Having Trouble Sleeping?

We've got expert shut-eye solutions to six surprising sleep wreckers that might be keeping you up at night.

From the WebMD Archives


If you can't sleep, say no to joe until sleep problems are under control, Avidan advises. If insomnia isn't a major problem, but you mysteriously can't sleep some nights, cut off your coffee or tea intake after breakfast. "Once you go beyond 10 a.m., it can be a problem," Avidan says about ingesting caffeine. Yet, most people become sleepy around 3 p.m. and use caffeine for a midday pick-me-up. That's a mistake, he says.

And don't forget that coffee and tea aren't the only things loaded with caffeine. "Chocolate is notorious for causing sleep problems and people don't recognize it," Avidan says. "People also have the notion that soda must have a dark color to be caffeinated. That's a myth."

Hormones and Sleep

Reproductive hormones shift when women are menstruating, pregnant, or entering menopause, and they mess with the brain chemicals that regulate sleep. The pain and discomfort that come with these shifts might also keep you up at night.

If you're menstruating and get cramps with your cycle, Walsleban suggests getting ahead of pain, which can be just enough to disrupt sleep but too subtle for you to be aware of it. Just one nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pill, such as ibuprofen, or an aspirin at bedtime might do the trick. "It eases things up enough so you can sleep," Walsleban says.

It's also common for women in their late 30s and early 40s to have a hard time sleeping. According to Walsleban, this is sometimes an early sign of perimenopause. In the early phases of menopause, hormones fluctuate, occasionally causing hot flashes, sweating, and even anxiety -- all of which can prevent you from dozing off or can wake you up. Both perimenopausal and menopausal women can help reduce their symptoms by maintaining a cool bedroom temperature (mid-60s is good), sleeping in loose, comfortable clothing, and staying healthy with good eating and exercise habits.

Alcohol and Sleep

Although a few glasses of wine might knock you out, as alcohol is metabolized in the body (a rate of one glass of wine per hour is typical), levels of alcohol begin to fall, and its sleep-inducing effect wears off. That's when you wake up.