What Is Restless Sleep? Causes, and How to Cope Update 05/2024

Restless sleep is something that most people can identify with. It doesn’t matter if you’re tossing and turning or just can’t get to sleep; you may not feel as rested the next day.

However, because it’s so common, restless sleep warrants further investigation. We’ll take a closer look at restless sleep, its causes, and how it might be managed in the following sections.

What Is Restless Sleep?

Having a hard time sleeping does not have a specific definition. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) does not recognize it as a recognized sleep disorder, hence it has no objective definition. However, there is a broad idea of what a restless sleep looks or feels like.

Restless Sleep: Causes and Treatments - Brynna Connor MD

What Does Restless Sleep Look or Feel Like?

The perception of restless sleep varies depending on who is experiencing it and who is only witnessing it.

Having a hard time falling asleep

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you may be experiencing one or more of the following problems:

  • I’m tossing and turning, trying to find a place where I’m at ease.
  • The sensation that you’re just half-asleep or that you’re not getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Because your mind is racing, you’re constantly agitated.
  • Frustration over being unable to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Having trouble getting back to sleep after waking up unexpectedly.

Another common sign or symptom of restless sleep is the next day, when you may be exhausted and/or unfocused. If you have frequent sleep disturbances, driving or operating heavy machinery can be quite hazardous if you are drowsy.

Observing Restless Sleep

If you see these traits in someone else, you may think they’re having trouble sleeping.

  • Regular twitching and waking up even when you don’t want to.
  • Snoring that sounds like someone is gasping or choking.
  • It’s possible to get out of bed when you’re still asleep.
  • Talking or yelling while you’re still in bed.
  • clenching of teeth (sleep-related bruxism).

It is possible for a person to be completely unconscious of these indicators of restlessness, such as talking or moving during sleep, and not recall it when they wake up. It is possible for them to believe that their sleep was not restless because of this.

How Is Restless Sleep Different From Insomnia?

When it comes to insomnia, it is a medically recognized sleep problem that can only be diagnosed by a qualified health care provider. Despite the fact that the term “insomnia” is sometimes used in a colloquial sense to describe a wide range of sleep disorders, it has a specific meaning in the field of sleep medicine.

Most people who have insomnia suffer restless sleep, but not everyone who experiences restless sleep, even if it occurs only occasionally, has insomnia.

What Are the Causes of Restless Sleep?

Restless sleep can be caused by a wide range of things, but here are some of the most common. Sleep disorders and bad sleep habits, as well as anything that affect your emotional and physical health, might disrupt your sleep.

A person’s thoughts can race and they may not be able to relax and get a good night’s sleep because of stress and worry, including anxiety disorders that have been diagnosed. Grief, sadness, and despair all have the potential to interfere with a person’s ability to get a good night’s rest.

As a result, stimulants like caffeine or nicotine can leave the body wired and unprepared for sleep. Even though they make you sleepy, alcohol and sedatives can disturb your sleep patterns and keep you up all night, even if you fall asleep quickly.

Sleeping peacefully can be scuppered by a variety of health issues. Some disorders that disrupt sleep include pain and a need to urinate frequently, lung disease, and heart difficulties Inability to get a good night’s sleep is frequently linked to pain and discomfort in bed.

Restless sleep might be exacerbated by a sleep environment that isn’t favorable to a good night’s rest. Getting a good night’s sleep is dependent on finding the right mattress for your body type and sleeping habits. Mattress discomfort, noise or light pollution, and excessive heat or cold can keep you awake or prevent you from getting a restful night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep are often caused by poor sleep habits, which are part of sleep hygiene. Consistently eating late at night, sleeping with electronics, and having an irregular sleep pattern are all examples of routines and habits that can lead to insomnia.

A misaligned circadian rhythm, which typically occurs when working the night shift or suffering from jet lag after traveling across numerous time zones, can also produce restless or disturbed sleep.

In some cases, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or sleep-related respiratory diseases like obstructive sleep apnea are linked to restless sleep (OSA). RLS is characterized by a strong impulse to move one’s limbs, while OSA is characterized by frequent breathing interruptions that prevent a person from getting a good night’s rest.

These problems, as well as other diseases like parasomnias, may be to blame for the restless sleep you see in others. Parasomnias are abnormal sleep behaviors and movements, such as sleep talking, sleepwalking, and reenactment of dreams.
7 Top Causes of Restless Sleep and How to Stop it | Online Meditation Events

Why Does Sleep Hygiene Matter So Much?

This includes the maintenance of actions and routines that have an impact on your sleep, and it’s more than just your nighttime ritual. Everything from the timing of light exposure and coffee and alcohol use to your workout habits and sleeping environment is a part of good sleep hygiene. Circadian rhythms play an important role in good sleep hygiene.

During an approximately 24-hour period, your circadian rhythm acts as an internal biological clock, dictating the best times for you to sleep and wake up and when your energy peaks and declines. Getting the sleep your body requires and avoiding sleep debt can both be achieved by planning your day according to your circadian rhythm.

For every 14 days, you owe your body a same amount of sleep as you did the previous 14 days. On any given day, this is the number that best forecasts your mood and performance. As long as your sleep deficit is less than five hours, you can still feel and perform your best. Your circadian rhythm is mapped automatically by the RISE app, which lets you monitor your sleep debt and keep track of your progress in reducing it.

You’ll notice the harmful effects of sleep debt sooner rather than later if you suffer from restless sleep or other sleep problems. Cognitive impairment and a decrease in attention span, reflexes, metabolism and the immune system can be caused by sleep deprivation in the short term. In the long run, sleep deprivation raises the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as well as a host of other chronic disorders.

Restless sleep is clearly more than just an inconvenience, so let’s look at some common sleep hygiene concerns and other factors that could be stopping you from receiving the restful sleep your body requires. sleep debt is clearly more than just an inconvenience.

How Is Restless Sleep Different By Age Group?

People of different ages can experience sleep disturbances in different ways. It’s not surprising that the causes of restless sleep vary among different age groups, as sleep patterns and sleep needs are varied for infants, young children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

Restless Sleep in Infants

In spite of the fact that babies spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping, they rarely sleep for more than two or three hours at a stretch. Despite what some parents may think, this is perfectly normal and expected.

It’s common for kids to transition from a night-and-day sleep pattern to a day-and-night one by the time they’re six months old. However, a study of 12-month-olds found that roughly 28% slept less than six hours in a run and 43% slept less than eight hours in a straight. Since the inability to fall asleep at night is not uncommon among infants and does not affect their mental or physical development, parents should be aware of this fact.

At around nine months, some babies become more restless in their sleep. Separation anxiety at night, increased awareness of and control over their environment, excessive stimulation, and/or resting too soon before bedtime can all contribute to this behavior problem….

Parents who want their newborns and children to sleep peacefully should develop good sleep habits of their own. In babies, reinforcing excellent sleep habits can help them have a better night’s sleep as they age older. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can also be prevented if parents adopt proper safety procedures (SIDS).

Restless sleep in newborns may be a sign of a more serious health issue. Babies with low birth weight or prematurity, as well as those with underlying medical issues, are more likely than others to suffer from sleep apnea, a breathing disorder. If a parent notices that their infant is having difficulty breathing at night or has any other questions or concerns, they should consult with their doctor.

Restless Sleep in Toddlers

Toddlers’ inability to self-soothe, calm down, and fall asleep might manifest as restless sleep. Depending on when they wake up during the night, they may experience this.

Restless sleep in toddlers typically begins around the age of 18 months and may be caused by separation anxiety, excessive stimulation, poor sleep habits or a rise in the frequency of nightmares.

This restless sleep is usually remedied when parents apply regular measures that foster a stable nighttime routine, a fixed schedule, and self-soothing to get back to sleep.

Restless Sleep in Children

Restless sleep in young children is generally linked to poor sleep hygiene, although other variables may also play a role in the development of the problem.

Parasomnias, which are aberrant sleep habits, are more common in children. Confusing arousals or sleep terrors, in which a youngster appears partially aware and disturbed, but is unable to communicate or respond, are also possible. Sleepwalking, which affects up to 29 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 13, and frequent nightmares are additional examples of parasomnias.

The best way to soothe a child back to sleep when they have parasomnias, despite the grief they cause their parents, is to gently console them back to sleep without waking them up. The incidents are rarely remembered by children, and they tend to occur infrequently and then abruptly cease. A kid may require treatment if parasomnias begin to interfere with sleep, are frequent, or put the child at danger of harm (such as during episodes of sleepwalking).

A doctor should be seen when a kid exhibits symptoms such as excessive drowsiness, irritability, or impaired thinking and concentration during the day. A child’s disturbed sleep and loud snoring may indicate a condition known as pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) can also be linked to diseases such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which can cause daytime impairments from restless sleep (ASD).

Restless Sleep in Teens

In adolescents, a disruption in their sleep schedule is a contributing reason to a lack of restful sleep. Adolescents’ bodies shift toward a later sleep cycle known as the “night owl,” so they may appear agitated when they try to get to bed earlier than usual.

Stress and worry related to school or social life, as well as poor sleep habits, such as the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices in bed, can exacerbate sleep difficulties caused by this changing biology.

It is possible for youth to develop sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), and ADHD.

Teens’ insomnia and restlessness is a serious issue for a variety of causes. Mental and physical growth as well as decision making and the possibility of engaging in risky conduct can be affected by it. For this reason, a doctor should be consulted if a teen’s sleep is disrupted for an extended period of time.

Restless Sleep in Adults

Adults are more likely than any other age group to suffer from insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders, which can all contribute to restless sleep.

Adults are more likely to suffer from many health issues that impair their sleep. Adults who suffer from depression, stress, or anxiety may have trouble sleeping. Work, family, and social responsibilities can reduce the amount of time available for sleep, which can be exacerbated by poor sleep hygiene.

A health professional should be consulted by people who commonly have sleep disturbances, such as restlessness, snoring, or breathing difficulties, as well as daily consequences such as exhaustion, drowsiness, and problems thinking clearly.

Restless Sleep in Seniors

In the elderly, many of the same variables that cause insomnia in adults also contribute to a lack of sleep. As we become older, we spend more time in the early phases of sleep, which makes it easier for us to be interrupted and less restorative for us.

Many seniors have a shift in their circadian rhythm that causes them to wake up earlier in the morning. A lack of sunlight exposure, especially for those in managed care facilities, might lead naturally to this.

Multiple health conditions and prescription drugs can cause restless sleep in the elderly.

Sleeping disorders are common in older persons because of the confluence of these issues, but actions to address the underlying diseases and improve sleep hygiene can help. An important part of providing care to older persons who have difficulty sleeping is making sure they are not groggy or disoriented when they get out of bed in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
Restless Sleep: Causes and Treatments - Brynna Connor MD

What Are the Best Ways To Address Restless Sleep?

Restless sleep can only be addressed if the root reason is discovered. In order to avoid tossing and turning and prevent it from becoming a long-term problem, there are a number of procedures that may be taken, including consulting a doctor.

When to Talk to a Doctor

Restless sleep should be discussed with your doctor if it occurs frequently, persists, or worsens. Also, if you are experiencing severe daytime sleepiness or other daytime impairment, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment options.

Sleep Hygiene Improvements

The quality of one’s sleep can be affected by a person’s sleep hygiene at any age. You can start by establishing a consistent sleep pattern, nighttime rituals, healthy eating habits, and regular exercise routines. Choosing the right mattress for you and making your bedroom as peaceful as possible will help you get a good night’s sleep.

Keep a Sleep Journal

Journaling about how you sleep each night is a good method to get a better sense of what’s going on. Restless sleep can be documented in the journal, as well as any difficulties you believe are causing it. Monitoring your sleep in this way not only helps you understand your sleeping habits, but it can also shed light on what might be causing you to wake up frequently during the night.


Is Your Bedroom Optimized for Sleep?

Cool (65-68 degrees), dark, and quiet are the ideal conditions for sound sleep. As melatonin production can be disrupted by light, it is better to sleep in a room with no windows. As a result, turn off all of your lights at night and cover your eyes with blackout drapes or blinds.

Noise is also a no-no. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’ve adapted to sleeping in a less-than-silent setting; objectively, you’re probably not sleeping well. Using a white noise machine and earplugs will help you get a better night’s sleep by masking outside noises.

Is Your Sleep Problem Actually a Light Problem?

A light problem may be a better term to describe your sleep issue. During each 24-hour cycle, your circadian rhythm is strongly influenced by the sun’s rising and setting light cycle, and this can have a significant impact on how well you sleep.

The production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin can be boosted by limiting exposure to light, especially blue light and bright light, in the 90 minutes before to going to bed. (Blue-light-blocking eyewear may also be beneficial.) It’s also a good idea to expose oneself to natural light as soon as possible after awakening, as this sends a signal to your brain to stop releasing melatonin.

Is Your Sleep Schedule Erratic?

Consistency is key to your circadian rhythm, so setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time is essential if you want to sleep well at night. In order to ensure you receive enough sleep, make sure your sleep pattern permits you to do so. (The RISE app uses proprietary algorithms and your recent sleep history data to determine your personal sleep demand and provide you an optimum bedtime and waking time depending on your chronotype.)

Do You Take Time to Wind Down Before Bed?

In terms of keeping people awake and preventing them from getting a decent night’s sleep, light problems come in second. A evening wind-down session can help you separate from the stress and hustle of the day, so make it a habit to do so. Sip some decaf tea while you read a chapter of a book, take a warm bath or shower, or meditate.

To help you wind down at the right moment each night, the RISE app provides a variety of guidelines and recordings for calming noises, progressive muscular relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and autogenic training that you may use to create your relaxation sessions.

Do You Drink Alcohol Before Bed?

Despite the fact that alcohol has sedative characteristics, it is a terrible sleep aid since it interrupts regular sleep cycles. Sleep induced by alcohol is fragmented, which means it is interrupted by brief awakenings. If you drink, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. Snoring and sleepwalking can both be exacerbated by excessive alcohol use, therefore it’s better to avoid it 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Did You Exercise, Nap, Eat a Big Meal, or Consume Caffeine Too Close to Bedtime?

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are essential, but eating and exercising too close to bedtime might impair sleep. Big meals three hours before night should be avoided as well as a one-hour workout.

The optimal time to take a nap is during your afternoon dip, which you’ll discover on your Energy Schedule in the RISE app.. It can be difficult to get to sleep if you take your nap later than that. You may use the app to remind you of the best times to eat, exercise, drink caffeine, and smoke cigarettes.

Do You Let Your Pet Sleep in Your Bed?

Having a pet in the same room as you can have a positive impact on your well-being. But if you’re a light sleeper, having a pet around can disrupt your slumber. Sleep deprivation can be exacerbated by the activity of cats and dogs in the middle of the night. Pets who suffer from insomnia are more prone to disturb your own sleep.

Is Low Blood Sugar Waking You Up?

It’s possible that low blood sugar levels could be causing your insomnia. Try a modest snack before going to bed if you suspect that nocturnal hypoglycemia (particularly common among diabetics) is to blame for your insomnia.

Are You Pregnant?

Unfortunately, pregnancies are often accompanied by sleepless nights, and this is especially true in the third trimester.

Do You Suffer From Orthosomnia?

One of the newest sleep disorders, orthosomnia, is characterized by a fixation on the numerical values provided by our wearables and other sleep technology. This condition can exacerbate already existing sleep issues. This is one of the reasons why we at Rise strive to keep things as simple as possible. The only “score” that matters to us is your sleep debt, not the amount of time you spend in REM or deep sleep, for example.

Rate this post