Why We Can’t Sleep and How to Finally Nod off Naturally
Sleeping is one of the main pillars of maintaining overall health and wellbeing. There is not a single part of our body that does not benefit from a good night's sleep, and over time, nearly every part of our body will suffer without consistently good sleep. So why do nearly one third American’s report not getting enough sleep each night? Why do so many people have trouble sleeping, or do not devote enough time to sleep?
Although we all need sleep, and our body is reliant on these restful hours to repair and regenerate our whole body, there are so many factors that must align in order for each of us to attain good quality and quantity of sleep.
First, we should feel tired and relaxed enough to sleep. Over the course of the day, it’s easy to feel wound up, stressed, anxious and mentally frazzled even when our heads hit the pillow (the classic “tired but wired” feeling). Our body has not had a chance to wind down, and therefore completely relaxing into sleep can feel like a struggle.
Second, our circadian hormones - namely cortisol and melatonin - should be aligned with our environmental triggers to support our sleep cycles. This includes exposure to morning sunlight, and evening darkness.
Third, our sleeping environments should be as conducive as possible to good quality sleep. This includes the comfort of our bed, the temperature of our room, reducing physical distractors and noises, and keeping our space as dark as possible while we sleep.
Read More: Let’s Talk About Sleep Hygiene
Where do your sleep troubles stem from? Below are some common reasons why we can’t sleep, and some Pukka tips to help you nod off naturally:
Why can’t I fall asleep?
Your body is still feeling wound up from the day mentally and physically.
You blood sugar may be elevated
Your hormones are not in sync with the day and night cycles.
Daily exercise and movement is critical to releasing stress tension and excess energy from the day. Go for an evening walk after dinner, or make sure to move your body throughout the day to balance your energy.
If you consumed a meal high in sugars before bed, this may elevate your blood sugar and keep you awake until your blood sugar levels are re-balanced. Avoid alcohol and excess desserts at least 2-3 hours before sleeping to help normalize your blood sugar before bedtime.
In order for us to fall asleep, our hormones must be telling us to do so. Perceiving darkness will trigger our melatonin (our sleep hormone) to rise, and our cortisol (one of our energy and stress hormones) to fall. Dim the lights in your home in the evening, especially one hour before bed time, and avoid all phone and television screens to limit blue light exposure before falling asleep.
Read More: Herbs to Help you Sleep
Why can’t I stay asleep?
Your environment may be disrupting your sleep. This includes noises from the house or outdoors, a partner’s moving or snoring, the cat walking on your head, or the temperature of your room is a little too hot or too cold.
Your hormones may be out of sync with a normal night cycle. This means your cortisol levels (your “get up and go” hormone) may be spiking during the night, which directly conflicts with melatonin (your “go to sleep”) hormone.
Your blood sugar may be on the low side.
Take some time to go through your sleeping space and make it as comfortable and conducive to sleeping as possible. If the cat wakes you up, find a way to keep it out of the room. If your partner is disturbing you, perhaps spend some nights in another sleeping space. If the noise outside your bedroom is too loud, consider ear plugs or a white noise machine.
If you’re waking in the night, your cortisol may be spiking at inappropriate times, confusing your melatonin levels and keeping you awake. This most often happens when we are chronically or acutely stressed from our day. Take some time every single day, and before bed, to calm your mind, relax your body, and release your thoughts from the day. Take a warm bath, journal your thoughts, or practice meditation before falling asleep.
Waking in the night could be a sign of low blood sugar. Take note of your normal blood sugar levels during the day, and you could easily check this during the night if you find yourself consistently waking with no other noticeable cause.
How to create an evening routine that works for you:
Devote between 7-9 hours for sleep each night. Do your best not to let anything encroach into this time, such as watching TV or scrolling through social media. It may take some time to adjust your schedule to accommodate this, and that’s OK! Work towards it each week.
Enjoy a warm cup of relaxing herbal tea to help you nod off. Pukka’s Night Time Tea is formulated to support the body’s nervous system, relax the body, and calm the mind. Enjoy a cup 1-2 hours before falling asleep each night for optimal support.
Adjust your sleeping space bit by bit to create a sleeping sanctuary. Make sure your curtains block most of the outside light, your mattress is as comfortable as can be, noises from inside or outside the house are minimal, and your sleeping temperature is slightly cool.
Take a warm bath with epsom salts to relax your muscles. The drop in body temperature you experience when getting out of the bath promotes good quality sleep, so soak long, dry off, then hop into bed and lights out.
Notice what triggers you at night. Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Is your mind racing? Are you running out of time to get things done in the evenings, or feeling stressed about the alarm going off in the morning? Pick one thing that has become a trigger for you and work on addressing it week by week.
Author: Lindsay Kluge
Herbal Educator, Pukka Herbs US
Lindsay is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist with a passion for bringing plants and people together. Through her work as a teacher and practitioner, she is passionate about helping people feel empowered in their health through community organic gardening, health education, and connection with nature. She has worked in clinical practiced with naturopathic doctors and MD’s alike, bridging the gap between alternative and conventional medicine to bring comprehensive, research based botanical medicine to her local communities. With an undergraduate degree in horticulture and a Masters in herbal medicine, plants are Lindsay's love language. She currently serves as the herbal educator for Pukka Herbs in the US, and teaches clinical nutrition at her alma mater, the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is a guest lecturer at herbal medicine schools and conferences throughout the US.
MS Herbal Medicine
Years of Experience:
10+ years as a clinical herbalist and nutritionist practitioner