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Tossing And Turning All Night? Sleep Science Explains Why

Do you sometimes find yourself tossing and turning all night? If so, you’re not alone. According to studies, it affects more than half of people at some point in their lives, preventing them from getting the rest that they need to be at their best. 

 

Restlessness at night is uncomfortable and frustrating. You know you need to sleep, but for reasons beyond your comprehension, your body won’t let you. It has a mind of its own and wants to fidget all night, preventing you from drifting off into a restful slumber. What the heck is going on here?

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The fact that the body refuses to shut down even though it needs to is an interesting phenomenon. You would think that it would have systems in place to decrease alertness and help it get much-needed rest. But it turns out that lifestyle factors and diseases can bypass these, making natural sleep a real challenge. 

 

In this post, we’re going to report what science has to say on the matter. What do researchers think causes tossing and turning at night? Let’s take a look. 

 

Being Overstimulated

 

Overstimulation is a massive issue in the modern world. Civilization exposes us to experiences that were extremely rare during our biological evolution. Bright lights at night, loud music, hectic work schedules, and processed foods all create issues with our biology. Eventually, our bodies get to the point where they can’t switch off from all the stimulation we give them, and so they don’t. 

 

Perhaps the worst offender in this regard is blue light from mobile devices. Sleep researchers have been imploring people to switch their phones off at night – and they will probably continue to do so. 

 

Having A Poor Diet

 

Poor diets can also lead to tossing and turning, independent of any stimulation they might provide. Nutrients from food play a significant role in your capacity to fall asleep quickly and wake up in time for work the next day. Tryptophan – a chemical found in many typical food substances – is a vital ingredient of the sleep hormone, melatonin. If you don’t get enough of it, your body can’t manufacture the substances it needs to shut itself down every twenty-four hours. 

 

Interestingly, you can consume melatonin directly from food. Cherries and certain types of green leafy vegetables, like lambs lettuce, are high in the stuff. Pistachios are the highest-known readily available plant source. They’re delicious too!

 

Having A Poor Sleep Schedule

 

Our bodies are habit-forming machines. Over time, they learn when we eat, sleep, and even exercise!

 

Having a poor sleep schedule where you frequently change the time you hit the sack can have profound ramifications on your ability to switch off quickly. If you spend a week going to bed at 1 am, your body will learn that this is when you switch off. Then, when you try to get an early night, you’ll find yourself tossing and turning, wondering why your body won’t switch off. Scientists believe that it has to do with your body clock. If it’s out of sync with your intention to rest, it’ll keep you awake. 

 

Feeling Stressed

 

Put your hand up if you felt stressed at some point today? The chances are that you did. Something always comes up, doesn’t it? 

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The effects stress, however, go well beyond the unpleasantness of the immediate experience. They can affect your sleep too. 

 

The reason comes down to the activation of a region of the brain called the amygdala. It’s only about the size of a grape, but it is responsible for flooding your body with stress hormones that keep you alert, ready to fight off dangers. Unfortunately, it can’t tell the difference between a real physical hazard, like a saber-toothed tiger, and a non-physical issue, such as your boss calling you up late at night. 

 

Once you activate it, it can be hard to put it back in the box. 

 

There are, however, some supplements that might help. Penguin CBD, for instance, talks about the benefits of cannabidiol, a compound from hemp. It appears to attach to stress receptors, preventing them from going haywire. Another is lavender – great for providing instant relaxation. 

 

Whatever you choose to do to manage your stress, try to keep it under control. Entering a “calm zone” after 7 pm allows you to wind down and prepare for sleep. 

 

You Have Sleep Apnea

 

Your problems could also relate to a specific medical condition, like sleep apnea. 

 

Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep. Because the body can’t get sufficient oxygen, it jolts you awake, reopening the airway and allowing air to flow once more. When this happens multiple times per night, it can make it almost impossible to get restful sleep. You can find yourself tossing and turning all night, without really feeling like you’ve switched off. 

 

You Have Insomnia

 

Insomnia is a medical condition characterized by the inability to fall asleep – or, in some cases, stay asleep. Usually, it results from an underlying psychological condition – often a mental health issue such as PTSD. 

 

If you have insomnia, you will find yourself moving around in bed, primarily because you are conscious of it. When we hit the sack, we expect that we will fall asleep quickly. Thus, we’re often not aware of just how much we move about. 

 

But when you have insomnia, you focus more on your body movements (because you are still conscious). And that means you often have the sense that you’re tossing and turning an abnormal amount. 

 

You Have Fibromyalgia

 

Finally, your sleep issues could be caused by a chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia. It can be difficult for the brain to shut down when you’re in pain, and so you spend a lot of time moving about, trying to get comfortable. 

 

So, do any of the above reasons for tossing and turning ring true for you? Have you ever experienced a restless night where you just couldn’t get to sleep, no matter how hard you tried? Hopefully, science has some answers for you. The researchers over at Sleep Advisor have a whole section of articles on sleep science that offer some in-depth advice.  Hopefully, science has some answers for you. 

 

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2 Comments

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