Restless Sleep: What is it, Causes and How to Stop it

Restless Sleep: What is it, Causes and How to Stop it

Restless sleep is the term given to those who struggle to fall or stay asleep due to things like racing thoughts and waking up throughout the night. Restless sleep can also be associated with feeling like you’ve been half awake all night. 

It can be a nightmare for many people, especially if they experience it every single night. In fact, having restless sleep just a few nights a week can really mess with your sleep routine and circadian rhythm. 

We’ll be diving into what causes restless sleep, how sleep monitors track it, the effects it can have on everyday life and we’ll also be offering some tips to help stop restless nights.

What is restless sleep?

Restless sleep can happen to anyone. It’s often associated with common sleep disturbances such as racing thoughts, pain, stress, anxieties, sleep disruptions throughout the night and not feeling as though you’ve slept enough, if at all.

What causes restless sleep?


Stress has a lot to answer for when it comes to missing out on quality sleep. Stress can interrupt a night’s sleep and hinder your ability to fall asleep in the first place. You can often have racing thoughts caused by stress, which in turn cause even more stress. It’s this vicious cycle that can steal your attention from falling asleep, causing you to have a restless night’s sleep.

Caffeine and food

Eating too much before bed, having too much sugar or too much caffeine can encourage restless sleep. Caffeine can impact not only your ability to fall asleep, but also your ability to stay asleep. And the same can be said for sugary food and overeating late in the evening.

Poor Sleep Habits

Having poor sleeping habits or hygiene can impact how restless your night will be. Poor sleep habits include looking at a screen for too long at night. The blue light can negatively impact your sleep and cause restlessness. Also, having a sleep environment that is stress-inducing and hectic can affect a good wind down routine. 

Pain and Health Problems

Suffering from pain at night can interrupt sleep. The struggle to get comfortable in bed due to certain pain or discomforts can hinder your night’s sleep, night after night.

How do sleep monitors track restless sleep?

Sleep monitors can track the time it takes to fall asleep, the time you spend asleep and how much deep sleep you manage to get. Most sleep trackers can be worn and feature a built-in accelerometer which can help decipher whether you’ve had a quality night’s sleep or a restless night’s sleep. Some sleep monitors can also track your heart rate which offers another indication of how your night’s sleep went. 

Nightbuds work in a similar way. They help you monitor your sleep using science-backed, intelligent earbuds that work with the MyKokoon app, providing you with valuable sleep insights. So you can monitor what wind down routines and sleep tips work best for you.

What is considered restless sleep?

Restless sleep is often classified as sleep with more-than-normal amounts of movement. We all move in our sleep in one way or another, but when that movement disrupts your sleep for 3 or 4 nights in a row, there may be some underlying issue that needs to be addressed. 

How much restless sleep is normal?

Jax Sleep Center describes how it’s common for normal sleepers to experience 10 to 30 episodes of restlessness (when the body isn’t completely still) during the night, but anything more than that needs to be worked on.

Effects of restless sleep

There are many negative effects of restless sleep, so we’ve listed a few of them. Remember, restless sleep can often be helped, so don’t let these potential effects bring you down:

  • Memory issues
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Daytime fatigue.

5 tips to stop restless sleep

1. Sleep Hygiene Improvements

Creating a consistent sleep schedule in which you head to bed and wake up at the same time each night and morning, can help improve restless sleep. Ensuring your bedroom is clutter-free and a relaxing space to be in can also help. Exploring different types of exercise during the day can encourage you to drift off more easily at night. 

2. Diet and Caffeine 

Cutting out the caffeine after 3pm (or earlier!), can help stop it from interfering with your night’s sleep. Caffeine can also stop you from sleeping, as it’s a stimulant and increases activity in your brain and nervous system. One study found that 400mg of caffeine taken up to 6 hours prior to bed significantly inhibits your ability to sleep. 

Ensuring your diet is as healthy as can be, with minimal sugar and no late-night eating can help you discover a better night’s sleep.

3. Wind Down Routine

An effective way to calm cognitive arousal and discourage restless sleep is to create a good wind-down routine each night. 

You could try taking a warm bath 90 minutes before bed to help you relax and cut off. Pentucket Medical explains how having a warm bath can help your blood flow more easily and how it gives you time and space to breathe more deeply and slowly - getting the oxygen in your body flowing. 

Often reading a book in bed for 10 minutes can help distract you from hectic thoughts and encourage you to nod off. 

Another successful tip is to avoid blue lights from laptops, televisions and phones at least an hour before bed, ideally 2 hours. 

4. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Alcohol can increase your heart rate before bed and act as a stimulant and a sedative, keeping you awake for longer. 

Although alcohol can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it can cause your sleep quality and time to decrease. It’s also a diuretic and will cause frequent night-time trips to the bathroom, resulting in broken, restless sleep throughout the night.

The best way to alleviate any sleep disturbance is to avoid alcohol at least 4 hours before bed or ideally avoid it all together.

5. Try Deep Breathing

A few simple breathing techniques before bed can help you unwind and feel ready to hit the hay. 

One study compared 30 minutes of slow-paced breathing with 30 minutes of interacting with social media and found that “slow-paced breathing appears a promising cost-effective technique to improve subjective sleep quality and cardiovascular function during sleep in young healthy individuals”.

6. Try Noise-Masking Headphones With Meditation

Use Nightbuds and the MyKokoon app to listen to meditations, visualisations, storyscapes and more relaxing audio to help you kick restless sleep to the curb. 

Mask any external disturbances whilst you nod off with Nightbuds’ noise-masking technology. And you can also monitor which technique works best for you with their sleep-monitoring technology.

Be free from restless sleeping

Restless sleep can be a draining experience, especially if it happens frequently, night after night. Although trying to improve your restless nights may seem like a daunting task, it can in fact be a very rewarding experience, once you start seeing the positive effects. 

We’d recommend trialing one or two of our restless sleep tips to start with, to avoid overwhelming yourself with too much change. A simple first step could be to cut out caffeine before 3pm or avoid blue lights after 8pm. You can work your way through the list of tips to see what works for you when it comes to helping your restless nights. And remember to use Nightbuds to help monitor your sleep for improvements.

Why not start with exploring Nightbuds for sleep?


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