3 Reasons Why Your Sleep May Not Be Improving

by | Aug 11, 2023 | Science of Sleep

The importance of quality sleep

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our health and well-being, yet many individuals still struggle to get a good night’s rest. Despite their best efforts, their sleep doesn’t seem to improve. This can be frustrating and leave people wondering why their sleep patterns remain disrupted. In this article, we will explore 3 reasons why your sleep may not be improving, uncovering hidden factors that might be hindering your ability to achieve restful and rejuvenating sleep.

You don’t fully understand how sleep works

Understanding the mechanics of sleep is crucial for improving your sleep quality. Many people don’t realize that sleep is not a passive state, but rather an active process with different stages and cycles. By understanding sleep, you can better optimize your habits any underlying issues that may be affecting your sleep.

One key aspect of sleep to understand is the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. This is the natural, internal process that regulates your sleep, wakefulness, and overall bodily functions. Disruptions to this rhythm, such as irregular sleep schedules or exposure to artificial light at night, can significantly impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize the impact of external factors on your sleep. Stress, anxiety, and lifestyle choices can greatly influence the quality of your sleep. Chronic stress or unresolved emotional issues can lead to persistent sleep problems, while poor sleep hygiene practices like consuming caffeine or electronic device use before bed can disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

In order to improve your sleep, it is essential to educate yourself on the intricacies of sleep mechanics and be mindful of the factors that may be affecting your sleep quality. By addressing these underlying issues, you can take proactive steps toward achieving restful and rejuvenating sleep.

You aren’t breaking the current cycle

Many people do not realize that our sleep is made to be flexible, but it’s also made to adapt. For example, if you are normally a good sleeper, one night of bad sleep is not going to undo your current sleep pattern. You will likely have a poor night, and the next night (or a few nights later), your sleep will even back out. Your sleep is made to be flexible and handle these random, poor nights. However, if these poor nights happen consistently and for a long period of time, (remember the body is also made to adapt), it will adapt to those consistent changes. If you get a new job that requires you to wake up at 4am instead of 6am, you will likely be very tired the first weeks of that new schedule. However, because this new wake time is consistent (waking up M-F at the same time), and it happens over a long period of time (usually more than 2 weeks), the body learns that this is something that is not going away, and it needs to adapt to the new schedule. A few months after starting this new job, you likely wake up easier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night. You have adapted.

Once your “normal” sleep cycle has changed, many people do not know how to undo it. People often make even more changes to see if that will help their sleep, and this can confuse the body and make sleep worse if it’s done incorrectly.

You are chasing sleep instead of increasing your sleep drive

Many individuals struggling with sleep problems often find themselves trying to force sleep to come, which can actually have a negative impact on the quality of their sleep. When you continuously chase sleep and become fixated on falling asleep quickly, it can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and frustration, making it even harder to relax and drift off into a restful slumber.

One common mistake that people make when they are desperately trying to fall asleep is spending excessive time in bed. This can create a negative association between being in bed and feeling wide awake, further perpetuating difficulties with sleep. Spending prolonged periods of time tossing and turning in bed can elevate stress levels and heighten alertness, making it harder for your body to transition into a state of relaxation necessary for sleep.

Instead of focusing on trying to force sleep, experts suggest shifting your mindset and adopting the concept of increasing your sleep drive. Sleep drive refers to the body’s natural inclination and readiness for sleep, which is influenced by factors such as how long you have been awake and the quality of your previous night’s sleep. By building up your sleep drive throughout the day, you can enhance your body’s readiness for a restful night’s sleep.

By focusing on increasing your sleep drive rather than trying to force sleep, you can cultivate a more positive and relaxed mindset toward sleep. This shift in attitude can help alleviate stress and anxiety, allowing you to naturally fall asleep and experience a more restful night’s sleep. Remember, the more you chase sleep, the further it may seem to drift away. So, embrace the concept of increasing your sleep drive and create a sleep-friendly environment to enhance the likelihood of a peaceful and rejuvenating slumber.


Poor sleep can be frustrating, and many people often find themselves doing things that do not work. If you have been suffering from poor sleep and it hasn’t improved after trying many new things, try focusing on the above 3 reasons why sleep may not be improving. Learn more about how sleep works, how to break the current cycle you are in, and how to increase your sleep drive. Seeking the guidance of a trained sleep professional is also recommended as improving sleep can be a relatively easy process when done correctly.