“If you are tired but can’t sleep, it could be due to your body’s natural sleep cycle being off.”

It is difficult to keep your eyes open on some days, even if you consume a lot of coffee.

When you finally get into bed, you are often sleepy.

It is frustrating. What is going on?

Before you reach for those sleeping pills, discover all the things that could cause you to be tired all day but awake at night. Once you identify what might be going on, you can take action to support better sleep.

The circadian rhythm is like an internal timekeeper for everything our bodies do in a 24-hour period, explains sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, MD, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It.”

This system uses light, dark, and our biological clock to regulate body temperature, metabolism, hormones (including melatonin), and sleep.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the master clock of the body. The melatonin production is controlled by the brain. This hormone helps regulate sleep.

melatonin levels are low during the day when it is light outside. melatonin levels peak between 2 and 4 a.m. as the day progresses, with levels falling again after that.

melatonin levels start to rise about 2 hours after the sun goes down.

“Winter says that everyone has their own rhythm. You don’t need to go to bed at a certain time because your parents told you that when you were a kid.”

“Winter doesn’t care what someone’s schedule is, as long as it feels right for them and is healthy.”

“If you can’t sleep, your rhythm may be off.”

This could be a sign of delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). This occurs when you fall asleep 2 or more hours later than what’s considered “normal” (10 p.m. to 12 a.m.), making it difficult to wake up in the morning for school or work.

DSPS affects young people more, with a prevalence between about 7 and 16%. About 1% of adults have DSPS.

Winter says that there is a subtle difference between the words tired, sleepy, and fatigued.

At the end of a marathon, you feel fatigued — you likely don’t have the energy or motivation to run another marathon and perhaps not even walk the distance to your car.

But you’re not sleepy — you wouldn’t doze off laying on the grass beyond the finish line. Rather, being sleepy is when you can barely keep yourself awake, Winter says.

“If you can’t sleep after the sun sets, it could be a sign of delayed sleep phase syndrome. It could be something else or a combination of things.”

Some reasons why you might be tired all the time.

1. Napping

Naps aren’t inherently bad. In fact, napping has several health benefits. However, the wrong nap strategy can keep you up when you should be getting deeper Zzz’s.

Research suggests that long naps and napping later in the afternoon can cause you to take longer to fall asleep at night, sleep poorly, and wake up more during the night.

Winter recommends napping at the same time every day so your body can anticipate it.

2. Anxiety

A racing mind isn’t conducive to peacefully nodding off.

No wonder sleep disturbance is a diagnostic symptom for some anxiety disorders, which are common risk factors for insomnia.

Anxiety also leads to increased arousal and alertness, which can delay sleep even further.

3. Depression

According to a review published in 2019, up to 90% of people diagnosed with Depression. also complain about their sleep quality.

Insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep-disordered breathing, and restless legs syndrome were all reported.

There is a complicated relationship between sleep issues and Depression.. It seems to disrupt the rhythms of the day.

Inflammation, changes in brain chemicals, genetic factors, and more may all affect the sleep-Depression. relationship.

4. Caffeine

Maybe it is time to rethink that afternoon latte.

On average, caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours. It may be no surprise, then, that research suggests that even 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine — about 16 ounces of brewed coffee — 16 hours before bed may impact your sleep.

Downing 400 mg of caffeine 6 hours or less before bedtime can significantly reduce sleep quality. Winter recommends cutting off caffeine consumption 4–6 hours before you go to bed.

5. Screen time

Put down the smartphone! The blue light emitted from phones, tablets, laptops, and TV screens suppresses evening melatonin production and decreases sleepiness.

Winter recommends not using any devices before bed. You could also wear blue-light blocking glasses at night.


Difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of COVID. This could be due to factors such as stress or an autoimmune response to the virus.

A 2021 study of 236,379 people with COVID found that about 5% of them experienced insomnia. Up to 10% of those with severe infections that required hospitalization had sleeping difficulties.

Sleeping difficulties may be more prevalent in people with long COVID, according to a 2022 data analysis. Researchers found that over 40% of 1,321 people with long-lasting COVID symptoms experienced moderate to severe sleeping difficulties.

The COVID pandemic itself is associated with increasing sleep-related issues, according to a 2022 study. Social isolation, economic hardships, and parenting challenges are among the possible causes.

7. Other sleep disorders

Delayed sleep phase syndrome is one of the many disorders that can make you sleepy but not tired at night.

Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome can do the same. In sleep apnea, breathing repeatedly stops or is very shallow, then starts again. With restless legs syndrome, your legs feel uncomfortable, triggering you to want to move them.

Both conditions can cause daytime sleepiness.

We have Healthline-approved products for snoring and sleep apnea in our sleep shop.

8. Diet

The connection between diet and sleep is a bit unclear.

In a 2019 study, researchers looked at excessive daytime sleepiness and diet. They found that replacing 5% of one’s daily caloric intake from protein with equal amounts of saturated fats or carbs increased the risk of daytime sleepiness.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, or other types of fat, reduced the risk of excessive daytime sleepiness.

They think that changes to the diet may help with sleep disorders.

A 2016 review found that high-fat diets were associated with less REM sleep, more deep sleep, and increased arousal from sleep.

A high-carb diet may cause you to fall asleep faster, and it may cause you to sleep less deep. Eating evening meals high in protein may correlate with less daytime sleepiness.

According to this review, what you eat before going to bed may affect the quality of your sleep. For example, almonds, kiwifruit, and fatty fish contain melatonin, a hormone that signals your body to sleep.

The review authors say more research is needed to determine if eating patterns affect sleep and daytime energy.

Being tired during the day can make you feel less productive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that not getting quality, restful sleep on a regular basis puts you at increased risk of:

A regular, consistent sleep and wake schedule is Winter’s top suggestion for anyone who’s tired but can’t sleep.

He says you may want to shift your sleep time.

“You don’t go to a restaurant for an hour just because it’s lunchtime, you go when you’re hungry. Why lie in bed and wait for sleep? Don’t do things that will distract you from your tired mind until you’re tired, and only do things that won’t make you think.”

Follow the usual good sleep practices.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, between 60–67°F (15–19°C).
  • You might want to leave your phone and other devices in another room.
  • If noises disturb your slumber, try earplugs or a white noise machine.

Also stick to calming activities before bed, such as reading, journaling, or meditation.

If anxiety makes your brain hum at night, set aside 20 to 30 minutes of designated “worry time” during the day, ideally at least 2 hours before bedtime, suggests Michelle Drerup, PsyD, a psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

Journal on what’s worrying you. Then write down solutions to address those concerns.

When you are tempted to let your mind race, remember that you have dealt with things and need to let it go. You can tell yourself that you will be worried tomorrow but that it is time to sleep.

“If you try a few of these remedies and still wonder why I can’t sleep, talk to a doctor.”

Winter says that nobody comes into his office and says, “I kick my legs 400 times in the night.” They say they can\’t sleep.

If you tell a doctor about your sleep problems, they can ask questions and run sleep tests to find the underlying problem. You can get the proper treatment to address the cause and help you sleep better.

Winter doesn’t recommend sleep medications unless someone has a condition such as restless legs syndrome, is a shift worker, or is trying to prevent jet lag before a trip.

We confuse sleep with sleep-inducing drugs like melatonin and Benadryl. He says that it reinforces the belief that something is wrong with your sleep. It does nothing for sleep, it just makes you sleepy.

If you still are curious, always try other remedies first and talk to a doctor or sleep specialist if you are taking sleeping pills. They can help you figure out which is best for you.

“If you can’t sleep because you’re tired, it’s a sign that your rhythm is off.”

However, being tired all day and awake at night can also be caused by poor napping habits, anxiety, Depression., caffeine consumption, blue light from devices, sleep disorders, and even diet.

“If you keep saying that you can’t sleep, and you have a lot of sleep problems, you should talk to a doctor. They can help you figure out the underlying problem and recommend solutions that will help you sleep better.”

Brittany Risher is a writer, editor, and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. She’s written for publications including Elemental, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Yoga Journal.