One of the biggest questions that today’s generation is struggling with is, why can’t my mind stop thinking when I’m trying to sleep, especially at night. Days are easier to spend. They end in a blink. We are surrounded by so many people, distractions, work-related needs, and requirements of the family. We juggle with a number of things on physical, mental, and emotional levels that keep our body and mind occupied. However, everything halts at night. Everything comes to rest at night. We are alone with no distractions around us. The world has quieted and we are left with nothing but our thoughts.
These thoughts may be of various natures. It may be related to something that we have yet to do or something that is worrying us. But, overall, the whole process leads to a huge struggle and one is unable to fall asleep no matter what. We have all been there and faced these situations. In fact, it has become so common that we have almost made peace with the complication.
Surprisingly, this problem surfaces up even when our body is completely exhausted and really needs a good 8-hour sleep. There are also instances when a person has fallen asleep and wakes up in the middle of the night and then finds himself unable to go to sleep again. The serious part about this whole sleep-struggle is that it is not only affecting the middle-aged or older people, but also youngsters and kids. This is certainly not a good sign. In such circumstances, it would be important to take a step back, and instead of forcing ourselves into something, just try to understand what we are doing collectively wrong that is leading to sleep problems on such a bigger level. This doesn’t mean that one rule or one reason would apply to all.
There may be several reasons responsible for the disturbed sleep process and with every person, the reasons can change. Nonetheless, giving a thought and realizing the real factors that result in such health conditions might actually be the only way out. We cannot solve a problem until and unless we investigate its root cause. Same is the case with sleep troubles. Dealing with the problem, one step at a time, would in real prove to be an effective strategy in the long run.
The most common reasons revealed when one tries to question and stop the racing mind while trying to sleep, are stress and anxiety. Regardless of the age, gender, and occupation, from older people to kids, everybody is dealing with a lot of stress.
Stress that leads to poor sleeping patterns may be due to various reasons. For example, an unfinished task may keep the mind restless. It may have happened that we might have made a to-do list for us and for some reason couldn’t touch up all the tasks. In this case, those undone things would revolve in our mind all the time and disturb the sleep.
Many of us develop the habit of having unrealistic expectations from ourselves, over the time. And when we are not able to accomplish things what we planned for the day, because of any particular reason, the disappointments drag our minds into a loop of negative thoughts. This is one of the prime causes which doesn’t let the mind calm down. Apart from overestimating our capacity to deal with life and its various facets, procrastination is also highly responsible for our restlessness at night.
When we procrastinate, we put on hold the most urgent and non-urgent businesses that call for our attention. Consciously, we may become successful at ignoring the thoughts about things we have procrastinated, but our subconscious mind records it. When we are trying to fall asleep, the lucid thought-process becomes active and brings forth all those discomforting feelings about not being able to attend the essential tasks.
Having a poor lifestyle also does a lot of damage to our normal circadian cycle. Many of us go to bed very late. We can give a plenty of excuses for that but the truth is our unhealthy choices of actions and irregular routine has badly ruined the natural sleep cycle in the long run. As a result, we find ourselves in a constant battle of keeping our mind quiet and just falling asleep. Nonetheless, it is not particularly about going to bed early. People who are in bed may still keep staring at their phone screen, for internet browsing, texting, paying bills, or watching some videos.
Excessive Screen Time
Greater screen time dries up the eyes, lowers the blinking rate, and activates those parts of the brain which were supposed to be relaxed at night. A poor sleep pattern is just a reflection of those processes. Binge watching the late night episodes, sitting in front of the TV for too long also does the same to our body and mind. Even after switching off the TV or phone, it is not so that the brain would shut off instantly. The effects, conversations, background music, the brightness levels of the screen all play a certain role. A human brain takes its own time to get into the sleep mode. What type of content has been watched or read about impacts us deep and circulates in the mind, engaging it badly and keeping it awake.
Disturbed Circadian Cycle
Sleeping at the wrong time or taking nap for long hours during the day is also one of the major culprits that can ultimately keep a person awake at night. Taking a long nap at an odd time is a sure shot way to disturb the night’s sleep.
On the other note, less or almost no physical activity can also be considered as a bad influence on our body. Today’s modern lifestyle keeps us glued to the chair or room. There is hardly any need to go out and have some proper physical activities like walking or playing. Most of us live a sedentary life which means we hardly make use of our bodily energy. It becomes obvious for one to remain awake and not fall asleep at night when there is no scope for the body to get tired.
Having said that, dehydration is also a subtle reason which works for all other reasons. Most of us find it tough to relate our water consumption level with our inability to sleep. Sadly, this simple ignorance is a strong enough reason to create havoc in your sleep pattern.
Apart from these direct actions which lead to sleeping problems, there are many other indirect behaviors which leave a negative impact. Such behaviors may include consuming too much caffeine during the day, especially in the later evening hours. Caffeine helps in getting rid of dullness. Having coffee in the later hours would reduce the chances of falling asleep. It triggers the metabolism and pushes the mind to wake up and fall into the involuntary chain of endless thoughts, which is only going to make things worse at night.
A routine where one is constantly having dinner very late has also been seen to spoil the sleep cycle. Normally, the human body needs a gap of at least an hour or two between the last meal of the day and sleep. Immediately going to bed after dinner actually makes one feel heavy and uncomfortable. Consequently, the inability to sleep gives the mind all the opportunities to wonder about many meaningful and meaningless thoughts.
A medical reason for unwanted tossing and turning in bed along with a fidgety mind is that the person might be suffering from insomnia without knowing about it. Insomnia is a clinical condition in which the man/woman becomes incapable of dropping off. In this particular situation, the brain becomes hyperactive and restless. Making strong efforts to snooze go in vain. Thus, the mind experiences a cyclone of thoughts and ideas which leads to staying up all the night.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol significantly damages the peaceful state of the brain. It may appear that consuming alcohol would act as a sedative and calm down the mind, but the result might not be the same. Frequent and too much intake of liquor or other drugs heavily interrupts with our sleep, causing turmoil in the circadian rhythm of the body and decreasing the quality of the sleep.
Wrong Time of Work out
Research also shows that exercising in the evening increases the adrenaline production in the body. That is why one can experience difficulty in falling asleep after working out in the evening. Compared to that, those who work out in the morning fall asleep easily.
No Fixed Routine
Pushing the body into an abrupt and random routine every day is also a big hurdle in the way of sound sleep. When the body doesn’t get rest on a fixed proper time, the mind remains confused and can hardly cope up with the sleep cycle. It becomes very ambiguous for the brain to decide whether it should carry on according to the daily routine or go into the sleep mode.
All in all, over-dependence on technology, unlimited screen time, spending most of the hours in front of the TV, having a poor lifestyle, addiction to alcohol etc may all overstimulate the mind and contribute to a bad sleep experience.
A racing mind which is deprived of sleep is more prone to experience many adverse consequences. Sleep is not just related to relaxing the body. It is essential for the overall well-being of one’s physical and mental health. When a person has a history of inability to sleep, it soon begins to show in the quality of daily activities. Lack of sleep is the biggest hurdle in executing any task. There can be lasting effects which include a series of physical and mental changes.
For example, when somebody feels unable to sleep at night for a long time, he/she would find it quite hard to properly attend his/her daily chores. This may also show in kids and adults in the form of poor concentration. When the mind and body do not get enough sleep, the coordination between them is disturbed, which results in shorter attention span and weak memory.
Stress and Weight Gain
The body may respond in a lethargic way and the person may slowly lose interest in all those things which require his attention. Insufficient sleep has many catastrophic consequences. It contributes to more stress, headache, and loss of appetite. One is also likely to indulge in binge eating and even gain weight.
It is not very hard to imagine the mental and physical state of a person who has been unable to enjoy a sound sleep at night. The person feels exhausted and dull all the time. The serious impacts include facing problems in making important decisions of life, dealing with mood swings, more depression, and absence of motivation to execute the daily tasks that need to be finished.
The physical effects may reflect in speedy hair fall, weight gain, irritation, puffy eyes, weaker eyesight, headache, and restlessness. It has been seen that those who do not take enough sleep exhibit all these physical traits. Honestly, all these symptoms and results are linked to one another. Less sleep means tired body and exhausted mind, which means the body is under constant stress, craving for proper rest but unable to get that. The results of stress are not confined to just appearances. It overhauls the whole internal system such as the secretion of relaxing hormones, secretion of digestive juices, and many other important processes. Acidity is just another response of our body to communicate the need for sufficient rest.
Effects on Kids
The performance of kids is deeply hampered when they are sleep-deprived. They may get pushed back, fail badly at academics and lose interest in the extra-curricular activities. The slow but long-term repercussions involve low confidence, poor grades, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Considering the financial fronts, the seriousness of sleep cycle goes on to the extent of ruining the work-quality. One may face struggles in fulfilling the career demands and consider procrastinating the tasks assigned to him.
Lack of sleep also pushes the person to go deeper into addiction. The addiction may be anything, from alcohol to binge eating or binge-watching the videos. The severe the addiction is, worse becomes the depression level.
Human beings are supposed to take at least 8-10 hours of sleep. There is a reason why sleep has been given extreme priority when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, due to such fast lifestyle and penetration of technologies into our personal space, it has taken a back seat. When one is stuck in the loop of insomnia or general sleeplessness, it looks quite impossible to get out of it. But this is not the case. By following certain strategies, making some important changes in our lifestyle, we can surely regain the key to our healthy and normal sleep cycle.
Minimum Screen Usage
The first and most effective way to deal with sleep struggle is reducing our screen exposure to a minimum possible time. Many experts suggest that one should completely stay away from all the electronic devices such as phones, laptops, television, long before the bedtime. This helps the mind and body to relax and take it as a signal to doze off.
The rule also applies to caffeine consumption. It is recommended to stop having coffee once the lunch is done. Those who are in habit of having some stimulation in order to concentrate on work should opt for healthier versions of beverage like green tea, lemon tea, or hot lemon water, which would not disrupt the circadian cycle.
Setting a Bedtime Ritual
Fixing a time for going to bed is another effective strategy to cope up with sleeplessness. It may be a long-term process, but conditioning the body to sleep at a particular time every day may actually improve the quality of sleep and reduce the struggle. One can also follow a bedtime ritual such as taking a hot shower before bed, cutting off from every form of social networking. Creating a bedtime ritual is something that has to be cultivated over the time. One should not expect an overnight change but things will improve in its own course of time.
More Physical Activity
Kids should especially be allowed a limited time with electronic devices like television and video games. Encouraging the youngsters to indulge in more physical activities would not only help them sleep sound but also build their stamina and positive mindset.
Oh physical levels, it is essential to keep the body hydrated all the time. Our brain becomes restless and hyperactive in quite a distorted way when it is deprived of water. Lukewarm water is not only good for the body but also a great option for relaxing the mind. Increasing the physical activity would also pay-off in the long run. Developing hobbies like playing squash, going regularly for a walk or something as small as taking stairs instead of lift or escalators may improve the sleep magically.
Consider going to bed early. Waking up till the late hours of the night or sleeping late causes many problems. Going to bed in time allows the mind to take its own time and not rush to sleep. A healthier option to deal with sleep problems is reading a book instead of staring at the mobile screen. Looking at the soft white pages does not strain the eyes and has been a proven idea to fall asleep.
Dinner on Time
Try to have the evening meal at least two hours before the bedtime. It would help you feel light and soothing. Jumping into the bed immediately after having the last meal of the day leaves a heavy feeling and even give rise to acidity.
It is not so that technology is all about bad effects, until and unless we put it to some good use. When one is not at all feeling sleepy at night, plugging in the earphones and playing some soft music really helps. There is a countless number of sleep meditations available on the internet. Some are specially made for kids. One can find a unique sleep meditation for every specific reason of sleep problems. These meditations are created after heavy research and are very powerfully effective in erasing insomnia.
Those who are into spirituality may listen to various discourses. The idea is to keep the mind off of any random thoughts. Being mindful of your abrupt thoughts and simply observing them is an age-old technique to prevent oneself from getting into the endless chain of thoughts and yet be able to sleep peacefully.
When suffering from medical conditions like depression and insomnia, it becomes essential to visit a doctor and take proper medications. In such extreme cases, depending solely on self-help remedies may actually worsen the case.
Having a Positive Mindset
One should understand that perfection is just an elusive concept. After a certain limit, it is important to let go of the worry and not think about the unfinished tasks anymore. Life doesn’t always go according to how we planned. Setting unrealistic daily goals and overestimating our capacity to handle the daily chores would only make things difficult for us and create further stress. Having a positive mindset, not worrying about things that we cannot control is an important aspect of our peace. These are the things that really affect our sleep quality.
Working only on superficial levels and ignoring the issues lying in the core of the problem would do no good to us. Mindset plays an important role. Having a positive outlook towards life, accepting the life with its challenges and uncertainty makes us strong and realistic. Physical changes along with the change in our behaviors and way of thinking are highly essential. Whenever all the aspects of our way of living coordinate well with each other, only then we can overcome the struggles like sleeplessness. By following a healthy routine and being careful with our lifestyle we can surely get hold of our sleep cycle and enjoy the bliss of restful nights.