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5 Reasons You’re Tossing & Turning at Night

October 13, 2020
Photo Credit: Sofie Delauw

Every so often, we all have a night that we spend tossing and turning. That’s normal — sleep quality ebbs and flows, so sometimes, we just have a bad night of sleep.

But if you spend night after night adjusting and readjusting, never feeling quite comfortable enough to fall into deep, lasting sleep, then it’s time to put all those hours watching detective shows to work and start investigating the reasons for your nighttime struggles. They could be any of the following:

1. Blue light before bed

Our bodies follow a delicate sleep-wake cycle each day, and this cycle is mediated by light exposure. Darkness signals to your body that it’s time for bed which induces sleep. Light, as you might expect, signals to your body that it’s daytime and you should be awake and alert. This is why when you stare at an electronic screen — which emits blue light — before bed, it can cause tossing and turning. And yes, blue light really does keep you awake more than the light from your bedside lamp:

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, “The use of light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems. Exposure to blue-wavelength light in particular from these devices may affect sleep by suppressing melatonin and causing neurophysiologic arousal.”

So if you’re ever been lying in bed at night wide-eyed, wondering why it feels like 2 p.m., you’ve experienced this in action.

What to do about it: Limit your exposure to blue light for two hours before bed. That means no more doom scrolling or checking your emails: instead, try reading, listening to a podcast, or journaling. And if you super want to read an article on your iPad, toss on a pair of blue light-blocking glasses.

2. Liquids in the evening (yes, even water)

If you’re waking up in to take a trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, then chances are high that you’re drinking too many liquids in the evening. Yes, it’s true that you should be drinking a lot of water in throughout the day — it’s super good for you, helps your kidneys, and improves your cognitive function, among other benefits. But if you’re drinking water too close to bedtime, it can also disrupt your ability to sleep through the night, and sleep disruption can do a whole host of bad things for your body, including adversely affect your blood pressure. The culprit isn’t just water, either: that soothing cup of chamomile tea, which really can help you get to sleep, can also leave you groaning, getting up, and walking to the bathroom for the third time in an hour.

What to do about it: Get into a habit of putting down the water glass an hour or two before bed. And if nighttime, caffeine-free tea helps you drift off (but you end up stumbling to the bathroom an hour later), try drinking just a half-cup.

3. An ancient, saggy mattress

If your mattress is old, it may be interfering with your sleep. As mattresses age, they become lumpy and saggy, causing back pain and stiffness. Nothing keeps you from getting comfortable at night like an uncomfortable mattress. Not to mention, older mattresses can harbor dust mites and other allergens that cause congestion, coughing, and itchiness when you’re trying to get to sleep. Gross.

What to do about it: Upgrade your mattress already. We really like this organic latex version from Plus Beds. They’re incredibly supportive and hold their shape well, and also offer split models in case your partner likes a drastically different firmness level.

4. The wrong sleep temperature

Research suggests that the best temperature for sleep is between 66ºF and 70ºF. In other words, being too hot or cold at night is bad for getting a great night’s rest.

What to do about it: Achieving an optimal sleep environment isn’t as simple as setting the temperature on the thermostat, either: you need sheets that help keep you from waking up in a sweat. We’re fans of these bamboo ones, which wick moisture away, keeping you dry if night sweats are an issue.

5. General stress

In news of studies that probably don’t need to be done because we all knew what the results were going to be: stress exposure has been demonstrated to negatively impact sleep.

What to do about it: Try box breathing, a deep breathing technique in which you breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, breathe out for four, and then breathe out for four seconds. It’s an easy, And check out these other easy ways to reduce stress.

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