Sleep & Health

Why Can’t I Sleep Even Though I Am Tired?


Feeling tired all day but struggling to fall asleep at night? This is actually a common problem faced by many individuals around the world. If you find yourself in this situation, it's essential to understand the possible causes and potential solutions to help restore your sleep. In this comprehensive guide, we explore various factors that might contribute to your sleeplessness, even when you're exhausted. We'll also provide helpful ways to improve your sleep quality and hopefully bring back those restful nights.

Why Can’t I Sleep Even Though I Am Tired?

CONTENTS

  • How Sleep Debt & Circadian Rhythm Affects Sleep
  • Common Causes of Sleeplessness Despite Fatigue
  • Perhaps Your Fatigue is Not Really Tiredness
  • Conclusion

How Sleep Debt & Circadian Rhythm Affects Sleep

Before delving into the possible reasons behind people feeling tired but unable to sleep, it's crucial to understand the basic mechanisms of this process. Two primary factors affect sleep regulation: sleep debt and circadian rhythm.

Sleep Debt

Sleep Debt

Sleep debt refers to the accumulated lack of sleep over the past 14 days. Our bodies have a genetically determined sleep need, which may vary among individuals. When we do not get enough sleep to meet this need, we accumulate sleep debt, leading to feelings of grogginess and decreased alertness during the day.

Circadian Rhythm

Circadian Rhythm

Our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal body clock, governs the sleep-wake cycle and many other biological processes. This rhythm is influenced by light and darkness signals, which help synchronize our internal body clock with the external environment. Disruptions to this rhythm can lead to sleep problems and excessive daytime fatigue. 

Now that we have a basic understanding of these two important sleep mechanisms, let's explore the possible reasons behind this sleepless phenomenon.

Common Causes of Sleeplessness Despite Fatigue

1. Poor Sleep Hygiene

Poor sleep hygiene refers to habits that negatively impact the quality and quantity of our sleep. Some examples include:

Ill-timed light exposure

Our biological clock through millions of years of evolution is closely tied to the day and night cycle of the planet we live on. A continuous cycle of working in the daytime and resting at night, 'sunlight' is one of the notable signals to remind us that it is time to sleep/get up. The blue light, which is emitted from the sun naturally causes our body to wake up from rest state. A lack of light, which is our night time causes the body to go into rest mode by triggering the release of melatonin in the brain, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep.

Blue light devices before bed

It is generally believed that modern sleep disorders are caused by technology. Try to reason it out, it seems that there are few anecdotes or stories of insomnia that we've heard before. Along with the rise in sleep issues brought on by mental and psychological diseases as a result of excessive modern stress and competitiveness. Another main reason is that most of us are addicted to blue light devices. As we mentioned above, our body adheres to the diurnal pattern, light exposure undoubtedly affects sleep. The production of hormones that can induce sleepiness can be suppressed and reduced as a result of the blue light.

Day napping

Day napping

Research has shown that a short nap in the afternoon can improve cognitive performance in a lab setting. However, the length of your nap as well as the time you take it should be well considered. It could be more difficult to fall asleep at night if you snooze in the late afternoon after 3 p.m. or the nap lasts for over an hour. According to studies, taking naps that last longer than 30 minutes can leave you feeling sleepier and more exhausted than you were before. To avoid being groggier, set your alarm for 10 minutes, ensuring you wake up from your nap no later than 3 p.m as well. If you believe that 10-minute naps are insufficient, consider putting on an eye mask and earplugs to facilitate your sleep.

2. Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders, often known as sleep-wake disorders, affect the quantity, timing, and quality of sleep, causing daytime misery and functional impairment.

Insomnia

Insomnia

Insomnia is defined by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders as "difficulty in either initiating sleep, maintaining sleep continuity, or poor sleep quality." A poll by the National Sleep Foundation 2023 shows that insomnia is something closely related to mental health, with many people who are dissatisfied with their sleep often experiencing mild or severe depressive symptoms. People who have better physical and mental health combined with lower stress levels usually have better sleep quality.

When we look at insomnia in greater depth, it is a telltale sign that we are overlooking psychological issues and that the problems behind the scenes need to be addressed. Here are some potential mental factors that affect sleep.

  • Sense of Security & Anxiety. How secure you feel in a given environment can affect how well you sleep. Some people with insomnia are often in a constant state of alertness, due to an inability to relax or anxiety caused by a perception of possible danger. It is very difficult to sleep if you are afraid of your environment or do not feel safe. The immediate solution to this would be to lock your doors and take action before bed that eases the anxiety of the sleeper. However, should this become an impediment to daily living then it is best to consult a mental care professional. A combination of therapy or possible medication can help address these issues.
  • Obsession with “perfection”. Recent research suggests that perfectionist personality tendencies may affect sleep, and that perfectionist-style worry (centered on concerns about imperfection) and sleep deprivation are closely related. In short, you may be more prone to sleeplessness if you are a perfectionist, prone to obsessing about the negatives and judging yourself.

Obstructive sleep apnea

'Sleep apnea' is a disorder, in which the relaxed muscles of the sleeper blocks the airway resulting in loud snoring and restricted breathing. However, snoring alone does not necessarily mean that you have OSA. Other symptoms include waking up feeling tired despite a full night's sleep, waking up with a headache, and feeling irritable or moody during the day. 

When you have OSA your body has to work harder to breathe when your airway is closed. You may unconsciously wake you up several times throughout the course of the night. The condition has detrimental long-term health effects such as increasing the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and other dangerous illness. The lack of oxygen strains the heart and could cause bodily inflammation.

It is recommended that should you experience the symptoms mentioned or if your partner notices your sleep issues to go see a health professional. The solution could be as easy as changing your diet and being more healthy or medical solutions that could correct these problems.

3. Diet

Believe it or not, your diet can affect the quality of your sleep. What you intake and when it was consumed could affect a combination of sleep latency, digestive comfort, and also your level of alertness. Let's have a look at some of the things that could create issues for your overall sleep hygiene.

Caffeine

Many people consume coffee in the morning and some even have a cup in the evening. It helps to increase your digestion and keeps you awake. However, having too much coffee or drinking it close to your bedtime negatively affects your sleep latency and quality. Caffeine the stimulant that is in coffee keeps you alert and awake. Try to cut down on coffee or drink it at a time that is 6-7 hours away from bedtime to ensure it doesn't affect your sleep.

Alcohol

Most believe that alcohol induces drowsiness, due to its sedative properties, alcohol helps you to fall asleep at the onset, but you will experience frequent disruption during sleep cycles. The enzymes of the liver have to work hard to metabolize the alcohol during your sleep, and your liver is taxed throughout the process. The general feeling of nausea or discomfort when consumed in large quantities can lead to uncomfortable to dangerous circumstances. Try not to drink too much if your goal is to ensure a good night's rest.

Medications

Should you experience side effects of prescription medication, such as sleep pills, cold and flu medicine, or psychotropic drugs, which can trigger problems getting to sleep? The effect of drugs is not to be underestimated, and if your sleep has been negatively affected because of medical therapy, it is necessary to consult your healthcare professional to see if it can improve or find another means of treating underlying illnesses.

4. Stress and Anxiety

Day-to-day life can be filled with pressure and tension, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Stress causes anxiety, and depression, and even impacts the release of hormones like melatonin. You could do some activities during your downtime to alleviate stress from exercising, meditation, and more. The key is to find something that can help relax and bring down stress levels. If finding a solution yourself is not possible, seeking professional help might be a viable method to manage stress and anxiety.

5. Hormonal Factors

Hormones play a great part in affecting sleep. As we mentioned throughout this article sleep is influenced by melatonin, which rises when night approaches to promote better sleep. There are other hormones that also impact sleep such as estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones can affect sleep through night sweats and mood swings. If you are experiencing such issues, it is best to consult a medical professional to diagnose whether your sleep issues are hormonal or whether medication is required to correct the issues.

Perhaps Your Fatigue is Not Really Tiredness

Perhaps Your Fatigue is Not Really Tiredness

In addition to the above, feeling “fatigued” need to pay attention to, this is your body issuing a signal. Fatigue can be categorized into two types: short-term or acute fatigue and chronic fatigue:

Short-term or acute fatigue generally lasts for 2 weeks, the symptoms of fatigue will disappear after sufficient sleep or workout, or stress relief. However, chronic fatigue is one kind of chronic disease, and there is a great correlation with different diseases, which cannot be relieved by rest alone. Chronic fatigue typically refers to a kind of body that appears for a long time (more than 6 consecutive months) for unknown reasons to feel extreme physical fatigue or discomfort, related to chronic physical exhaustion, mental stress, and irregular lifestyle.

What is the general manifestation of chronic fatigue?

  • Normally, fatigue shouldn’t show up if activity levels are low and activity times are brief.
  • Frequently accompanied by additional symptoms like low fever, considerable impairment in short-term memory or attention, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or axilla, myalgia, multiple joint pain without redness or swelling, a headache that becomes worse, loss of appetite, or hyperactivity, etc.
  • The degree of fatigue is more intense, and also slow to eliminate, as well as difficult to get rid of even after rest. It manifests as a major loss in work, academic, social, or other activity capacity, among other things.
  • Chronic fatigue endures for at least 6 months.

If you do have the problem of fatigue, please pay attention to it and adjust your mental stress and physical state in time. In a society where sudden death occurs frequently, chronic fatigue syndrome can also be said to be a preparatory force for “overwork death”.

Conclusion

In addition to addressing the specific causes of sleeplessness, there are several general tips you can follow to improve your sleep quality.

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Limit exposure to blue light emitting screens and electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle yoga, to help calm the mind and body before sleep.
  • Consult a healthcare professional about hormone replacement therapy or other treatments for hormonal imbalances.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and maintain a consistent sleep schedule to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Consider lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or exercise, to improve sleep quality.

Feeling exhausted but unable to fall asleep is a typical problem with several potential explanations. You may enhance your sleep quality and general well-being by understanding these variables and putting the right solutions into practice. It is critical to consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and individualized treatment plan if your sleep issues continue or get worse.

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