End your sleepless nights

Various factors interfere with our sleep routine. Restful sleep requires careful identification of these causes and taking appropriate steps to tackle them

AsleepToday’s pace of life has become extremely hectic. In such a high stressful environment, we are all under pressure to perform. There are deadlines to be met and meetings to be arranged. Even at home, the simplicity of the days is gone. After a busy day at work, parents have to struggle with their children’s numerous assignments and projects. After such a chaotic day, a good night’s sleep works like a balm. It soothes the tired mind, and you wake up a new person, ready to face yet another challenging day. Unfortunately, this amazing remedy is not available to a large segment of people. They toss and turn on their bed for a major part of the night, and get up limp as a lettuce in the morning. After such a horrendous experience at night, handling a demanding day becomes unbearable.

Indeed, sleep undoes the havoc wrecked on the psyche and the body. The value of a good night’s sleep can be appreciated only by those unfortunate ones who are unable to find it. A person who faces a restless bedtime, day after day, will find health deteriorating. Not only will the person remain irritable the whole day, but also will be lethargic with blunted wits.

Common causes of inability to sleep

There is a good reason behind any occurrence. Therefore, if you find yourself tossing, turning and mussing up the sheets, it is imperative that you find out the reason behind it. If a person is unable to sleep, there ought to be an explanation for it. Let us explore the common factors that affect a good night’s sleep.

Worry or anxiety

This is the prime cause of loss of sleep. For a person to rest, it is important that the brain and the body slowly retard their activities and drift towards a non-active phase. If a person is worrying about a problem, the brain continues to work hard towards finding a solution. It is in too much frenzy to achieve slumber.


It is over-simplistic to ask a person to forget worries. However, it helps to develop a detached attitude. People working in high-stress jobs have to learn to switch off the pressure after a while. If they don’t, they are just moving towards more health problems. Meanwhile, if you find your mind too preoccupied with some issue, try to put it at rest. Discuss it with a trusted person, who may be in a position to suggest a reprieve. Writing down the pros and cons may help in getting the issue in perspective.

Some yogasanas help in controlling the chaotic brain activity and restore peace.

Too hot

Excessive heat is one sure way to kill sleep. In India, the summer months are extremely hot. The oppressive climate and the humidity can add to the discomfiture.


Ensure that the room is comfortably cool. It makes sense in investing in a room-cooling device. A good night’s sleep is priceless. A long soak or a bath before bedtime works wonders in summers. The bedclothes must be light and comfortable.

Uncomfortable Bed

A lumpy mattress takes away your sleep and gives a nagging backache in return. If the bed sheets are unclean or the mattress too hard or too soft, sleep becomes elusive.


The bed must be comfortable to sleep in. Ensure that the mattress does not have bulging portions. [Refer Is your bed robbing you of sleep?] The sheets should be clean and tucked properly. White or pastel colors are preferable. Stronger colors are jarring and unnecessarily excite the brain.


Caffeine intake too close to bedtime often chases away sleep. Contrary to popular belief, tea and coffee are not the only source of caffeine. Soda and chocolates also have high caffeine contents. Migraine pills and drugs for cold may contain caffeine.


Avoid consumption of caffeine containing beverages three to four hours before bedtime. Check the contents of the prescribed drugs and request the doctor to prescribe an alternative drug.


Sleep is induced by a calm and serene environment. Jarring noises like a blaring TV or a loud music player are a deterrent to sound sleep.


Ensure that there is peace and quiet around your sleeping quarters. If you cannot control the source of sound, like a busy road next to your house, try to muffle the noise. You can use earplugs to cut out the discordant sound. Alternatively, tune in to some soothing music to balance the noise.

Too much light

Many people cannot sleep if the room is not enveloped in pitch darkness. The light stimulates the eye membranes and chases away the sleep.


Adjust the light levels as per your preference. If there is a glow seeping into your room from outside, use heavy curtains on the windows. If nothing works, get an eye cover. This will effectively ward off all light from reaching your eyes.

Heavy meal or no meal before bedtime

If you sleep too soon after a heavy meal, the reverse flow of fluids will cause discomfort. As a result, you will feel a heaviness and inability to sleep. Similarly, a hungry stomach will make your mind dwell on its empty state.


Have a light meal at least an hour before bedtime. Take a small walk after the dinner. If you feel peckish at night, keep some light finger foods in the bedroom.

Dust and grime

An unclean body causes uneasiness. The dirt and the grime of the day may itch and you will be left tossing in bed.


Always follow a cleaning routine before sleeping. It is best to have a bath. However, if that is not possible, at least have a wash. Remove the grime collected during the day from your face. This will be good for the skin too. Wash your feet vigorously as they collect the maximum dirt. Brush your teeth and comb your hair.

Heavy exercise

An exercise routine pumps up your adrenalin level. This increases the energy levels of the body. The brain becomes too worked up to relax. As a result, the calmness required for a good nights sleep is absent.


Ensure that there is no heavy exercise three to four hours before bedtime. A walk after meals is okay but stimulating exercises like treadmill or aerobics should be avoided.

These are a few reasons why most people are unable to slip into the arms of Morpheus. However, if all the conditions are optimum and you are still unable to sleep, it is better to stop resisting. You can count sheep – that is an age-old remedy. After an hour of tossing and turning futilely, leave the bed. The worrying gets to you, and not the lack of sleep. Try to do something interesting like reading a book, or listening to some music. If nothing works, there is always the television.

If your wake up fresh as a daisy in spite of such sleepless nights, perhaps your body does not require so much sleep. On the other hand, if you are wringed and limp always, it is time to consult a doctor.

Sia Mitra is a New Delhi-based freelance science writer.