Why Can’t I Sleep? Here Are 15 Surprising Causes



“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” — Irish Proverb.

Oh, dear sleep, thou art so lovely. The number of health conditions caused by poor sleep is endless.

Topping the list are obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But we can control our sleep quality. Simply go to bed early and sleep the night away. 

But, even then one we feel tired. One might ask why? If we cannot sleep at night or feel fresh in the morning, or if we wake up in the middle of the night, it could be due to some underlying problem. 

Causes Of Poor Sleep Quality:

A normal sleep cycle consists of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and 4 non-REM (NREM) sleep stages numerous times a night. NREM Stage 1 is the lightest while NREM Stage 4 is the deepest.
We do not face these stages and sleep cycles when our sleep is repeatedly interrupted.
This, in turn, makes us feel tired and sleepy or makes it difficult to concentrate and focus while we are awake. Here are 15 surprising causes why you have trouble falling asleep.

Insomnia Caused By Blue-Light:

Time and again, you must have heard not to use phones and tablets an hour or so before going to bed. Our devices emit a blue light that suppresses a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. 

According to Karl Doghramji, M.D., director of the Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center in Philadelphia, glaring at any screen even three to four hours earlier than our bedtime is enough to delay melatonin production. 

He recommends investing in a pair of anti-blue ray glasses available online and in stores. With their help, one will not have problems winding down with the usage of devices before bedtime. 

Caffeine Induced Insomnia:

Intuitively, drinking coffee as your afternoon pickup will interfere with your sleep later. 

“People often have no idea that they’re consuming caffeine in other forms, like iced tea or chocolate,” says Beth Ann Malow, M.D. 

Each one of us metabolizes caffeine at a different rate. Thus it is recommended to cut off caffeine after lunch or 3 PM to fall asleep easier. 

Insomnia Due To Napping:

Most adults do not nap voluntarily. Rather they fall asleep when not busy, reading or watching TV. Either way, our brains process it as sleep. 

The most common time people feel like taking a nap is around 2 or 3 in the afternoon as our energy levels dip.

Thus, taking a nap around that time might prevent us from sleeping at night and trigger insomnia. This is because we might not feel tired then and spend hours staring at the ceiling or our phones.  If your energy levels take a dip during the afternoon, try doing something active. It will help you feel refreshed and get better sleep — making it a double bang for your buck. 

Anxiety Insomnia:

There are times where we may find our mind spinning with worry while we try to sleep at night. This is known as “anxiety insomnia.” 

In this case, your goal should not be to stop worrying by staring at your phone or jotting down your thoughts. Rather it should be to find the root cause of your worries. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can help you deal with anxiety insomnia.

A therapist or sleep specialist trained in CBT-I or applications is your safest bet. We recommend using them throughout the day to get a good night’s rest and not just at 3 AM.  If you feel you do not need to use these applications at night, make sure to put your phone away, so the light does not interfere with your sleep.

Insomnia Induced By Alcohol:

Yep, enjoying a glass of your favorite vino can make it easier to fall asleep. However, research shows that drinking wine also causes a rebound effect that causes lighter and more fragmented sleep.  It can also decrease sleep quality making you feel less refreshed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding drinking three to four hours before bedtime.

Free Wheeling Insomnia:

Often older adults feel that they are under a lot of stress. It increases their chance of their sleep schedules going out of the window. That’s why maintaining healthy sleep habits is recommended to beat chronic insomnia. 

Bed Confusion Insomnia:

Reading before sleeping sounds like quite a relaxing activity. But we recommend that you take your book to your chair. Calm activities such as puzzles or an adult coloring book cause our brain to associate the bed with activities one pursues while awake. It affects your ability to drift off at night.

Menopausal Insomnia:

Declining estrogen can lead to many sleep problems, including hot flashes in the middle of the night. The latest research indicates that about a quarter of women with menopause have severe sleep issues.  Try drinking more water during the daytime and stay as cool as possible to avoid heat flashes during the night.

Insomnia Caused By Medicines:

Did you know that our sleep can also be disturbed by the poor timing of our medications? For example, blood pressure medicines or diuretics can make one pee a lot, thus disturbing sleep. 

More than two bathroom breaks while sleeping is abnormal. Other medications such as SSRIs or antidepressants can either be sedating or energizing, depending on the type you are on. Make sure to ask your doctor the best time to take your medications to not interfere with your sleep.

Medical Insomnia:

“Insomnia is both a symptom and a disease,” says Nathaniel Watson, M.D, advisory board member of SleepScore Labs. If improving your sleep hygiene by sticking to a sleep schedule and avoiding afternoon caffeine hasn’t worked, your chronic insomnia could be a disease or symptom.


Nightmares refer to terrifying dreams that may arise during REM sleep. These can either be caused by anxiety, stress, or some drugs. 

Circadian Rhythm Disorder:

It is typical for people to sleep at night. Thanks to regular 9 to 5s and our “internal clock,” the interaction between our natural sleep and alertness rhythms. 

This clock, also called circadian rhythm, refers to a small part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. It is situated just above the nerves at the back of our eyes. Light and exercise can reset the clock.  Sleep disorders related to this “clock” are known as circadian rhythm disorders. These include jet lag, adjustments to shift work, delayed sleep phase syndrome, advanced sleep phase syndrome.

Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea refers to the complete or partial blockage that occurs while sleeping, making you wake up. It causes excessive daytime sleepiness. 

Severe sleep apnea, if left untreated, may be associated with high blood pressure, thus increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. 


Excessive daytime sleepiness may be due to a brain disorder called narcolepsy. Narcolepsy has a genetic component, but most patients have no family history. 

Dramatic and uncontrollable “sleep attacks” are distinctive features of narcolepsy. But most patients do not have recurring sleep attacks. Rather they experience constant daytime sleepiness.

Restless Legs Syndrome:

There are many reasons why someone suffers from restless legs syndrome. These include kidney failure, vitamin and iron deficiencies, nerve disorders, pregnancy, and medications such as antidepressants. 

Recent studies show a strong genetic link. Scientists have isolated a gene responsible for at least 40% of all cases.  Restless leg syndrome also causes poor quality sleep as the body and mind cannot relax in the long run.

The Takeaway:

Although sleep disorders are not deadly, they severely affect your quality of life. Poor quality sleep can disrupt not only your thinking, school/work performance, mental health, weight, and general health too. 
Common sleep disorders like narcolepsy, chronic insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea result in poor quality sleep that negatively affects our ability to perform our best. 
Do not hesitate to see a sleep specialist if you struggle with sleep problems. Therefore, our health and quality of life depend on the quality of sleep. We recommend practicing good sleep hygiene and properly following your healthcare provider’s instructions.