Common Sleep Disturbance Causes

The thought of getting the recommended full eight hours of sleep every night is a dream for most. Lifestyle conditions, health problems, and other disturbances cause millions of people to suffer from sleep deprivation. In turn, this affects how people function, their mood, and their peace of mind. Whether you suffer from occasional restless nights or experience a consistent lack of sleep, there are ways to help you sleep better. 

A sleep disturbance can be categorized as either sleep disorders or sleep deficiency problems. Sleep disorders are health conditions that prevent you from getting restful sleep and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Sleep deficiency problems may be more short-term and are often based on the conditions of your sleep patterns and bedroom environment. 

Sleep Disorders and How to Handle Them

The severity of sleep disorders vary and some even go away on their own. Other factors like sleep medicine, age, and life changes can bring on sleep disorders without notice. If you experience increased difficulty sleeping due to any of these conditions, see your doctor for recommendations on how to treat it. The sooner you can get back on a regular sleeping pattern, the better sleep quality you will have — and the better your health will be.


Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. In fact, one study found that one in every four Americans develop insomnia each year. It’s defined as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for multiple days in a row. This can be caused by high levels of stress, illness, or a change in medications or diet.

Infrequent sleep or sleep fragmentation for even a few days can throw off your body’s natural rhythm and cause health problem. If you are experiencing these issues, you can also reference our blog, Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Fragmentation. Lack of sleep makes it hard to focus, weakens your immunity, and affects your cardiovascular system. Insomnia can also lead to anxiety and  depression. 

To encourage sleep, set a consistent schedule of the time you wake up and go to bed each day. By getting your body on a regular rhythm, this helps to create automatic signals of when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to be active. Enjoy a warm bath or shower and a quiet activity right before bed to wind down. If you’re a night owl, don’t try to be a hero all at once:  Push your bedtime back by 15 minutes until you find a time where you feel tired.

Sleep Apnea

Another main sleep disturbance is sleep apnea. This occurs when you stop breathing for brief periods of time when sleeping. The air flow from the mouth and nose to your lungs is blocked, causing you to wake up. The result is poor sleep quality and drowsiness during the day. If left untreated, it can result in cardiovascular issues such as heart disease, stroke, or hypertension. 

Even though you may only wake up for a few seconds at a time, this disrupts the different phases of sleep, which prevents you from consistently  reaching a deep slumber. Those who suffer from sleep apnea rarely feel fully rested in the morning. 

One of the causes of sleep apnea is obesity. In order to treat it, one recommendation is to lose weight. There are also machines that deliver steady air pressure and airflow called CPAPs (continuous positive airway pressure) that can be worn every night. 

Anxiety and Depression

Two mental health issues that prevent people from getting a good night’s sleep are anxiety and depression. Both are triggered by stress and can be a common cause of sleep disturbance. Sleep is intended to be relaxing and give the body a chance to rejuvenate. For many, though, once they lie down, it’s difficult for them to quiet their minds. 

All too often, people who suffer from anxiety and/or depression end up lying in bed wide awake for far longer than intended. Similar to the effects of insomnia, it can be difficult to go to sleep or stay asleep. It then causes a cyclical effect since lack of sleep has a big impact on your mental health.

Meditation is one tool that works to quiet the mind and get the body into a calmer state. There are several types of meditation including guided meditation, sound therapy, and breathing exercises. Each is designed to alleviate stress and limit increased levels of anxiety. 

Restless Leg Syndrome

Identified as a sleep disorder, restless leg syndrome is feeling the urge to move  your legs when trying to fall asleep. There’s no known cause for this condition but it can often increase as you age. Although there’s relief by stretching or walking, these remedies aren’t practical when experiencing it in bed right as you want to go to sleep. Restless leg syndrome also often causes twitching during the night, which can lead to interrupted and uncomfortable sleep as well. 

Many find that massage is beneficial for those with restless leg syndrome. A warm bath or heating pad are other solutions that often work to prevent restless leg syndrome from occurring.

Sleep Deficiency Problems and Suggested Changes to Make

In addition to the physical and mental conditions of sleep disorders, there are other causes of sleep disturbances in adults that you can remedy with a few steps. These mostly have to do with updating your sleeping environment and the nighttime routine you follow on a daily basis. 

Bedroom Is Too Hot

It’s important that your bedroom is well-ventilated. When a room is stuffy or too hot, it can be difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep. This is a problem for many, and can influence why you sleep hot or why you sweat at night.  To fix this problem, lower the temperature in the room by a few degrees by adjusting the thermostat, opening a window, or turning on a fan. 

With the technology available today, you can also keep cool directly through your bed. The Eight Sleep Pod provides the ideal temperature for sleep by continuously adapting to your preferences and changes in body temperature as you rest. The smart technology senses what you need to keep cool and create your optimal sleeping environment. (Consider it the bedtime version of a personal trainer.) 

Social Media Is a Distraction 

Since the dawn of social media and smartphones, it’s been tougher for people to get quality sleep. The constant state of being connected can actually backfire in some ways because we’re unable to stop scrolling and shut it off when we need to get rest instead. To avoid notification bells, whistles, and vibrations, , silence your electronics when going to bed. The tiniest sound from a text message can disrupt a person’s sleep and make it difficult to experience a full sleep cycle. When this occurs often enough, sleep deprivation gradually sets in. 

Can’t Find a Comfortable Position

Tossing and turning all night is no fun. There’s no way to get a consistent amount of sleep when you’re not comfortable. First, gauge what sleeping position fits you best. Lying on your back or side are normally recommended since both alleviate pressure on your lower back. It’s not suggested to sleep on your stomach since this doesn’t allow your spine to align, which could lead to stiffness the next morning or other sleep issues.

Second, determine if you need new bedding. For example, a flannel sheet may be cozy during the winter but too hot to use in summer months. Additionally, a soft pillow may seem great in theory, but you may realize you need a firmer solution to support your neck. 

 Small Steps Result in Big Changes

Sleep disturbances will always be a part of life. . However, take small, regular steps to prevent or minimize the ones you can control.  As you begin to eliminate or decrease the intensity of these sleep disorders from your daily life, the more refreshed and ready to take on the day you’ll feel after a good night’s sleep.


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