If you regularly wake up feeling exhausted or barely having slept at all you may be wondering just why it is that you don’t sleep well. We can all take a few nights of sleep disruption and apart from a few grumps or irritations, we will generally function as normal, but when sleep is disrupted over a longer period of time, it’s time to take action.
If you find yourself asking the question ‘Why don’t I sleep well?’ – rather than just accepting you’re somebody who can’t get a good night’s sleep, doctors and well-being practitioners encourage you to find the reason behind prolonged sleep disruption as that is the only way to tackle the problem, prevent on-going side effects associated with sleep deprivation, and get you sleeping soundly once and for all. This article will help you seek those answers.
Why Don’t I Sleep Well?
People who don’t sleep well can generally be found to be experiencing one or more of the following common sleep disruptors:
- Anxiety caused by short or long term stress such as work, lillness, family matters or bereavement
- Sleep routine disruption
- Disturbed sleeping environments
- Unknown sleeping habits such as snoring,
- Underlying health conditions or pain
The older we get, the harder it becomes to fall asleep and stay asleep, and although our sleep patterns change, our need for sleep doesn’t. Just like diet and exercise, a good night’s sleep is essential for your good health, for keeping you alert and energetic, and for building your body’s defenses against infection, chronic illness, and even heart disease.
If you think that any of the reasons outlined above could be the reason you don’t sleep well, read on to find out more about each and how you can address them in order to get back to enjoying the benefits of a regular good night’s sleep.
What is sleep
We all have a vague notion of what sleep is but what really happens when we close our eyes at night?
According to the Principles and practice of sleep medicine, sleep is a reversible behavioural state of perceptual disengagement from and unresponsiveness to the environment and normal human sleep comprising of two states—rapid eye movement (REM) and non–REM (NREM) sleep— that alternate cyclically across a sleep episode.
To you and me, that means that sleep is a state of consciousness made up of REM, the state of sleep categorised with active dreaming and non-REM, dreamless periods of light and deep sleep. These two stages of sleep occur in regular patterns over 3-5 cycles a night.
The National Heart, lung and Blood Institute says: “Your ability to function and feel well while you’re awake depends on whether you’re getting enough total sleep and enough of each type of sleep. It also depends on whether you’re sleeping at a time when your body is prepared and ready to sleep.”
Your Internal Body Clock
We all have an internal ‘body clock’ that controls when we’re awake and when our bodies are ready for sleep. An individual’s internal body clock is based around a 24 hour repeating rhythm called the circadian rhythm. This rhythm affects every cell, tissue and organ in your body.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, are sleeping at times that go against this natural rhythm, or have poor quality sleep, you will feel tired during the day, unrefreshed upon waking up and lack general alertness.
Sleep throughout life
As we age, our sleep patterns change. The older we get, the less time we spend in deep sleep and total sleep time tends to decrease a little to around 6.5-7.5 hours per night and the transition from sleeping to waking up can feel more abrupt leading to older people feeling like they are light sleepers.
Optimum Sleep Conditions
Just as there are optimum conditions for work, sports and activities to take place, we can create optimum conditions for sleep too. What these optimum conditions look like will vary from individual to individual and will be dependent on what you do for a living, your home environment and pressures in your life.
According to the NHS, the most important thing to do for optimum sleeping conditions is to find a routine that works for you and stick to it as often as possible.
Working to ensure you regularly meet as many of these optimum sleep conditions as possible can help the regularity and quality of sleep you enjoy:
- Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine at least 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Avoiding too much mental stimulation before going to bed, i.e violent TV shows or computer games. Instead focus on gentle relaxing and winding down before sleep.
- Try to find and stick to a routine around going to bed and waking up each day – the more regular this is, the easier it will be for your body to recognise cues it is time to sleep.
- Keep the place you sleep free from clutter or other activities such as office work or televisions
- Take regular exercise, but not directly before sleeping
- Ensure the room you sleep in is at a comfortable temperature. Utilise windows, air conditioning, fans, blankets or other temperature regulators to help
Why is sleep important
Getting the right amount of sleep at the right time is important for overall health and wellbeing. The way you feel when you’re awake is largely impacted on what happens when you are asleep. During sleep your body is working to support healthy brain functions and maintain physical health.
What happens to your body when you don’t sleep well
We can all cope with a few nights of disturbed sleep but if this continues long term, sleep deficiency can occur which can lead to many undesirable consequences.
Sleep deficiency is linked to chronic health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression and in a study by The Harvard Business Review, the effects of even moderate sleep deprivation are shown to be comparative to the effects experienced when when intoxicated with alcohol as shown in the graph below.
Lack of sleep can interfere with important aspects of your day to day life including work, school, driving and social functioning. Your focus and reactions are compromised as well as your mood levels, often leading to frustration, irritability or heightened emotional states and it’s worth noting that the signs and symptoms of sleep deficiency can manifest itself differently between children and adults. Children might be overly active, have problems paying attention leading to school performance deterioration.
Who is affected by poor sleep?
People of all ages, genders, ethnicity can be affected by poor sleep but certain groups are likely to be more affected than others including those that;
- Work long hours or do more than one job meaning there is less time for sleep
- Choose to take medicine to stay awake or engaging in alcohol or drug abuse
- Have un-diagnosed or untreated medical problems such as stress, anxiety or sleep disorders
- Have schedules that conflict with their internal body clock such as shift works or first responders.
- Have medical conditions or take medicines that interfere with sleep
What can affect sleep?
Here we outline various reasons why you might not sleep well and you can find remedies to them later in this article.
The environment in which you sleep can play a big part in the quality of sleep you can expect to enjoy. Is your bed comfortable? Does the temperature of the room enable you to sleep? Is there too much light entering the room? Are you disturbed by noises either from technology, neighbours, housemates or family members? By working to ensure the room you sleep in is as conducive to sleep as possible you are taking positive steps to rule out common environmental reasons for why you don’t sleep well.
Those that work long hours of complete shift work may not have a repeatable regular bedtime or sleeping arrangements. Those who travel a lot for work overseas may experience Jet lag and all of these things disturb your natural 24 hours sleep/wake rhythm. Working to find a routine that works for you before you go to bed is important and this includes the foods you eat and activities you enjoy.
If your body and mind are too busy processing your day’s activities and food to relax, it can affect your ability to drop off to sleep. From excess energy due to a lack of exercise, to processing large meals before bed or analysing troubling problems or scenarios that are impacting your life, these can all throw off your ability to fall asleep.
Sleep disorders and Health Conditions
Sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or hypersomnia can affect the quality of sleep as well the need to get up and urinate (nocturia), anxiety, and discomfort or pain from long-term (chronic) illnesses. Health conditions such as the menopause, pregnancy, heartburn, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, kidney disease, mental health problems, neurological disorders, respiratory problems, and thyroid disease can all provide sleep disruption.
In addition, a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications used to treat these and other health problems can impair sleep quality and quantity. If you are concerned about any of these conditions and their impact on your sleep, please do seek advice from your GP in the first instance.
Anxiety & stress
Almost everybody will experience some form of stress or anxiety in their lives. From work stress, family relations, bereavement, illness and financial worries, nobody is immune to the effects of these impacts on our lives. For those that suffer the effects of these things long term, it can lead to anxiety and stress that need medical attention as it has been proven that those suffering from these mental illnesses have trouble falling asleep, enjoying quality sleep and staying asleep. Which can in turn lead to further tension and further sleep loss.
Snoring can be an unexpected sleep disrupter
Snoring can be a cause of disruption to sleep without the sufferer being aware.
We all like to think that we sleep serenely but the truth is over 30 million of us in the UK are big, loud regular snorers and snoring only gets worse as we age. If you’ve ever heard yourself indignantly saying ‘I don’t snore!’ then wonder why you’re so tired, maybe you do but you just don’t know about it.
If you can rule out most of the factors already outlined in this article as the cause of your poor sleep, it might be worth taking a closer look at your sleeping habits and determining if snoring could be the reason that you don’t sleep very well. You may also be interested in, ‘What can I do to Stop Snoring?‘
Here at Snorgo, we specialise in providing cures for snoring so below we will share some information on snoring and how to identify if secret snoring is the reason you could be suffering from lack of shut-eye.
Who Is likely to Snore?
According to the British Snoring And Sleep Apnea Association Both men and women tend to snore more as they grow older. In general, women tend to start snoring during or after the menopause and some women snore only when they are pregnant indicating that hormones play an important role in the cause of snoring. Men are more likely to snore than women with about 40% of adult men being habitual snorers.
How Can I Cure My Snoring?
If you have identified that you are a regular snorer and want to take steps to reducing its impact on your sleep, the good news is that Snoring can be cured. Finding a cure for your snoring will depend on the specific cause of your snoring in the first place and your approach to treating it but as over 75% of testers said their snoring was cured after 6 weeks of regular Snorgo use, we think it’s safe to say that snoring can definitely be cured with Snorgo!
Why Do I Snore?
Snoring occurs when air moves around your nose and throat as you breathe when sleeping. This movement of air causes the relaxed tissues in these areas to vibrate and the snoring sound we are all familiar with is the result. People are prone to snoring when they sleep because this is when our muscles are most relaxed therefore the tongue and airways are more likely to relax or partially collapse, resulting in obstructed airways.
Snorers will tend to have a variety of factors that contribute to increased vibrations in the airways when they sleep including more relaxed tissue than their non-snoring counterparts or narrow or partially blocked airways. You can be born with these physical traits but they can also all be exacerbated by the position we sleep in, how healthy we are or if there are any underlying medical reasons for our snoring. In the case of any of these factors coming into play, airway vibrations are increased as you breathe when asleep resulting in louder, more disruptive snoring.
How Can You Tackle Poor Sleep?
Earlier in this article we outlined factors that are known to affect quality of sleep and here we will provide some ways to alleviate them.
- Remove distractions such as technology including televisions, mobile phones
- Utilise calming lighting
- Find ways to regulate the temperature of the room you sleep in so it is comfortable for you
- Try to establish as regular a routine as you can for sleep including going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day. See this article based on Nobel Prize winning research on the importance of sleeping patterns in general well being.
- Limit the use of electronics an hour before you go to bed and instead focus on relaxation using breathing techniques, gentle yoga or stretching or reading a book.
- If you suffer from any kind of condition that is affecting your sleep or are taking medications that you feel are impairing your sleep quality, always consult with your doctor in the first instance. They will be able to review your medical history and make the best recommendations for you based on the symptoms you are experiencing
- If you have identified Snoring as a cause of poor sleep quality, try proven snoring aids like Snorgo that work to cure snoring completely. Most snoring is completely harmless, apart from being the cause of a few grumpy conversations with those you’re depriving of a peaceful night’s sleep, but loud or particularly disruptive snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. In the case of sleep apnea concerns you should consult your doctor in the first instance but for snoring, you can choose an approach that suits you.
Anxiety & stress
Anxiety and stress can be all consuming affecting every part of your life so we always recommend talking to people as a brilliant coping method when you find yourself dealing with these debilitating conditions. CBT is a talking therapy which helps you change how you think, feel and behave by identifying any negative or unhelpful thinking patterns which can be particularly helpful for those who lie awake analysing and over thinking at night.
Where Can I Find Help With Sleeping?
The cause of your sleep disruption will dictate the best place to seek help with your sleeping habits but we recommend that you always start with you.
You are the best place to start when it comes to getting a better night’s sleep. You know your body better than anybody else so are best placed to identify when you need to take steps to help it function more optimally. You are also in control of your actions meaning you can control how you react or approach problems such as poor sleep and the steps you take to resolve them
Sleep consultants and GPs
For any concerns regarding your body or mental health, consult your GP in the first instance and if necessary they can introduce you to specialist sleep consultants and specialists working in areas of medicine that you need assistance with. You can find a GP local to you here.
Psychologists and counsellors are specially trained to help you address the cause of stress and anxiety in your life and provide coping mechanisms to help you reduce the impact on your day to day life. You can find a therapist local to you here.
Trainers and nutritionists
A healthy lifestyle is critical for a good night’s sleep so if you need a little support in finding exercises that you enjoy or could do with a hand in tackling your approach to food a good personal trainer or nutritionally could be invaluable to you. Find a nutritionist near you or contact your local gym for recommended trainers in your area.
Friends & Family
Your immediate support network is a great place to start if you need assistance in lightening the load in order to help improve sleep. By seeking support with childcare, chores or even just lending an ear to listen, your friends and family can be a superb support system to help you get a good night’s sleep.
We hope this article has given you plenty of food for thought around the possible answers to ‘why don’t I sleep well?’ and help you to pinpoint areas that you could address in your life. Whether you’re dealing with new or long term stress, need to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle, suffer from a sleep disorder or snoring that makes snoozing peacefully difficult, or need to make adjustments to your sleeping environment in order to enjoy more quality sleep, there are plenty of workable ways to make improvements that will help.
If you’re starting your path to a better night’s sleep by tackling snoring, our team at Snorgo can help. Snorgo is a British designed and manufactured snoring aid that has been shown to ease snoring in as little as one week and 75% of testers reported their snoring was cured after 6 weeks!
Snorgo is a small, portable device that is held between your lips to complete 3 sets of 10 second resistance holds, 3 times a day. You can complete the exercises at your leisure throughout the day and will be on your way to curing your snoring for good with just 90 seconds of actual work! That’s less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. View this video to see the simple exercise in action.
Regular Snorgo use strengthens the involuntary muscles around the mouth, nose and throat that are responsible for snoring meaning that you are on your way to tackling the root cause of curing snoring in most people without a nasal strip, chin strap or sleeping mask in sight.
You may also be interested in:
Dr Pete Naylor is the inventor of Snorgo, a patented snoring cure made in the UK recommended by medical doctors.
Wirral CCG Chair 2014 – 2016
General Practitioner (GP) 2000-2017
National Institute for health and Care Excellence National GP representative (Diagnostics) 2012 – 2018
Associate Medical Director ICE Creates 2018 – 2020
Senate Council Member Merseyside 2014 – 2017
Forensic Medical Examiner Merseyside/Wirral 2005 – 2008
Youth Justice Management Board Wirral 2015 – 2017
NHS Doctor 1996 – 2017
GMC registered Doctor 1996 to present
Master of Science in Medical Leadership Birkbeck University and Royal College of Physicians. (Awarded Merit) 2013
OPP Myers Briggs Trainer, 2010. Subsequently also completed Step 2 to further support training
Diploma in Occupational Health, 2006
Diploma in Child Health, 2000
Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery, Sheffield University, 1996
Bachelor of Science, Psychiatric Neurobiology, Sheffield, 1995. Work produced papers on mRNA and Brain Plasticity.
Outstanding Innovative and Inspirational Leader 2013 Northwest Leadership Academy (Given for commissioning work with Wirral Health Commissioning Consortium.)
Vision Award 2012 (National award): Best Long Term Condition Initiative for WHCC
North West Respiratory Best Practice Award 2012: Self Care Award for WHCC
Diploma in Occupational Health – annual award