Why am I always tired? 5 things impacting your sleep quality

Young woman sleeping in bed

You spend so much of your life sleeping that you might not realize how truly useful sleep is. From recharging your mind and body to helping you stay healthy enough to fight off illnesses and function at your peak ability each day, sleep is an essential part of your well-being.

"Unfortunately, Americans aren't getting enough sleep, but also, they aren't getting enough quality sleep and that may impact their overall health," says Rochelle Goldberg, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine at Main Line Health.

Here are 5 factors that could be negatively impacting your sleep quality—and what you can do to improve your sleep each night:

1. Your sleep environment is lacking.

With all the time you spend sleeping, you'd think that most people's sleep environments are perfectly designed to promote sleep. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

Plenty of people attempt to sleep in environments that simply aren't helping their sleep quality. To create an environment that helps you get a good night of rest, make sure you:

  • Make your bedroom cool, quiet and dark.
  • Avoid all screens within arm's reach for at least 2 hours before bed.
  • Watch "light entertainment" at night if you choose to watch TV. And make sure your TV isn't within arm's reach. (Tip: Try and avoid the news at night).
  • Set a soothing bedtime routine, like reading a book (not an e-book) or listening to calming music.
  • Keep your sleep space at a comfortable temperature (roughly 60-67°F).

2. Your sleep schedule is off.

Your body loves routine. Going to bed and waking up around the same time can go a long way in improving your sleep quality. Try to get at least seven hours in bed each night.

"If possible, stick to the same sleep schedule every day—even on the weekends. This will train your body to become ready for sleep at night and alert in the morning," says Dr. Goldberg.

Of course, there are some reasons you might have difficulty sticking to a sleep schedule. Maybe you work the night shift, for example. Still, setting a sleep schedule is key. Even if you go to sleep at 8 a.m. and wake up at 5 p.m. for your shift, it can be helpful to maintain as similar a schedule as possible on your off days.

3. Your food and beverages are impacting your sleep quality.

If you love a large meal or a glass of wine before bed, you may need to rethink your approach. Large meals before bed can lower your quality of sleep. As for beverages, both caffeine and alcohol can make it more challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Do your best to avoid these sleep disruptors before bed and you'll set yourself up for a quality night of dreaming.

4. Your medications are interfering with your sleep.

Some medications can impact your quality of sleep and may even cause insomnia. For instance, diuretics (a drug that causes your kidneys to make more urine and is sometimes used to treat high blood pressure) can make you need to use the bathroom more at night. This can wake you up and interrupt your sleep.

Talk to your provider about what medications you're taking to see which ones may be impacting your sleep and what you can do about it.

Don't stop taking any prescribed medications without talking to your provider first.

5. You have a sleep disorder.

If you're doing everything in your power to set yourself up for a quality night of sleep, but you're still having sleep trouble, you may have a sleep disorder.

A sleep disorder is a health condition that disrupts your sleep patterns. There are more than 80 kinds of sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

Signs of a sleep disorder include consistent issues like:

  • Taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times, like while driving or during social events
  • Waking up more than four times each night
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Snoring loudly enough to wake yourself or others
  • Feeling like you never slept
  • Waking up with headaches

If you think you might have a sleep disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. They'll review your symptoms and medical history to get to the root of the problem. They may also recommend a consultation with a sleep specialist for evaluation and treatment. A sleep study may be appropriate, during which technologists will monitor you while you sleep to see what might be causing your sleep problems. Home testing may also be an option for specific patients.

Prioritize sleep and your well-being

Sleep is a crucial part of your wellness. By taking steps to improve your sleep quality—and talking to your healthcare provider if you have concerns—you can make sure your body can rest, recuperate and recharge each night.

Next steps:

Schedule an appointment with a sleep medicine provider
Learn more about sleep medicine at Main Line Health
Is anxiety keeping you from sleep?