why can't i sleep at night even when i'm tired

Why can't I sleep even though I'm tired? Improve sleep quality with meditation

Have you ever found yourself tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep even though you're exhausted

You're not alone. Many people (as many as 50-70 million Americans alone) struggle with sleep problems, whether it's difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early.

But getting good sleep benefits every area of your life, so let's explore some of the reasons why you might be having trouble sleeping and offer tips and strategies for getting the rest you deserve.

How sleep impacts your mood

Imagine your body and mind like a cell phone. When you charge it properly (with sleep), it works great. But when you forget to charge it or don't charge it for long enough, it starts acting up or just stops functioning altogether. That's kind of how sleep works for your body and mind!

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, getting enough sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. When you're well-rested, you're more likely to feel alert, focused, and in a good mood. On the other hand, when you're sleep-deprived, you're more likely to feel irritable, anxious, and depressed. 

What’s more, a lack of sleep can also affect your ability to make decisions, solve problems, and cope with stress.

The first step to overcoming your sleep problems? Identifying the root cause. Don’t worry—we’ll help you figure that out next. 

5 reasons why you can't fall asleep

There are many factors that can contribute to sleep problems. Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Bedtime habits: Your sleep habits can have a big impact on your ability to fall asleep. If you're staying up late, eating heavy meals before bed, or engaging in stimulating activities like watching TV or using electronic devices, it can be harder to wind down and relax.
  2. Circadian rhythm: Your body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, plays a key role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. If you're working shift work, experiencing jet lag after traveling across time zones, or otherwise disrupting your natural sleep schedule, it can throw off your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep.
  3. Caffeine: Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Even if you're not a heavy coffee drinker, caffeine can be found in many other foods and drinks, including tea, chocolate, and soda.
  4. Stress: Feeling stressed or anxious can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep. If you're dealing with a lot of stress in your life, it's important to find healthy ways to manage it.
  5. Anxiety or worry: If you're prone to anxiety or worry, it can be hard to quiet your mind and fall asleep. Learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation can be helpful.

Do any of these factors affect you? 

What to do when you want to sleep but your body won't let you

Now that you’ve identified some possible reasons why you’ve been experiencing sleep issues, it’s time to focus on what you can do to help yourself relax and drift off when your body won’t let you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Focus on breathing: Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm your mind and relax your body.
  • Make a to-do list: If you're feeling anxious about all the things you need to do, writing them down can help you feel more organized and in control.
  • Read a book: Reading a book can be a great way to unwind and distract your mind from racing thoughts.
  • Listen to a podcast: Listening to a calming podcast or audiobook can be a great way to relax and drift off to sleep.
  • Try counting backward: Counting backward from 100 can be a simple but effective way to quiet your mind and fall asleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark: A cool and dark sleep environment can promote restful sleep. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light.
  • Avoid screens before bed: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with your body's natural production of sleep hormones. Try to avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed.
  • Create a bedtime routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can signal to your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This could include taking a warm bath or shower, practicing relaxation techniques, or listening to calming music.
  • Try a guided meditation for sleep: There are many guided meditations available online that are specifically designed to help you fall asleep. (We love the Balance app.) 

Improve sleep quality with meditation for beginners

Like we mentioned in the beginning: Everyone has struggled with sleep problems. Even expert meditation coaches! 

If you’re looking for more advice, here’s what Leah Santa-Cruz, one of the Balance app’s meditation coaches, does when she can’t sleep:

When I can't sleep, I do a body scan meditation from head to toe, imagining each part relaxing and falling asleep as I go. And if I'm still not asleep by the time I finish, I run through beautiful scenes in nature and natural wonders of the world in my mind, similar to what you'd do in the Dream Scenes meditation in the Balance app. In fact, this was designed based on a practice I've been doing for myself to help me fall asleep since I was a little girl. 

Want to check out the Dream Scenes meditation for yourself tonight? Download the Balance app for free on iOS or Android.

When to see a doctor to improve sleep quality

If you're experiencing persistent sleep difficulties, here are some signs that you may need to see a doctor:

  • You've been consistently struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep for several weeks or more.
  • Your sleep problems are affecting your ability to function during the day, such as causing excessive fatigue or impaired cognitive function.
  • You have other symptoms that may be related to your sleep problems, such as snoring, sleep apnea, gasping for air during sleep, or leg movements that disrupt your sleep.
  • You have a pre-existing medical condition that may be contributing to your sleep problems, such as depression, anxiety, or chronic pain.

When you see a doctor for sleep problems, they will likely start by asking you about your symptoms and sleep habits. They may also recommend a physical exam and possibly some tests to rule out any underlying health conditions, sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and other factors.

Depending on the nature and severity of your sleep problems, your doctor may recommend various treatment options. These could include lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep hygiene or increasing exercise, medications, or other therapies to address underlying health conditions.

Remember that getting adequate rest is essential for physical and mental health, so don't hesitate to seek medical help. There are many effective treatments available that can help improve your sleep and quality of life.

Improve sleep with meditation using the Balance App

By understanding some of the common reasons why you might be having trouble sleeping, and trying out some of the tips and strategies we've outlined here, you can improve your sleep habits and get the rest you need to feel your best. 

If you're looking for a free tool to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, the Balance app—available on iOS and Android and completely free for your entire first year—might be just what you need. With a variety of guided meditations, sleep sounds, color noises, and other features designed to help you relax and unwind, the app can help you regulate your sleep-wake cycle and improve your physical and mental health conditions over the long term.

So why not give yourself the gift of better sleep and try it tonight? Your (well-rested) future self will thank you. 


The importance of establishing an evening routine for improving sleep quality

  • Learn what sleep science has to say about the benefits of evening routines.

Build a relaxing bedtime with our sleep bingo board

  • Learn how to create a new and relaxing bedtime routine with ideas from our Sleep Bingo Board. 

How to improve your sleep and well-being with meditation for sleep

  • Discover how to use meditation to improve your sleep and overall well-being.

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