7 Top Causes of Restless Sleep and How to Stop it


SLEEP WELL. LIVE WELL. Now more than ever sleep is the most important part of life. It has been observed during this pandemic that there has been an increase in insomnia. Just at a time when we need sleep the most, since lack of sleep decreases our immune function and ability to deal with stress that we may encounter at this time. One third of our life is spent sleeping, so wouldn't it be helpful to get the best night’s sleep possible. In this article, we will discover some of the reasons why we experience restless sleep and what we can do about it.


What does Restless Sleep Mean?

Restless sleep has no concrete definition. It is not an identified sleep disorder according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), which means that its meaning is subjective. Despite this, there’s a general sense of what it looks or feels like to have restless sleep. Restless sleep is in the eye of the beholder; how it is perceived depends on whether you’re the one trying to sleep the one sleeping next to them.


Common signs of restless sleep are:

  • Frequent tossing and turning or waking up without wanting to

  • Loud snoring that involves gasping or choking noises

  • Notable movement of the limbs, getting out of bed, or even sleepwalking

  • Talking or yelling while still sleeping

  • Teeth grinding (sleep-related bruxism)

With some of these signs of restlessness, such as talking or moving during sleep, the person is likely to be totally unaware of their behavior and will not remember it when they wake up. As a result, they may not perceive their sleep to have been restless.


Insomnia vs. Restless Sleep

Unlike restless sleep, insomnia is a formally defined sleep disorder diagnosed by a health professional according to specific criteria. Even though some people use the word insomnia colloquially to refer to general sleeping problems, the term has a precise meaning in sleep medicine. Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking frequently and not able to go back to sleep easily. Whereas with restless sleep you may be able to fall asleep easily but it is a disturbed sleep and often not deep enough to be sufficiently rested. In practice, the majority of people with insomnia probably experience restless sleep; however, not all people who have restless sleep, especially if it happens only occasionally, have insomnia.


What Are the Top 7 Causes of Restless Sleep?

1. Racing Mind:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Feelings of excitement

  • Stress

  • Worry

2. Lifestyle choices:

  • Alcohol

  • Consuming too much caffeine

  • Diet

  • Nicotine

  • Too much stimulation before bedtime

3. Sleeping habits:

  • Inconsistent sleep schedule

  • Poor Sleep Hygiene

4. Medical Conditions:

  • Hormones

  • Restless Legs Syndrome

  • Sleep Apnea

5. Environment:

  • Excess heat or cold

  • Excess noise or light

  • Noise disturbances

  • Uncomfortable mattress

6. Physical:

  • Chronic physical pain

  • Frequent need to urinate

  • Lack of exposure to sunlight

7. Outside influences:

  • Jet lag

  • Misaligned circadian rhythm

  • Work schedules


Quality Of Life

Chronic restless sleep can have a major impact on your quality of life, causing daytime sleepiness, irritability, weight gain, headaches and trouble concentrating. It may also reduce your performance levels on the job or at school. Poor sleep quality can even lower your immunity making you more vulnerable to disease. Anxiety can also be both a symptom and a cause of restless sleep. If restless sleep happens regularly, these issues may become increasingly problematic and even dangerous if you are drowsy while driving or operating heavy machinery.



How to Stop Restless Sleep?

To reduce or eliminate restless sleep we can start by avoiding obvious causes:

  • Avoid eating too close to bedtime, not having enough time for your stomach to finish digesting. The time to stop eating before bed varies from person to person but generally you should stop eating at least 3 hours before bed.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening.

  • Avoid stimulating entertainment or video games.

  • Avoid using the computer for at least an hour before bed. The blue screen can reduce your melatonin.

  • Try to get some physical exercise during the day.



Lifestyle Changes to Help Reduce Restless Sleep

Since restless sleep is often the result of chronic stress that we regularly encounter in life, there are several lifestyle changes we can make to reduce this stress and improve our sleep - as well as so many other health issues related to chronic stress.




1. Work Life Balance

With hectic work schedules, family obligations, health situations, major life changes, and even celebratory moments that require time and effort to plan and attend. Stress is a part of life and while acute stress can motivate and help us focus on a task, chronic stress has serious ramifications and restless sleep is one of the first signs of a problem.



2. Let Go Of Life Stresses

Tossing and turning over everything that needs to be accomplished the next day, the argument you had with your boss or significant other, money problems, or perhaps having received an unfavorable health diagnosis can linger if you don’t address the issue. Allowing anything to interfere with sleep isn’t going to change a situation that evening or prepare you mentally and physically in finding a solution in the light of day.



3. Self Care

Taking care of yourself is a significant step one, as well as admitting you may need a little help. Delegating tasks at home and in the workplace can help lighten your load and assist you in getting your tasks completed. Sometimes we associate asking for help as a form of weakness, when in fact, it’s an act of empowerment. Nobody can do it all every day and some people have certain resources, skills, and time that can complement our own strengths.



4. Reach Out to Friends

Whether it’s helping prepare dinner, transportation to appointments, or simply guidance during a difficult transition in your life, reaching out to others can only benefit you and believe it or not, also may help them. People want to be useful and appreciated. It’s not a burden to lean on those who offer or want to help.



5. Professional Help

In the instance of more serious stressors such as a death in the family, major diagnosis, loss of employment, or financial crisis, seeking professional help in the form of a counselor, financial advisor, or spiritual/religious guide is encouraged. The anxiety and emotional tumult of any of these scenarios can create chronic stress in the body and that is counterproductive to the rest the body needs to heal or repair itself.



6. Meditation

Meditation has been shown in study after study to have a profound and lasting effect in reducing chronic stress and relieving sleep problems. A regular meditation routine is very beneficial especially to do some before bedtime.




Relief is Just a Click Away

You can find relief through mind body meditation focused on helping you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer check out Better Sleep Meditation.



Written By Neal Clark