Sleep Disturbances and Their Causes

Why can’t I sleep?
Millions of adults have sleep disturbances — problems falling asleep, interrupted sleep, awakening during the night unable to fall back to sleep. We all know that a good night’s sleep provides us with renewed energy, clear-headedness and a sense of well-being. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, it’s important to track down the cause and break the destructive cycle. Contacting a board-certified physician who specializes in helping patients maximize their health by treating them with advanced medical approaches is a wise first step.
Reasons for Sleep Disturbances
There are a great many reasons that individuals may find themselves unable to sleep. Some are easily remedied, but some require medical intervention. Most people’s sleep can be affected by external factors, such as jet lag or uncomfortable environment (e.g. lumpy mattress, too much heat, cold, or noise), but for those who can’t trace their sleep troubles to such obvious reasons, let’s examine the following possibilities:
Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that can both interfere with your ability to fall asleep and awaken you in the middle of the night. Coffee, chocolate, cola, and energy drinks should, therefore, be avoided for about 6 hours before bedtime.
Stress
Stress of any kind — pressure, anger, frustration, worry — can lead to, or be the result of, lack of adequate sleep. According the American Psychological Association, those who don’t get eight hours of sleep nightly report higher levels of stress than those who are well-rested.
Aches and Pains
Any type of physical discomfort, from headache to backache to an ingrown toenail to the itching of poison ivy, can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Injuries, particularly those that keep you from sleeping in your usual position (if your leg is in a cast, for example) can be obstacles to relaxation and rest. As a matter of fact, anything that keeps you from altering your position easily, such as being pregnant or having a “bed hog” sleeping beside you, can be problematic.
Hormone Imbalance
Though often ignored as a cause of sleep disturbances, hormone imbalances can play a serious role in sleep dysfunction. While the obvious hormone imbalances we think of are reproductive ones like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, in reality many other hormone imbalances can affect sleep quality in both men and women. Hormonal replacement therapy or additional treatment may be a good option.
Alcohol Consumption
While many people become drowsy after consuming alcohol, the substance actually interferes with the quality of your sleep. As the body metabolizes alcohol and its immediate effects wear off, alcohol causes restlessness and prevents deep sleep.
Eating Too Much or Too Late 
Many people get into the unhealthy habit of eating heavy meals in the evening or snacking too close to bedtime. Either of these actions can result in acid reflux and/or general discomfort, interrupting a healthy repose.
If you have chronic sleep problems, you should definitely consult with a qualified physician, particularly because stress, aches and pains, over indulgence in food, caffeine and/or alcohol may all be related to general health problems. Such disorders may require nutritional changes or hormone replacements by a physician trained in evaluating and treating such conditions.