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Why Can’t We Sleep?

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Why Can’t We Sleep?

We face many obstacles in our search for shut-eye, from bad beds to faulty genes. Fortunately, wrapping our heads around what keeps us awake can help us catch those z’s.


5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Tossing and turning at night instead of slumbering peacefully can be a nightmare.

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The fast-paced world requires you to be productive and alert all the time. However, not getting enough sleep can leave you drowsy, greatly reduce your efficiency at work and in severe cases even lead to death. Eleanor Cummins, science journalist and former assistant editor at Popular Science, summarizes the key issues that keep you from getting a restful slumber and provides some tips about how to overcome these obstacles. If you suffer from insomnia, this article might help you find the rest you need.


About one-third of Americans are not getting enough sleep and are at higher risk of accidents, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The amount of sleep of Americans get has remained constant over the past 50 years. However, one-third of Americans don’t get the seven or more hours of sleep that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who are regularly sleep-deprived have an increased risk of accidents, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Research shows that people with shorter REM (rapid eye movement) phases experienced lower alertness the next morning. Sleep deprivation can even lead to death.

The many obstacles to finding restful slumber range from bright screens and negative thoughts to people’s genetic code.

Humans’ inner clock is regulated by the sun. The brain responds to daylight with hormonal chain reactions that are essential to keep the human body functioning. However, without the sunrise and...

About the Author

Eleanor Cummins is a freelance science journalist whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, The Guardian and Popular Science. She graduated from New York University in the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, where she now also serves as an assistant professor.

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