It’s 2:30 AM, and you’ve tried everything. Counting sheep. Repositioning your neck. Reading—an actual, physical book—while sipping a mug of chamomile tea. Yet you’re wide awake, and you aren’t too happy about it, either. You’re almost angry with frustration. Not only that, but you have to wake up in less than five hours to get the kids to school and give a presentation at work.
There are so many causes of sleeplessness and insomnia (habitual or chronic sleeplessness) that it can be hard to know where to begin diagnosing the problem. The symptoms are many, and they can put a severe dent on your day—even years of your life—when left undealt with. They affect your livelihood, your work quality, your relationships, your mood, and your emotions. Lack of sleep affects pretty much every part of your life, and it all adds up.
If the above describes your case, it is probably time to see a doctor. But for those who experience periodic sleeplessness, there have been a number of out-of-the-box, or even easily addressable, explanations for it.
Yes, it could be true: the reason you can’t fall asleep could simply be...it’s February. According to a 2013 survey of around 21,000 UK adults, it takes an average of eight extra minutes to fall asleep in February than it does in March. Those surveyed spent an extra 10 minutes awake each night, and reported low energy during the day. February’s dark, and sometimes the solution is simply to keep your eyes on spring.
Screens, screens, screens.
While camping may not be your idea of a great time this month (although the weather, in some places, has warmed quite a bit), there’s a strong idea behind NPR’s recent story on leaving your devices behind and heading into the late winter wilderness. If you find yourself scrolling through social feeds on your phone in bed every night, you may be doing your body a disservice. The studies “make very clear how an artificially lit environment at night can push our sleep timing further back.” Before you reach for the melatonin supplements, make sure you’re not depriving your body the chance to produce it naturally on its own.
The wrong mattress, the wrong pillow.
Even if it’s not heavily cutting into your sleep time, regularly dozing on the wrong equipment can turn into long-term problems. If neck pain, back pain, temperature, or overall discomfort are affecting your ability to fall asleep (or your ability to get out of bed!), consider making a change to your mattress, your pillows, or even the type of fabrics you’re sleeping in between. A doctor may be able to help you make changes that are right for you.
You haven’t exhausted the list of natural sleep aids.
We’ll leave you with this: if you’ve got a mild case of “I can’t sleep,” there is always tea, warm milk, cereal, potatoes, or a turkey dinner. Eating before bed isn’t traditionally advisable, but when you’re out of options and you can risk it...a midnight snack might just be worth a try.