Restless sleep: 6 things causing you to toss and turn

September 30, 2020 4 mins read
Restless sleep: 6 things causing you to toss and turn

After a night of restless sleep, you can wake up feeling tired, drained, and in desperate need of some caffeine.

Everyone deserves a restful night’s sleep. But how can you treat your restless sleep without knowing the cause? We are here to provide some clarity.

6 Causes of restless sleep

If your sleep is more restless than restful, look out for one of these six possible causes:

1. Anxiety or Stress

If only you could leave your stress at the bedroom door before going to sleep.

Besides your worries keeping you awake, when you do finally fall asleep, your stress can follow you into your dreams, making you toss and turn. You can become restless even before you get the chance to start dreaming as anxious thoughts can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

2. Overnapping during the day

Napping can have many benefits, the main one being helping you to recharge your tired mind and body. However, like most things in life, moderation is key, even in taking naps.

Do not nap for too long during the day as it can make it harder for you to fall asleep later. You will also be more likely to wake up very early.

If you are going to take a nap, make it a catnap or power nap. A little goes a long way when it comes to taking a midday snooze. Aim for around 20 minutes of total nap time.

3. Eating late at night

Late-night trips to the fridge might seem like a good idea when cravings strike, but tread with caution, as eating late at night can contribute to restless sleep. This is partly because feeling too full can make it harder to become comfortable enough to fall asleep.

Digesting food also has a thermogenic effect, meaning that your body temperature rises from digestion. Our bodies are supposed to cool down before sleep. Being too hot can disrupt your sleep, which is another reason why having to digest a large meal is not ideal.

The timing of your last meal of the day is not all that matters. There are also specific foods you should avoid before bed, like spicy meals, cruciferous vegetables, and cured meats. They can interfere with your ability to get high-quality sleep.

4. Sleep disorders

Tossing and turning at night can be a sign of an underlying condition. Sleep disorders that can cause restless sleep include:

  • REM sleep behaviour disorder: this disorder is also described as dream-enacting behaviour. You will usually make noises and movements associated with your dreams while asleep.
  • Restless leg syndrome: if you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs in your sleep, your restless sleep could be caused by restless leg syndrome.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: this condition is caused by something obstructing your airways, which makes it harder to breathe while you sleep.

You usually need to go for a sleep study for your doctor to diagnose you with a sleep disorder.

5. Poor sleep hygiene

You’ve been taught the importance of good hygiene. But what about sleep hygiene?

Having good sleep hygiene means practising healthy habits that promote sleep. These include:

  • Avoiding caffeine and sugar before bed
  • Keeping your mobile phone away from your bed
  • Setting a consistent bedtime
  • Staying away from digital screens that emit blue light

6. Drinking alcohol before bed

Alcohol can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and interfere with how much light and deep sleep you get.

You produce less melatonin after drinking alcohol, and your serotonin levels also take a dive. Melatonin and serotonin are both important for helping you sleep.

If that’s not enough to keep you reaching for another nightcap, your air passages can narrow after drinking, which can cause sleep apnea.

How to stop tossing and turning at night

You can make tossing and turning at night a thing of the past. But how do you do that? Step one is identifying if your restless sleep is caused by poor sleep hygiene, alcohol, overeating before bed, napping too much, a sleep disorder, or anxiety or stress.

Step two is taking action. Stop any pre-bed habits that are disrupting your sleep. And if you do suspect you are tossing and turning because of a sleep disorder, speak to your doctor.

You deserve a restful night’s sleep and to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.