Why is it harder to sleep when you are tired?


Mental exhaustion, derived from tasks with great intellectual demand and ruminant thoughts, or physical exhaustion, after intense activity, keeps us on alert. The consequence is a fragmented dream.

Various worries and physical agitation contribute to light and unrefreshing sleep.
Various worries and physical agitation contribute to light and unrefreshing sleep.LOUIS PAREJO
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who has not passed sleepless night sometime when, precisely, he needed sleep the most. Before an exam first thing in the morning, to catch a flight at dawn, for that tormenting decision… and various worries.

This mental fatigue causes a increase in our stress level and a possible secondary anxiety at the same time, explains Dr. Alba García Aragón, a sleep specialist at the Madrid Sleep Research Institute. By turning our heads so much we are unable to disconnect from our day to day. “These ruminant thoughts they can also occur after having carried out tasks in our day with a great intellectual demand”, he points out.

But there is another kind of exhaustion: physics. It happens, for example, if we have carried out an intense activity, which activates us and keeps us alert or awake. “There is a tendency to think that the more tired we are, the better we will go to bed and it is totally uncertain. To a marathon runner, the people who do trail or soccer players after a game at night it will cost much more to sleep after the effortbecause their brain is stimulated”, says Dr. Eduard Estivill Sancho, specialist in Sleep Medicine and member of Top Doctors. That is why there are people who prefer to train first thing in the morning instead of in the afternoon, coinciding with circadian rhythms.


Both fatigues, that of the body and that of the mind, translate into sympathetic nervous system acceleration and, with it, our level of alarm, so that during the night it would be very difficult for us to reduce this activation, both specialists express. “The result is an increase in the time it takes to To fall asleepas well as a more fragmented and lighter rest”, summarizes García Aragón.

Whether for one reason or another, our body mobilize all your resources for survival and therefore we can stay all night in a shallower and less restful sleep. In short, of lower quality, waking up in the morning as if we had not rested well.

“The response to stress is to stimulate the production in the adrenal glands of a hormone called cortisol. Among other functions, it contributes to control. The increase in its secretion is due to the activation of a neuronal circuit whose activity not only alters night rest, but also the immune system”, defines the expert from the Sleep Research Institute.


There are also a number of agents who contribute to a bad restand who list these specialists below.

  • If we stir up our endorphins four hours before sleeping with physical exercise intense, for example, will affect us.
  • Also, it is convenient keep fixed hours both to go to bed and when the alarm clock rings. “Melatonin, a key hormone in sleep, is released nearly three hours later than normal among people with irregular sleep patterns.”
  • The room where we sleep must be equipped for rest: “It is preferable that the bed is that place where we only sleep, and not where we watch television, we work with the laptop and endless tasks not associated with its usefulness. The space must be quiet, without noise and with dim light,” says the doctor.
  • Another reason why we may feel like we have trouble sleeping is a very long nap and after a copious meal. “We must avoid this type of intake for dinner, as well as stimulant drinks with caffeine, theine and alcohol consumption,” advises García Aragón. Regarding dinners, Estivill Sancho believes that they have a great influence. “We’ll go to bed in full digestion and our body will be working at full capacity,” he clarifies.
  • The fruit is also not recommended, despite being a healthy food. “It is preferable to take it in the afternoon, it takes a long time to digest.”
  • The doctor provides one more piece of information regarding the caffeine: “It is a stimulant of the central nervous system and what we know today is that metabolization, that is, the time it takes to eliminate it, is different depending on the person.” There are those who with a coffee at five in the afternoon can no longer sleep and others have a cup at night and it barely affects them.


The more we want to sleep, the less we get it. “The dream appears when there is a disconnection of our cerebral cortex, which controls wakefulness. If it is not deactivated, we will not be able to sleep. It is the typical situation in which we do not know how to disconnect”, summarizes Dr. Estivill Sancho. He prescribes for his patients to try to forget those concerns, although he recognizes that the theory is very easy to say and the real disconnection is more complicated to apply.

What we can do to mitigate this type of situation is to try to bring good habits and sleep routines. Some tricks: “Turn off screens due to blue light a minimum of two hours before going to bed. Do not look at email or work-related topics that will make us think. And do activities that promote relaxation: meditation, breathing exercises, a light reading… In case of persistence, of course, go to a specialist who, after an accurate diagnosis, indicates the appropriate treatment,” the doctors point out.

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