1. Daytime Naps
Oftentimes, people who feel tired or sleepy during the day decide to take naps to compensate for their lack of sleep, hoping that it will make them feel fresher. The truth is, however, that these daytime naps might be the very thing that disrupts your sleep schedule at night, as a late afternoon nap can disrupt your circadian rhythms and make you feel alert during the night.
This vicious cycle can rapidly snowball into a bad habit, without you ever suspecting that your daytime siesta may be the thing wreaking havoc on your sleep schedule.
2. Using Electronic Devices Before Bed
Let’s face it, most of us are guilty of this one. We like to relax after a long day by scrolling on our phones, reading the news on tablets, watching TV or doing some extra work on the laptop. What most of us don’t know is that all these electronic devices emit blue light, which, to put it simply, signals to our brains that it’s still daytime.
The brain then suppresses melatonin production, which makes us feel alert even though it’s bedtime. That’s why it’s very important to resist the urge to use devices right before bed, especially if you’re having sleep problems. Generally speaking, it’s recommended to stay away from electronics at least 2 hours before you go to bed and keep your devices out of the bedroom.
3. Psychophysiological Insomnia
Anxiety has a sneaky feature: often, it can become dormant when you’re busy doing something, but inadvertently returns when you’re not, like when you’re lying in bed and trying to fall asleep. In fact, anxiety and racing thoughts are the cause of a special kind of sleeplessness called psychophysiological insomnia.
This condition is very dangerous because these abnormal psychological patterns can become habitual very soon, with your mind learning to associate a bed with anxious and racing thoughts. If this is the case for you, it’s important to break this habit by going to bed only once you feel like you’re falling asleep, so that you could re-learn that bed equals sleep, and not anxiety.
4. Stress and Adrenal Problems
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is normally produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress, but it is also crucial for metabolism, immune health, and many other things. Normally, cortisol levels gradually drop in the evening, but when they don’t, higher-than-normal cortisol levels (induced either by stress or adrenal gland dysfunction) can block the effect of melatonin in the body, which will make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night.
Furthermore, chronic stress was even shown to increase melatonin levels during the day, which makes you feel sleepy and tired during the day, but still unable to fall asleep at night because of the high cortisol levels… You get the picture. Luckily, it is easy to measure your cortisol levels through a urine or saliva test, and a hydrocortisone treatment prescribed by your doctor can solve this problem quickly.
5. An Abnormality with your Biological Clock
High cortisol levels at nighttime is only one kind of abnormality in your circadian rhythms, but many people find that it’s natural for their body to be more awake and alert at night and be sleepy during the day. If this is the case for you, you might have something sleep specialists call a delayed sleep phase, and it’s just your body’s natural way of behaving.
While a typical human biological clock is roughly like the one showed in the image above, for people with a delayed sleep phase this clock will be the opposite, with peak activity and alertness being in the evening, and a decrease in sleep and stress hormones happening in the morning instead of the evening.
There isn’t much you can do, in this case, your best bet is to adjust your day schedule to your natural biological clock: be more active at night and sleep during the day, especially if your occupation allows it.
6. A Monotonous Job
With more and more people having sedentary lifestyles and jobs that don’t require any physical activity, it is often the case that we don’t exert our bodies enough to feel sleepy at night. If we combine it with the massive amounts of monotonous intellectual work the same people do day to day, which takes a toll on our mental health and cognitive capacity, it becomes clear why you feel so tired all day.
The solution to this problem is physical activity, and any exercise will do, as long as you do it regularly. Exercise exerts your body and energizes your mind at the same time, but keep in mind that exercising in the evening may actually interfere with your sleep, so make sure there is at least a 3-hour gap between your sports activities and going to bed.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the factors that can explain insomnia, as other types of sleeplessness may follow a different pattern. We previously discussed 7 medical conditions that cause insomnia, which you can access here. If you suspect that your sleeplessness may require medical intervention, you can also read this guide that will help you evaluate your insomnia symptoms.