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Can’t Sleep Through the Night? Here’s Why

Cure insomnia - sleep better

There is this adage to the intent that rest is good after labour. Nothing could be truer, except that not everybody that hopes for a good night rest achieves it when they hit their bed.

Sleep is good for the body because it plays an important role in our physical health. Experts say sleep is involved in healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels; while chronic inability to sleep can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.

Researchers say sleep improves the memory and can even determine whether or not one lives to good old age!

Despite the innumerable benefits that come with good rest, though, not everybody can really sleep through the night without waking up long before day break, and subsequently finding it difficult to go back to steady sleep.

Many of us are familiar with this trend, hence the need to know the cause and how to deal with it!

Causes of sleeplessness: Bright light

The lighting in your sleep space are very important. According to Family Physician, Dr. Morenike Orelaja, many people are so taken up with living in well-lit environment that they carry the fad right into the bedroom. She says bright lights in the bedroom are a sure path to sleeplessness as the night wears on.

“Ideally, the bedroom should be dark once you are ready for bed. That’s why the last thing you do is to switch off the light. This is scientific. However, many people would turn their bedrooms to a mini viewing centre, with the television still on as they drift to sleep.

“Even if it’s only the light of the TV that is on while you sleep off, you can be sure to wake up in a matter of few hours because the light of the TV reflects onto your eyes. This, in turn, affects the way your brain decodes messages, as your brain is being made to believe that it’s already day and therefore it’s time to wake up.

“During sleep, the brain releases a hormone called melatonin, which causes sleepiness and lowers body temperature. However, when the TV or any other light-producing electronic device is on, it mimics sunlight and sends wrong signals to the brain; and that’s why we always advise people to put off the light as the last thing when going to bed. That way, your body gets the message that it’s time to sleep and it does so effortlessly.”

Psychological issues

You may put off the lights and still be unable to sleep if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or chronic stress, experts say. A psychologist, Dr. Kunle Olaosebikan, warns that most people suffering from anxiety disorder or depression will have trouble sleeping, as they keep thinking about their challenges. He notes that the sleeplessness could worsen their already bad symptoms.

Olaosebikan counsels that if you have emotional issues, seek professional help.


When the Surgeon-General warns that smokers are likely to die young, the average smoker turns up the nose and derisively wonders why he hasn’t died even when he smokes up to a pack per day. But then, the effects of nicotine, a confirmed stimulant, cannot be wished away.

Orelaja warns that on the average, most smokers undergo nicotine withdrawal as they sleep.

She says, “It is a simple process. Just as you can’t eat, drink or do anything while you are sleeping, in the same vein, you can’t smoke while asleep. As such, it’s as if you are depriving your body of its regular supply of nicotine. Consequently, your body craves this stimulant; and since the brain regulates the sleep process, it is not unusual for your brain to wake up about 15 or 20 times in the night as a result of the unconscious craving.

“And that’s why you see addicted smokers waking up in the night to get a fix. They erroneously believe that the smoking will calm them. Of course, it does, but that is temporary, as the nicotine effect soon runs its course. That’s why it is important to quit smoking; and if you’ve not been smoking, don’t start.”

Eating protein too close to bedtime

Nutritionists contend that protein requires a lot of energy to digest, and when you eat protein-rich food very close to bedtime, it keeps your digestive system working while you’re trying to sleep. “Sleep and protein don’t go together,” Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Lere Agboola, stresses. He advises eating light carbohydrates in the evening; and also warns against eating too close to bed time.

Other things that can prevent you from achieving sound sleep include too much caffeine consumption, sugary foods, late night alcohol consumption, and certain medications that can affect the sleep process.

Habits to help you sleep

  1. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex. Don’t work, watch TV, or use your computer or smart phone. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep and sex, so that when you get in bed, your brain and body get a strong signal that it’s time to nod off or be romantic.

  2. Get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing, such as reading, drinking a warm cup of caffeine-free tea, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music. When you’re sleepy, go back to bed.

  3. Move bedroom clocks out of view. You can use an alarm, but make sure you can’t see the time when you’re in bed.

  4. Make your bedroom quiet, dark, cool. Noise, light, and heat can interfere with sleep.

  5. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends, even if you’re tired. This will help you get back in a regular sleep rhythm.

  6. Avoid stimulating activity, stressful situations before bedtime. This includes vigorous exercise, big discussions or arguments; and TV, computer, or video game use.

  7. Don’t read from a backlit device (such as an iPad). If you use an eReader, opt for one that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source.

  8. Limit caffeine, alcohol, nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening, as it interferes with the quality of sleep. Quit smoking or avoid it at night, as nicotine is a stimulant.

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