Why Am I Always Tired? Signs of Poor Sleep Hygiene Explained
Being stuck in a cycle of tiredness and sleepless can be deeply frustrating. Just one night of broken sleep can directly impact your productivity, immunity, and emotional wellbeing — leaving you feeling out of step. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do when rest feels unattainable. Here, we outline some of the reasons why you might be struggling to sleep, along with helpful suggestions on how to improve these areas of your sleep hygiene.
Signs of poor sleep hygiene
While the overarching symptom of poor sleep hygiene is excessive daytime sleepiness, other symptoms include:i
Lack of motivation
Causes of poor sleep hygiene
Exposure to blue light
Your circadian rhythm — the body’s 24-hour internal clock — operates using light and darkness cues. Light signals the release of the energising hormone cortisol, while darkness is the prompt for sleep by secreting of melatonin, your sleep hormone. Late-night screen-use skews your body’s delicate sleep pattern. The blue light emanating from your electronic devices inhibits the production of your sleep hormone, melatonin, by tricking your body into thinking it should be alert and roused.ii For a restful night’s sleep, avoid using technology 90-minutes before bed, and even try removing screens from your bedroom entirely. Learn more on how to reduce the impact of blue light on your sleep pattern here.
Although alcohol has a sedative effect and can make you feel drowsy, it can disrupt your sleep further down the line. Drinking late at night impacts your sleep by reducing REM sleep — the deepest stage of slumber where learning occurs, dreams happen, and memories are consolidated.iii Alcohol also has a significant impact on your sleep hormone, melatonin. Even drinking moderately up to an hour before bed has been found to suppress melatonin production by nearly 20 per cent.iv
As such, the best time to metabolise alcohol is early to mid-evening, and try to make a conscious effort not to surpass the recommended 14 units of alcohol each week. Discover more on the science behind how alcohol affects the quality of your sleep in our helpful guide.
Stress and anxiety
It’s not uncommon to get tangled up in worries and ruminations just before bed. But an elevated state of stress and anxiety keeps your nervous system on constant high alert, which runs contrary to the relaxation needed for good sleep hygiene.v Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, has the opposite effect to melatonin, the sleep hormone. More stress makes it harder for your brain to produce adequate levels of melatonin — and unfortunately, sleeplessness can perpetuate anxiety and continue this negative cycle.
Make a conscious effort to unwind and relax before bed. Mindfulness techniques, light stretching, or deep breathing can be coupled with essential oils to promote sleep. If you’re struggling to manage anxiety before bed, natural supplements such as Theanine and Lemon Balm could help to bring these stress levels down.
Exercise and sleep have a symbiotic relationship: the more you exercise, the better sleep you can achieve. However, there are some important caveats when it comes to physical activity and sleep — notably, you need to factor in the timing of your workout. While some people won’t be affected by late-night exercising, for the most part, it can be disrupting. Intense exercise can elevate cortisol levels at the exact time of day they should be declining, which may affect your ability to fall asleep.vi To ensure exercise doesn’t affect your sleep hygiene, try limiting high-intensity activity to the morning or even packing one into your lunch break.
Thyroid conditions have also been known to cause poor sleep hygiene. Increases in the thyroid hormone have been linked to an increase in sleep deprivation.vii While it may seem like an unrelated issue, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can overstimulate the nervous system causing night sweats and making it more for the body to switch-off. Whereas feeling constantly cold and sleepy throughout the day is a hallmark sign of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Be sure to make an appointment with your GP to discuss some treatment pathways for you.
Your sleep architecture is delicate — it doesn’t take much to throw it off-kilter. Often, making the necessary adjustments to your sleep pattern is all it takes to re-establish some order and routine. For more advice on improving your sleep hygiene, feel free to visit our sleep hub.
Medical News Today (2019). Sleep deprivation: Causes, symptoms, and treatment. Available online: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307334.php
Zhao. Z.C., Zhou. Y., Tan. G. & Li. J. (2018). Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. International journal of ophthalmology. 11(12), 1999–2003.
Stein. M.D. & Friedmann. P.D. (2005). Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use. Substance abuse. 26(1), 1–13.
Rupp. T., Acebo. C. & Carskadon. M. (2007). Evening Alcohol Suppresses Salivary Melatonin in Young Adults. Chronobiology International. 24(3), 463-470.
Staner. L. (2003). Sleep and anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. 5(3), 249–258.
Myllymäki. T., Kyröläinen. H., Savolainen. K., Hokka. L., Jakonen. R., Juuti. T., Martinmäki. K., Kaartinen. J., Kinnunen. M. & Rusko. H.(2011). Effects of vigorous late-night exercise on sleep quality and cardiac autonomic activity. Journal of Sleep Research. 20(1pt2),146-153.
Pereira. J.C., Andersen. M.L. The role of thyroid hormone in sleep deprivation. Med Hypotheses. (2014 Mar). 82(3):350-5..
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.