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If you’re tossing and turning all night and have difficulty falling asleep, you may be experiencing restless sleep. Other signs of restless sleep can be waking up abruptly in the middle of the night and feeling sluggish during the daytime.
Most of us experience this from time to time but if it’s happening more frequently, then it can be an issue. In theory, you are supposed to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel refreshed the next day.
Not getting enough sleep won’t just lead to unproductivity during the day, but it can also have health implications like weight gain, insomnia, and even heart disease. This piece will cover the causes of restless sleep and how to fix it so that you can finally get deep sleep at night.
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Restless sleep is a common sleep problem that occurs when the brain cannot relax the body. Unlike insomnia, restless sleep isn’t defined as a sleep disorder by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It can happen at any point during the night and can cause difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting restful sleep.Experiencing sleep deprivation or difficulty staying asleep can lead to daytime tiredness and fatigue. It can also cause problems with concentration and memory. Here are a few signs of restless sleep:
It’s important to note that not all those who experience restless sleep have insomnia. Insomnia is an identified sleep disorder that can be long-term or short-term. It can affect your health and well-being, both mentally and physically.
Many factors can lead to restless sleep, whether it is a medical condition, or simply not having the right environment to induce sleep. Below are the most common causes of restless sleep.
Restless sleep can be a symptom of several different conditions, some of which are serious. It is important to see a doctor if you notice that you are having trouble falling or staying asleep for a long period.
Have you ever got in bed, only to have every concern you had all day come crashing down on you? Stress is something we all go through, whether it’s family drama, being overworked, or having tests soon - it can lead to restless sleep.
As a result, you’re in bed tossing and turning, already planning your next week when you’re supposed to be restfully sleeping. Stress and anxiety can impact your mental and physical health. It’ll make you restless and deteriorate your sleep quality. Alternatively, it can lead to chronic issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and overall weaken your immunity. A recent study done on medical students found that the risk of having poor sleep quality is almost four times higher in students who have high levels of stress than those who aren’t as stressed.
The first step to fixing this problem is admitting that you’re stressed. Once you do, you can start reaching out to others for help. For example, maybe delegate a few tasks to someone else or talk to your manager about your workload.
What you do during the day affects your sleep quality at night. For example, if you have coffee an hour before bedtime - restless sleep is bound to happen. Your sleep hygiene covers the habits and rituals that you do to prepare yourself for sleep.
An example of a poor habit for sleep hygiene includes consuming caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol before bedtime. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that interrupt your circadian rhythm and can stay in your body for hours. Caffeine isn’t just coffee, it includes soda, energy drinks, and tea as well. When caffeine reaches your brain, it blocks adenosine, a regulator for sleep - instead, it makes you alert and restless.
Alternatively, alcohol is a suppressant so it makes you feel tired and sleepy but affects your sleep quality. It disrupts your restorative sleep stage, which is the most important stage of the sleep cycle because it’s when you reach deep sleep.
Another poor sleep habit is becoming overstimulated by electronic devices like your phone, iPad, or TV before sleeping. If you like to watch Netflix before you fall asleep, it’s time to kick that habit to the curb. The blue light that emits from the TV or phone screens reduces the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This is why even if you intend on watching one more episode, it can lead to five more, and fewer hours of sleep.
Similar to poor sleep hygiene, having an irregular sleep schedule can lead to restless sleep. If you have an inconsistent sleep schedule, sleep or wake up at different times every day - your circadian rhythm will be negatively affected.
This is common for restless sleepers that work night shifts or are frequently jet lag due to a lot of traveling. In this case, it can be hard to maintain a regular sleep schedule so you’ll often find yourself feeling drowsy during the daytime.
Another cause of restless sleep can be from caving into those late-night munchies too often. Your metabolism slows down at night, as your body prepares for sleep. When you eat heavy meals before bedtime, it’s harder to digest, especially if it’s a meal that’s high in carbs. Experts recommend having any large meals at least 3 hours before bedtime. Late-night meals can lead to health issues such as obesity, heartburns, acid reflux, and bloating.
Eating sugar before bed or foods with saturated fats can also disrupt your restorative deep sleep. Your blood sugar levels will go up making you restless. Even when you do fall asleep, you may have night wakings, which is suddenly waking up and not knowing how to fall back asleep.
Lastly, your sleep environment is an important factor in your sleep quality and duration. Do you wake up with back pain or sore muscles? It may be time to change your old mattress. An uncomfortable mattress is one of the main reasons people experience restless sleep. If your mattress is sagging, has lumps, is too firm, or too soft - it can lead to body aches and stiffness when you wake up. Additionally, sometimes mattresses trap heat and give you night sweats, making it hard to sleep. You may even wake up from your sleep if it gets too hot.
Another factor can be too much noise or light disturbing your sleep environment, is the TV too loud in the next room? Are the street lights distracting you? You may not think that this can affect you, but even the smallest disturbances can make all the difference in our sleep.
Now that we’ve addressed the problem, it’s time to fix it! There are many things that you can do to try and get rid of sleepless nights, and they include:
A few things that you can do to promote a consistent sleep schedule are: avoid lingering in bed on the weekend, stop taking naps in the evening, and try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Additionally, you should stop smoking and drinking coffee or alcohol at least 6 hours before sleeping.
Consider developing new bedtime rituals like taking a warm bath before sleeping, getting a massage, or meditating. Use these relaxation techniques to prepare your mind and body for sleep.
Having a balanced diet with nutritious meals will promote a healthier sleep cycle. Meals containing a lot of sugar, carbs, and fats, will harm your health and sleep. Exercise has a huge role as well, exercising for even 30 minutes a day can impact your productivity levels and sleep quality.
This doesn’t mean you need to cut out your favorite dishes, in fact, there are a lot of delicious foods that actually help you sleep better. Some foods are known to trigger melatonin production, lower your blood pressure, and make you feel relaxed. A few examples are sweet potato, kale, dark chocolate, almonds, pistachios, and oatmeal. Consider having these alternatives the next time you get late-night cravings.
In order to create the right ambiance in your bedroom, make sure it is cool, quiet, and dark when you go to sleep - eliminate any distractions! You can also listen to white noises or relaxing music to calm down. If your mattress needs an upgrade, make sure your new mattress is comfortable and will support your body.
Most importantly, a cooling gel-infused memory foam mattress will regulate your body temperature and ensure balanced airflow while you’re sleeping. The memory foam will contour your body, promoting enhanced spinal alignment.
Try inhabiting healthier sleep habits such as sleeping in a dark and cool room, staying away from your phone or the TV for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and listening to relaxing music or white noise before sleeping. Go for a walk or exercise after dinner and before bedtime, try to meditate, and put yourself in a peaceful mood. Most importantly, avoid caffeine or alcohol at least 6 hours before sleeping.
You’re probably feeling restless because you have improper sleep hygiene. Try to avoid taking naps mid-day, don’t drink coffee or alcohol a few hours before bedtime, and avoid eating your last meal before sleeping. A healthier lifestyle will promote a better sleep cycle.
Restless sleep can happen for multiple reasons. These include stress or anxiety, poor sleep habits, an irregular sleep schedule, or it can be a medical condition. If you’ve had restless sleep for over a week, it may be time to seek medical assistance.
Restless sleep is having difficulty falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night abruptly and not being able to go back to sleep. It can lead to sleep deprivation, which will affect your physical and mental health.
If you’ve experienced restless sleep for over 3 nights a week for more than a month, then you should consider seeing your doctor for help. You may suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, or another medical issue that requires medical attention.
Do you experience restless sleep? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.