Having Some Trouble Sleeping at Night?

As a young adult, life can become quite busy. Whether it is chores, school, work, or just personal matters, we try our best to take care of those things so that we can ultimately relax by the end of the day. As the end of the day draws near, we are ready to jump into bed to finally sleep. But as tired as we may feel, sometimes falling asleep just does not seem to be possible.

Half an hour, an hour, two hours have gone by…yet we sometimes find ourselves just laying in bed in the middle of the night and starting to feel stressed out about not being able to sleep. Why does this sometimes happen? Or perhaps it has been an ongoing thing? Are there things that we could be doing that may be affecting our ability to sleep? In fact, there are a couple of things that we may be doing that impacts our ability to sleep and we may be unaware of it.

What May be Affecting Our Ability to Sleep?

  • You Could Be Using Your Phone (or Other Electronic) in Bed

Our phones/electronics are so high-tech nowadays and we do practically everything on it. We use the latest applications that help us prepare for school, be more productive at work, find out the latest news, watch the latest movies, and so much more. But with so much to do and by doing them at night right before bed, it may be just the thing that is causing us to have difficulty falling asleep. Our minds can be quite active during this time which prevents us from calming ourselves enough to fall asleep.

In addition, those gadgets tend to emit a certain type of wavelength of light known as “blue light”. There are many wavelengths of light and blue light happens to have a strong effect in activating your sleep-wake system. This is similar to walking outside on a bright sunny day. When exposed to this time of light, our minds are tricked into thinking it is day time and it is time to be awake, NOT sleepy. In other words, if you are exposed to blue light all day, then it is as if night does not exist.

  • You Could Be Having Too Many Thoughts About the Future/Past

We all make mistakes here and there, and there just some things that we can’t change in the past. It is best to just take what went wrong as a learning experience and prevent it from happening again. After all, this is how grow to become stronger individuals. In addition, we may sometimes feel anxious at times such as when we have an important event the very next day. Even if we plan things in great detail for tomorrow, it is not guaranteed that it will go according to plan and there may be unexpected events that can occur.

  • You Might Have Exercised Too Late

When we exercise, our bodies release various chemicals in our body like adrenaline. This is the same chemical that is released if you are chased by a lion or when you are about to confront someone, a fight-or-flight response. It can take several hours for those chemicals to disappear. Our bodies will not be relaxed quickly enough to shift into the sleeping state.

  • You Probably Took Too Many Naps Throughout the Day (Or Too Close to Bedtime)

Naps are highly beneficial for a quick recharge of our bodies. They allow our bodies to function for another few more hours. They say naps should last about 10 to 20 minutes. Any less and you will not feel recharged. Any more and that nap has turned into “sleep”. Except you probably will not be getting a 6-8 hour nap, so it is “incomplete sleep” so it may leave you feeling more tired. Try to avoid napping later at night when you are about to go to bed.

  • You Might Have Taken Caffeine in Some Form

Caffeine is a stimulant that helps to keep us alert and awake which is essential for concentration. This is good during the day while at work or in school where focus is needed. However, this may not help if you want to relax your mind in time for bed. Caffeine can exist in coffee, sodas, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate.

Some Strategies to Help With Sleeping

There are many strategies for you to try that can help with sleeping. Please note that they are only suggestions and will NOT guarantee that sleeping can occur.

  • Develop a more routine sleeping schedule
  • Develop a regular exercise regimen, but NOT too close to bedtime
  • Sleep in a low-lit (preferably dark), quiet location
  • Avoid using electronics (phone, laptop, computer, TV, etc) before going to bed
  • If not possible to avoid electronics, use the night mode function (where the screen emits a dim warm orange color)
  • You can have soft, relaxing music (no lyrics) or just sounds of nature (bells, beach waves, rain drops, etc) playing in low volume
  • Reminding yourself to focus on the present (the sleep), let the stresses of yesterday be in the past, and let the worries of tomorrow come tomorrow
  • Avoid consuming substances that contain caffeine at night (coffee, sodas, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate)

Tools That Can Help

Melatonin

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Despite all the methods mentioned above, we may sometimes have to resort to various substances. A safe supplement that can help when you have difficulty sleeping is called Melatonin. It is the same natural chemical that our bodies produce that helps with regulating our sleep-wake cycle. It is over-the-counter and can be purchased without a prescription. Here is a gummy brand of Melatonin.

During the day, this chemical is minimal but at night it is produced in higher amounts which in turn helps with sleep. It is when our minds is too active at night that Melatonin is not produced in correct amounts that we have a difficult time with sleeping. Dosage wise can vary from person to person, but as always, start with the lowest dose for a couple weeks. If it still does not help, you can probably try 2 tablets for another couple weeks. Try to avoid taking anymore than 20 mg. The 30 mg range can be harmful. If you are not sure, you can check with your physician.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

If by chance that Melatonin does not help, it could be that you’ve been undergoing a lot of stress, anxiety, and have racing thoughts and THAT is overpowering the effects that Melatonin has on you. In this instance, you can probably try another supplement called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP for short. 5-HTP helps induce the production of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone which helps you relax and ultimately sleep!

In addition to insomnia (difficulty sleeping), 5-HTP can also help with depression and anxiety which will help in alleviating some of the racing thoughts and stress as well. This should ultimately calm you enough to help you with your sleep. Again, always start with the lowest dose and avoid going more than 300 mg. DO NOT take this if you are already taking other antidepressants like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) or Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI). Taking 5-HTP simultaneously with SSRI’s and MAOI’s will lead you to overproduce serotonin which can be fatal.

  • SSRI Drugs: Citalopram, Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Sertraline (All generic brands)
  • MAOI Drugs: Isocarboxazid, Phenelzine, Selegiline, Tranylcypromine (All generic brands)

Again, if you are not sure with what to take and what dose, ALWAYS check with your physician.

Recommendations

If you find that these supplements are working for you, you may want to try tapering off them by a smaller dose every few weeks (2-3) to see if you can still sleep without it. This will help train you to not be reliant on substances. For Melatonin, if taking 10 mg, maybe reduce to 5 mg. For 5-HTP, if taking 200 mg, try reducing to 100 mg. Always think in halves. If you purchased non-extended release, sustained released, etc. versions of these supplements, you can cut them in half.

Summary

Sleeping is highly essential to a healthy lifestyle. However, some of our daily habits (especially before bed) can interfere with our internal clock. There are many strategies to help regulate our sleeping patterns and even tools/supplements like Melatonin or 5-HTP. In the worse case scenario where none of the above seem to work, it may actually be time to see your primary care doctor. But other than that, please enjoy your sleep!

Do you still have trouble sleeping even with these tips? Perhaps it could be your bed that is creating issues.

Did you enjoy this article? Please leave a comment below!

20 thoughts on “Having Some Trouble Sleeping at Night?”

  1. These are wyiote good tips for me to use since I usually have some unwanted insomnia sometimes. I think sometimes things like this are part of our own fault and we need to learn to a program ourselves to make sure we can have a good night rest. The benefits of sleeping well cannot be over emphasized. This is good information.

    Reply
    • Hello Jamie! I am happy to hear that this article was able to provide you with good tips. It is really true that the benefits of sleeping well cannot be over emphasized. It definitely takes a certain level of self discipline to change our habits that lead to poor sleep. 

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  2. Thank you so much for presenting these to me and to those out there who will definitely take great benefit from the strategies you have thoroughly outlined here on this very article. I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping and I don’t want to have to take medications or melatonin to sleep so this website has been very helpful for me with this article. thank you so much

    Reply
    • Hi Misael! You are welcome, I am happy to hear that these strategies will be put to good use. There was a point where I had a lot of trouble sleeping too and it was during midterms/finals week in school. I was also someone who wanted to avoid taking medications due to fear of being reliant on it. My main reason for not sleeping well was using too much cell phone before bed and receiving too much exposure to blue light. Who knew my sleeping issue solution was as simple as reducing cell phone usage at night?

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  3. Mike, this is a useful strategy for sleep. Health experts have done a lot of research on sleep; still, in this article, you’ve something new to offer your readers.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hello Sarah! Thank you for your comment! It’s true that health experts have done a lot of research and I am sure there is more that is ongoing. While the information and findings may be available in many places, many people may still be unaware of the available methods to help with improving their sleep. I am hoping that this article (out of many) can reach out to those with trouble sleeping 🙂

      Reply
  4. Timely article, the reason I couldn’t sleep is because of the overthinking i tend to do and I just can’t help it. Like what if I work harder tomorrow, can I reach my goal? Am I doing enough to day as per my productivity goal? You’re definitely right that understanding and accepting that it will not affect us long term is the way to go. Hope I can sleep better tonight 🙂

    Reply
    • Hello there, Riaz! Ahh, overthinking is sometimes really hard to avoid (I am a victim of that too). I think something to keep in mind is whenever you don’t reach the goals you set for that particular day, know that tomorrow is another day to retry again. If you find yourself consistently not meeting the goals you establish, perhaps you can try taking that goal and breaking it into more manageable chunks. By being able to meet those smaller goals consistently, it will give you more confidence to take on the challenge of bigger goals. For example, instead of making a goal to work harder tomorrow, try doing a little more of A or B for that particular workday. Once you are able to do A and B with ease, add goal C. With time, you will eventually be able to reach your overall goals and find comfort which in turn, will help with your sleep.

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  5. Some great tips, here. I think we all need reminders on things we can do to sleep better, The pandemic has certainly taken a toll on some of our usual routines. I think for many the worries and thoughts surrounding that keep them from sleeping soundly. I’ve known many who have benefited from melatonin, which is naturally occurring anyway, making it a safer alternative to other pills.

    Reply
    • Hello Marsha! Thank you for your comment! The pandemic has affected quite many unfortunately. Although there may have been some unfortunate things that have happened, I think if we take the time to really reflect back on the year, there were some good things that happened too. Examples can be more time spent with family, extra time off from work to take things slower (and de-stress), learning new skills like cooking, etc. If we can take the time to appreciate the good that has happened, that might even help aid with sleeping too!

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  6. Very helpful article that will help everyone that’s has sleeping difficulty. This is also timely intervention for a friend who recently complained of having difficulty in bed. I will share your guide and tips for having good sleep with her and possibly share your article with her to learn more. thank you ever more

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  7. A few years ago I had lots of trouble sleeping, which was due to high amounts of stress, but luckily I got over that and now I am a happy sleeper again. Sleep is so important. Worrying before going to bed doesn’t help at all. When there are certain concerns, you should address them a few hours before going to bed but not when you’re about to sleep. This is basically what I do when there is something I need to mull over. It is relegated to the day time.
    This was a very informative post, and I think that especially now in these times when many are going through financial hardships, worry is on most people’s minds … and sleep is likely affected because of it …

    Reply
    • Hi there, Christine! You are right that worrying before bed will not help at all, even if one plans everything in detail for a certain worry, the day has already ended and there’s not much to be done, and the body needs rest. Even if it was a great plan, one might forget some of the details by the time they wake up. It would be better to save all that effort in planning for the next morning, have the energy to actually take care of it, and be productive.

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  8. Yes!  I do have trouble sleeping at night.  This article was written for me.  Thank you.  The advice on not using your phone in bed is so very true.  How do you stop doing that though? It requires quite a lot of discipline! Late exercise and a busy mind are also factors.  I generally only exercise in the morning for precisely that reason. I do have a tendency to fall asleep watching a film at night, I thought that was actually a good thing to do.  But you suggest this is not the case.  Thank you for that.  Noted. Good sleep is indeed essential to our health.  I really appreciate the advice you have offered here.

    Reply
    • Hi there, Trevor! I agree, not using the phone before bed can be quite difficult and take discipline. Of course, if you still really need to use it, there is that night mode with the orange tinting function to reduce the blue light from keeping you up. I am happy to hear you found these tips helpful!

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  9. I hate it when I can’t sleep.  I wake up and then toss and turn for the rest of the night.  I have never tried melatonin or 5-Hydroxytryptophan but I think I will give it a try!  Is this something I can take in the middle of the night when I wake up or do I have to take it before I go to bed?  

    Reply
    • Hi there, Cynthia! It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for Melatonin to take effect so that might be about the time you should take it at before you sleep. It’s about the same time for 5-HTP as well.

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  10. Now that I am retired, I am sleeping much better because I don’t have work on my mind.  I found your article really informative.  I do tend to look at my emails and texts just before going to bed so my mind often races for awhile.  I am going to try to cut that out.  Also, I have found that the type of TV show I watch just prior to going to bed get affect my going to sleep.  I don’t think I am at the point that I need supplements,but I do need to make some adjustments based on your article.  Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hello there! I am glad to hear that you retired and are able to be less stressed. Glad to hear that you found this article helpful to improve your sleeping patterns!

      Reply

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