urinary Issues

Urinary issues can stem from a myriad of issues big and small. Be it diabetes or simply overdrinking late at night, the urge to urinate at night can cause a serious start and stop pattern that makes sleeping deeply impossible.

Exactly what form the disruption takes will vary but signs you might want to see a doctor about urinary problems include:

  • An uncomfortable urge to urinate when laying down (often with difficulties urinating once you stand)
  • Frequent urination
  • An inability to completely “empty” when urinating
  • Excessive urgency once you do get the feeling you need to urinate
  • A feeling of pain when urinating or while your bladder is full

Any of the above can easily disrupt sleep, sometimes multiple times a night. You should see a doctor for these issues not only to improve your sleep but also to make sure nothing more serious is occurring.

Reason 4: Poor Environment

Sometimes sleep troubles have less to do with you and more to do with where you sleep. For example, if your partner has sleep apnea, their loud snoring might keep you up. This will cause your sleep to deteriorate too.

Bright lights and loud noises can make sleeping soundly extremely difficult. Your body is programmed to process bright light as a sign it is time to wake up. Meanwhile, loud noises can make your brain think there is an emergency, causing you to jump awake even if you logically then realize nothing is wrong.

While you’re welcome to talk to a sleep professional about a poor sleep environment, many of the needed changes you may be able to make yourself. White noise machines and blindfolds are relatively cheap and can solve many common environmental causes of sleep issues.

If your partner is the cause of your sleep troubles, talk to them. They may need to go to the doctor (if they snore loudly) or just adjust their behavior (such as turning on the lights to go to work when you still need to sleep).

Trouble Falling Asleep? It’s Time for a Change

If you have trouble falling asleep, you shouldn’t just ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Realistically, the trouble is going to stick around until you figure out its root cause and make a change.

Even if you don’t think the exact cause is any of the above, it doesn’t mean you’re imagining a problem. If sleep isn’t refreshing you as it should, talk to a sleep professional. They can help make your nights actually restful again.

Here at the Neurological Wellness Clinic, we have the experts and technology to help diagnose those exact issues. If your sleep isn’t what it should be, we can help set things right!

Dr Jochism

Dr. Sean Jochims, Neurologist

Dr. Sean Jochims graduated medical school with the prestigious Rick Wartgow Award for dedication to medicine. He also received Excellence in Teaching Awards as chief resident in neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

  • Medical School: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Internship/Internal Medicine: Northwestern University
  • Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship: Rush Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago
  • Participant at Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine
Board Certifications
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