Why can’t I sleep?

Q:  For the past few months I haven’t been able to sleep except maybe once or twice every couple of weeks.  I am a 20 year old man, try to lead a healthy lifestyle , work out, and eat healthy.  I can’t stand this, it’s affecting every aspect of my life.  Why can’t I sleep?

A:  First, be confident you can make this better.   A good start would be to more accurately frame the issue so you can deal with it constructively.

When you say  “I haven’t been able to sleep except maybe once or twice every couple of weeks”, in reality that is highly improbable.  More than likely, you are already sleeping more than you think.

The reason why is based on this simple fact: we can’t not sleep.   Every one of us.  Every mammal.  Birds, fish, even most insects.   We all sleep.  Our physiologic requirement for sleep is like that for food or water.  Our need for sleep is in fact so powerful that our built-in homeostatic sleep drive eventually overwhelms even the most persistent insomnia.

So in reality it’s a virtual impossibility that you literally “can’t sleep.”  You are not somehow immune to this universal requirement.  You in fact can sleep just like every other human being that ever lived, and we suggest you leverage this fact to your advantage.

Given this fact, your description suggests your perception of what’s really going on is unrealistic, overblown, and excessively negative.  This is actually very common among insomniacs, and known as sleep state misperception.  Such misperception is probably at least part of the true problem causing your sleep difficulties.

Presuming you have no underlying medical or psychiatric issues causing insomnia (see your doctor to either treat or rule this out), then you need to look beyond medicine for answers.  But rest assured there are.

The majority of insomnia is primary, meaning it has no underlying medical basis.  This may be going on with you too.  With primary insomnia, the true underlying problem is usually some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.

The best methods to treat primary insomnia are contained in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) specifically designed for insomnia.  These methods are conservative, drug free, and the benefits tend to be lasting.  CBT is also the standard of care for insomnia as recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

CBT will help you improve your sleep habits and address the negative thoughts that largely fuel insomia.   These methods combine and reinforce one another.  Many people who use CBT eventually become normal sleepers again.

Instead of just treating the symptom as sleeping pills do, CBT will be help you more accurately identify and treat the real underlying problems.  Therein lies the lasting solution to better sleep.

If you are the self-help type, you’ll find many resources, including online CBT-based sleep training programs that are interactive and affordable.

There’s every reason to believe these methods will help you too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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