Whether you’re tossing and turning or just have troubles falling into a deep sleep, it means that you are experiencing restless sleep. The bad thing about it is that you can wake up without feeling even a little bit refreshed. And, although it isn’t a medical term, the prevalence of restless sleep makes it worthy of deeper consideration. So, read on to find out more about what is restless sleep, what can cause it, and how it can be treated.
Restless Sleep Overview
As we already mentioned, restless sleep isn’t a medical condition and therefore it has no exact definition. Still, there’s a general explanation of how it feels or what it looks like to have restless sleep, which pretty much depends on whether you or your sleeping partner experience restless sleep.
So, if you are the one having restless sleep, then you may experience some of the following:
- Finding it hard to get settled and into a comfortable position
- Frequent tossing and turning
- Being in a half-asleep state
- Being aware that you are not in deep sleep
- Stirring and mind racing feeling
- Feeling frustrated because you can’t get a good night’s sleep
- Having trouble falling back asleep if woken up unexpectedly
- Feeling tired and mentally off after a night of restless sleep
On the other hand, if your sleeping partner experiences restless sleep, you may notice some of the following:
- Frequent tossing and turning
- Waking up unexpectedly
- Loud snoring with choking or gasping sounds
- Sleep talking or shouting
- Teeth grinding
- Pronounced limb movement, or even sleepwalking
The Difference between Restless Sleep and Insomnia
In general, people usually mistakenly think that restless sleep and insomnia are the same. But, the truth is, they are different. First of all, insomnia is a medically defined sleep disorder and can be diagnosed based on specific criteria.
To be more precise, insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by having trouble falling asleep and stay asleep or cause people to wake up early without being able to fall back asleep. And, in practice, many insomnia patients probably have restless sleep, but this doesn’t mean that those who experience restlessness have insomnia too.
The Causes of Restless Sleep
In fact, there’s a wide variety of potential mental and physical causes of restless sleep. In other words, anything from having a sleep disorder, experiencing pain or stress, to poor diet and sleep habits. Here’s a brief list of the most common ones:
- Mental or emotional issues: stress, anxiety, depression, grief, sadness, etc.
- Diet: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and sedatives.
- Health conditions: pain, lung diseases, heart issues, nocturia, etc.
- Bedroom setting: uncomfortable mattress, excess heat or cold, excess noise or light.
- Poor sleep hygiene: not following a consistent sleep schedule, using electronic gadgets before bedtime, eating close to bedtime, etc.
- Misaligned circadian rhythm as a result of working night shifts or jet lag
- Sleep disorders: insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or parasomnias.
Restless Sleep Treatment Options
If restless sleep is frequent or worsening, it may be a sign of an underlying issue so you’d better talk to a doctor. Sometimes, practicing simple strategies to fall asleep easily can help you address the issue successfully. Also, making some sleep hygiene improvements is key for improving sleep quality. And, finally, you could keep a sleep journal to better understand your sleep and identify what’s causing your restlessness.