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Tossing and turning at night is a common problem many sleepers face worldwide. It prevents sleepers from enjoying deep sleep, leaving them tired and sluggish all day. Unfortunately, this restlessness can lead to health-related problems if symptoms persist.

For this reason, we'll discuss some of the most common causes of frequent tossing and turning at bedtime — and how to prevent it.

What is Restless Sleep?

Restless sleep is associated with several sleep disorders and other health conditions. An overall description of a restless sleep is the feeling of being half-awake, and experiencing difficulty sleeping.

Restless sleep has a few characteristics, such as:

  • Tossing and turning in bed
  • An inability to sleep soundly
  • Constant mind racing that causes you to stay awake
  • Waking up too soon, and having trouble falling asleep again

When you experience these symptoms of restless sleep, you may suffer fatigue, absent-mindedness, and sluggishness when you wake up, affecting your productivity, including proper physical and mental functionality during the day.

Common Reasons You Toss and Turn at Night

Here are some probable reasons for restless sleep.

Anxiety

A recent sleep study found that anxiety causes restless sleep. Anxiety is an emotion that causes excessive, persistent, and intense feelings of fear and worries about a situation. As a result, it can cause an increase in heart rate, breathing, sweating, and fatigue.

People with anxiety have trouble sleeping because of disruptive thoughts, and constant worries. According to the sleep study, sleepers tend to shift their sleeping positions more when anxious, trying to make themselves comfortable in bed. Unfortunately, this condition is persistent, and can occur with or without any triggers.

Stress

Stress is the body's response to the feeling of mental, physical, and emotional tension. The human body can cope with stressors by releasing stress hormones that trigger a fight or flight reaction. However, when the stress is overwhelming, the excessive stress hormones released by the body can cause physical and mental health issues.

Some of the most common effects of stress are body aches and pains, digestive problems, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression. These effects can make it difficult to fall asleep at night, resulting in restlessness.

Overstimulation

It may be difficult to fall asleep if your body and brain are overstimulated. For example, smoking, drinking coffee or energy drinks before bed can make you stay awake because of the caffeine and nicotine content.

The blue light emitted by electronic devices, such as phones and TV screens, can also delay the release of the sleep hormone called melatonin. Therefore, if you habitually use your phone, or watch TV before or during bedtime, you're likely to stay awake, forcing you to toss and turn more.

Poor Quality Mattress

When it comes to having a deep restorative sleep, the quality of your mattress plays a huge role. If your mattress is old, and lacks support and adequate cushioning, you'll most likely toss and turn all night long.

Some mattresses also contain materials that don't provide sufficient comfort to sleepers. For example, memory foam mattresses can trap heat from sleepers, causing them to feel too hot while sleeping. This causes sweating, making sleepers uncomfortable and restless while sleeping.

Poor Sleep Hygiene (Also Known as Poor Sleep Habits)

Sleep hygiene is practicing good sleep habits, and creating a conducive bedroom environment that promotes uninterrupted sleep. Good sleep hygiene helps your mind and body relax to improve sleep quality.

Some examples of good sleep habits include:

  • Keeping a regular bedtime
  • Avoiding daytime naps
  • Regulating stimulators, such as caffeinated drinks
  • Eliminating noise and distractions in the bedroom

Practicing relaxing bedtime routines, such as showering, or taking a bath before bed.

Poor sleep hygiene can cause overall tiredness and reduced comfort, resulting in restlessness during bedtime.

Misaligned Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is the physical, mental, and behavioral changes in the human body that follow the 24-hour internal clock of the brain. It is responsible for regulating the sleep and wake cycle by responding to the changes in light in the environment. That explains why most people tend to feel sleepy during the night, and awake during the day.

However, some lifestyles may interrupt this sleep cycle, making it difficult for sleepers to fall asleep at night. For example, sleepers who work night shifts several times a week stay awake for longer hours in the night. Their bodies gradually get used to the new sleep and wake cycle, which eventually disrupts the circadian rhythm. As a result, the new sleep pattern misaligns with the circadian rhythm, causing these sleepers to have restless nights when they aren't working a shift.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes women's bodies significantly affect their sleep quality. For example, changes during pregnancy, menstrual cycle, and menopause can cause nighttime sweating, cramping pain, and hot flashes that make a woman uncomfortable at night.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Tossing and turning in the night can also result from underlying medical conditions that cause discomfort while sleeping. They include:

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder affecting one in every four sleepers in the US each year. It is a sleep disorder that persistently makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or causes a sleeper to wake up too early, feeling restless and tired. This condition can also occur due to other chronic sleep deprivation issues, such as depression, stress, and chronic pain.

If you have insomnia, you may frequently toss and turn when you're unable to sleep. However, this condition is usually treatable with prescription medications, sleep therapies, and behavior therapies that address underlying causes.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts breathing by periodically stopping and starting your breathing pattern while you sleep. It occurs when your throat muscles relax too much, and collapse against your airway during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes loud snoring, interrupting your sleep. It can also cause abrupt awakening while gasping for air or choking, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

Some sleepers develop insomnia if the symptoms of sleep apnea persist. For example, they may fear falling asleep to avoid choking or gasping for air, which eventually causes them to stay awake for long hours at night.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move, or shake your limbs. For most sleepers, this syndrome intensifies when resting, prompting them to move around their beds more.

RLS interferes with the sleep pattern, as it takes longer for such sleepers to fall asleep, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and daytime sleepers. This condition has no known cure, but some prescription medicines can help manage its severity.

Causes of Tossing and Turning in Different Groups of Sleepers

Not all sleepers experience the same sleep issues with sleep restlessness. For example, some causes of sleep restlessness may be rampant among seniors, and rare among toddlers. Here's a summary of some common reasons why different sleepers may toss and turn at night.

Toddlers

If you notice your toddler tossing and turning too often while sleeping, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. In most cases, the problem comes from poor sleep hygiene, including a lack of a sleep schedule, too much daytime napping, poor sleep environment, and a poor quality mattress. Your toddler may also be restless at night because of a wet bed, soiled diaper, or uncomfortable sleepwear.

Maintaining healthy sleep hygiene for your toddler can significantly improve their sleep quality. However, if they keep struggling to fall asleep, you may need to visit a pediatrician to examine your toddler.

Older Children

Examples of bad sleep hygiene, such as irregular sleep patterns, blue light from electronics, and a poor diet can cause restlessness among older children, making it difficult to fall asleep. Some children are also light sleepers who can barely fall asleep in a noisy, lit, or unconditioned room.

Night terrors are also common among older children, resulting from a bad experience, some medications, stress, new environments, among other reasons. Because of the fear induced by night terrors, they end up tossing and turning to help them fall asleep. However, severe symptoms of distress during sleep among this group may be due to underlying physical or mental health issues.

Teens

Teens undergo several lifestyle changes that affect the quality of their sleep. For example, they have longer school hours, assignments, and active social life. In addition, a large percentage of teens spend long hours on their phones and other electronic devices during bedtime. These lifestyle changes affect their circadian rhythm, and may trigger several sleep disorders, such as insomnia, stress, and anxiety.

Healthy sleep hygiene practices can help solve these sleep problems among teens, and reduce the effects of poor sleeping habits in the long run.

Adults

Restless sleep among adults can combine health-related problems and lifestyle choices. Adults are prone to stress and fatigue resulting from daily life situations. They may also have underlying health conditions that cause persistent distress, or body aches and pain. Additionally, some lifestyles and unhealthy sleep hygiene practices, such as taking alcohol, drugs, and other stimulators can lead to restlessness at night. When that happens, they’ll take longer than normal to fall asleep.

Seniors

Frequent tossing and turning in bed among seniors commonly results from several health complications and discomfort. Seniors grow weak in old age, making them prone to several health issues, such as arthritis, insomnia, heart problems, high blood pressure, or cancers that cause body aches and pains. As a result, seniors with such conditions may move a lot on their beds while trying to find relief from pain, distress, or discomfort.

Seniors also need special care to optimize their comfort while sleeping. For example, seniors with arthritis and joint pain require a mattress that relieves pressure by cushioning and cuddling the joints and other pressure points on their bodies. They also need a supportive mattress to keep their spine in proper alignment to reduce back pain and other related complications.

Seeing a Doctor About Restless Sleep

You need to talk to a sleep specialist if you have persistent symptoms of restless sleep. You may need a doctor as soon as possible if:

  • you wake up tired even after long hours of sleep
  • you wake up too early than planned
  • you feel sluggish and weak during the day
  • you look tired very early in the morning
  • you have difficulties controlling your emotions
  • you experience daytime sleepiness
  • you have problems completing your daily tasks
  • your concentration at work or school is low

Before you go in for your appointment with a sleep specialist, you may want to record notes on your sleep pattern for a couple of days. Such notes help the doctor effectively diagnose the cause of the problem, and the possible solution. For example, in your notes, you may indicate when you went to bed, when you woke up, and how many times you woke up in between.

Additionally, inform your doctor of any remedies you have tried to help you sleep better. For example, let them know if you changed your bedtime routine, or used sleeping pills to help you sleep soundly.

Tips to Stop Tossing and Turning at Night

Here are some helpful tips to help you stop tossing and turning at night.

  • Reduce daytime napping
  • Take a warm bath, or a cool shower before bedtime
  • Be more active in the morning
  • Avoid using your phone, or watching TV in bed
  • Try relaxation techniques, like aromatherapy
  • Try morning exercise to boost your metabolism
  • Create a bedtime routine, such as writing in a journal
  • Eliminate caffeinated drinks, and other stimulators in the afternoon
  • Improve your diet and self-care
  • Get rid of distractions, such as bright lights, from your bedroom
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
  • Seek treatment for chronic pain
  • Buy a comfortable mattress

Choosing a Mattress for Restless Sleepers

Besides the medical conditions and poor sleep hygiene practices, your mattress can cause sleepless nights if it lacks sufficient support and comfort to help you sleep better. If you're thinking of replacing your mattress with a new one, here are some factors to consider as a restless sleeper to stop tossing and turning at night.

Noise and Motion Transfer

Avoid noisy and bouncy mattresses, such as the traditional innerspring mattresses that contain grids of metallic coil systems. Although these coils provide sleepers with extra support, they can also cause noise and motion transfer that may prevent you from falling asleep.

Temperature Regulation

Sleeping hot can also cause you to toss and turn in bed because of excessive perspiration. Instead, choose a mattress made using breathable materials, such as organic latex, wool, and cotton.

Body Contouring

If your restlessness results from body aches and pain, you need a mattress that cushions your joints, back, and other body parts to relieve you from pressure and pain. Opt for a soft mattress with an extra cushioning layer made with breathable materials, such as cotton and wool, for best results.

Firmness Level

The firmness level of a new mattress also determines how comfortable it feels. If a mattress is too firm, it may exert too much pressure on sensitive body parts, causing more pain and discomfort to a sleeper. If it is too soft, it may lack adequate support that keeps a sleeper's spine in proper alignment to reduce the chances of low back pain.

Choose Latex For Less Bedding for the Perfect Night's Sleep

Latex For Less is your one-stop online shop for the most comfortable bedding that guarantees a restful sleep all night. These top-quality bedding cater to every sleeper's needs, and can eliminate some of the most common causes of tossing and turning in bed. In addition, they contain carefully selected materials made into uniquely crafted designs that optimize comfort for sleepers.

Here are the best of Latex For Less bedding.

The Latex For Less Latex Mattress

This latex mattress contains 100% natural latex, organic cotton, and natural wool, uniquely designed with two firmness levels for improved sleep quality. On one side, the surface of the mattress is firm, while the other is medium-firm, letting sleepers choose their sleep preferences by flipping the mattress.

Sleeping on this mattress gives you all the benefits of natural latex, including temperature regulation, responsiveness, and superior support. In addition, its soft, luxurious, and chemical-free cotton cover keeps you dry and protected from allergens, reducing the chances of sleep discomfort and allergy reactions.

The Latex For Less Topper

Add superior support and comfort to your bed using this latex topper made with 100% natural latex. It is available in soft, medium, and medium-firm surface firmness levels and different sizes. Besides altering the firmness level of your mattress, this topper has additional properties you need to improve your comfort.

The latex topper keeps you cool through the night by improving air circulation around your mattress. It is also chemical-free and hypoallergenic, keeping you free from allergens and unpleasant odors.

The 100% Natural Shredded Latex Pillow

The natural shredded latex pillow is one of its kind. It is a buoyant, light, and fluffy pillow that provides soothing comfort with the responsiveness and support of latex foams. This pillow eases tension on the muscles around your head, neck, and shoulders, enabling you to relax and fall asleep.

The 100% Natural Solid Latex Pillow

For a solid buoyant pillow alternative, choose the luxurious natural solid latex pillow. This pillow cushions the head and neck, to keep your airways open while you sleep. Despite being solid, it feels soft and cushiony, making you comfortable, regardless of your sleeping position.

The Latex For Less Foundation

Supplement your new latex mattress with the right foundation for perfect support. A poor foundation base affects the support of a mattress, causing poor spinal alignment, and increased pressure on painful body parts.

The Latex For Less foundation is specially designed for latex mattresses. It consists of strong and sturdy natural spruce wood with precisely spaced slats, and soft cotton covers to improve airflow. This foundation is also easy to assemble right out of the box without any tools.

Latex For Less Adjustable Base

The Latex For Less Adjustable Base lets you customize your comfort needs to help you relax and sleep better. It comes with three preset positions - the Zero Gravity, Anti-Snore, and Flat positions - and two programmable positions.

Latex For Less mattresses and sleep accessories come at affordable prices to help you save money, and say goodbye to sleepless nights. Besides free shipping on all orders, we also offer a 120 night trial for our mattresses, as well as flexible payment plans.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.