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Can't Sleep? 6 Weird Reasons You're Still Awake

Why You Can't Fall Asleep

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Sometimes the reason you're tossing and turning at night is clear. Maybe you're leading a huge meeting the next morning, you got drawn into a Law & Order marathon, or you ate a huge meal way too close to bedtime and feel too bloated to lie down.

Other times, the culprit for your insomnia isn't quite as obvious. You hit the gym, had a great day at work, unwound for an hour or two before bed... And yet you're left staring at the ceiling, mentally calculating how many hours of sleep you'll get if you can force yourself to drift off now. (Friendly reminder: Sleep Should Be Your No. 1 Priority for Flu Season.) Sound familiar? If so, one of these six sleep thieves may be to blame.

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Your Toothpaste Is Super-Minty

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The fresh scent of peppermint is invigorating—so much so that it may keep you up longer than you'd like. In one study from the U.K., people who smelled peppermint oil while hanging out in a dark room for 11 minutes felt much less drowsy than those who smelled nothing. No one is suggesting not brushing your teeth before bed, but consider using a less-minty paste to make dozing off easier.

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You're Addicted to House of Cards

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By now you've heard that using electronics at night can mess with your sleep. And while there are ways to use tech at night and still sleep soundly, those snooze-happy strategies won't help if you tend to watch gripping dramas right up until bedtime. And it's not because you get too sucked in to log out of Netflix. The trouble is that fast-paced, mesmerizing shows can leave your mind racing when it's supposed to be shutting down for the night, even after you stop watching. You're better off unwinding over a light comedy or mindless sitcom instead.

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There's a Full Moon

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People actually cop about 20 fewer minutes of sleep when there's a full moon, according to researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The study authors don't know why, but say your body's circadian clock may be tied at least partially to lunar cycles. Luckily, you only have to worry about this sleep disruptor once a month.

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You Have Restless Leg Syndrome

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition characterized by an unpleasant urge to move your legs or walk around, and symptoms tend to peak at night or when you're resting. But even after treating those symptoms, many RLS sufferers still have trouble sleeping, research from Johns Hopkins University shows. That's likely because most of the meds used to treat the disorder focus on regulating levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter thought to be responsible for the urges to move) but do little to lower levels of glutamate, a compound that can keep you awake. If you feel compelled to get out of bed frequently at night, or if you know you have RLS but still have trouble sleeping, consider seeing your doctor for treatment.

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You Take Your Multi at Night

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If your multivitamin pill has vitamin B12 in it, take it in the morning or early afternoon rather than before bed. The nutrient offers a quick energy boost, which can keep you up if you pop it too late at night.

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You Can't Remember When You Bought Your Pillow

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Two words: dust mites. If you aren't cleaning and replacing your pillows regularly, they're probably packed with the irritating little critters. Besides being gross to think about, dust mites are also one of the most common allergens out there. And research in Archives of Internal Medicine shows that people with allergies are about twice as likely as those without to have insomnia, probably because the symptoms of an allergy attack (such as congestion) make it hard to doze off. Learn how to wash a pillow properly, replace them every year or so, and consider buying an anti-allergen pillow like this Hot Water Washable Allergy Protection Pillow ($20; aller-ease.com).

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