9 Important Things Your Body May Be Trying To Tell You If You’re A Light Sleeper
While some people are able to sleep through the night without stirring, there are those of us who fall into the "light sleeper" category. Instead of resting peacefully, we toss and turn, wake up easily, and often feel tired as a result. And hey, it's common to have the occasional bad night. But if the problem is ongoing, your body may be trying to tell you something.
"A light sleeper is someone who wakes up easily throughout the night due to noises, movements, etc.," Ramiz Fargo, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at Loma Linda University Health, tells Bustle. "There are four phases of sleep. Stages one, two, three, and rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep. Light sleepers spend more time in stage one (light sleep) than heavy sleepers. This is the phase at which the body is in between being asleep and awake."
There are many reasons why you might not fall into the deeper stage of sleep, including both health and lifestyle factors. To figure it out, "try changing up your routine to help improve your sleep quality," Matteo Franceschetti, co-founder and CEO of Eight Sleep, tells Bustle. This might include taking fewer naps during the day, limiting your caffeine intake, and staying off your phone before bed, he says.
If that doesn't do the trick, look into the various medical conditions that can impact sleep, including sleep disorders, anxiety, and even things like hyperthyroidism. Being a light sleeper can be chalked up to lifestyle habits, health concerns, or a combination of the two, so read on for a few possible culprits, according to experts.
1. You Have Anxiety
If you have anxiety, there's a good chance that's what's keeping you up at night.
"The more our waking lives are consumed with fear-driven concerns, the more our sleeping brain is apt to stay in a light sleep," Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, MMSc, MD, a board-certified sleep medicine expert, tells Bustle. "The reason is simple. While our waking brains can rationally distinguish one thing from another, our sleeping brain cannot easily sort between threats." So even if you're able to cope with it during the day, your sleeping brain may not be able to.
To combat anxiety, you'll want to treat it ASAP, possibly by seeing a therapist, and also find ways to calm your mind before bed. You can "engage in a relaxation technique prior to sleep to reduce anxiety and deepen sleep," Dr. Ellenbogen says, such as a soothing bedtime routine, deep breathing, or even meditation.
2. You Have An Over-Active Thyroid
"As one of the hormone control centers in the body, the thyroid is responsible for many of our most fundamental functions," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. "In practice, an overactive thyroid can lead to the overstimulation of the nervous system, increased heart rate, and anxiety, all of which can affect sleep patterns. As a result, it's not uncommon for people with an overactive thyroid to be light sleepers."
3. You're Hungry
Sometimes, being a light sleeper can stem from the simplest of habits, such as not eating enough before bed.
"This is common with people who eat early dinners," Matthew Ross, COO of The Slumber Yard, tells Bustle. "If you eat by 5 or 6 p.m., then your brain starts to tell your body that it's time for more fuel around 2 or 3 a.m." And before you know it, you're awake.
"One way to get around this is to consume a small quantity of honey or a piece of peanut butter toast right before you go to bed," Ross says. "These two foods are difficult to metabolize, which should help keep your body busy during the night."
4. You're Consuming Too Much Caffeine
If you're consuming too much caffeine during the day — or even in the hours before bed — you'll be able to tell come nighttime.
"Drinking caffeine late in the evening throws your body's internal clock out of whack," Ross says. "This not only makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep but it also affects your body's natural sleep cycle. As such, you'll find that you don't fall into deep REM sleep as easily and will be more prone to wake up due to tiny disturbances and movements."
To remedy the situation, try having coffee and other caffeinated drinks earlier in the morning, and then switching to water later on. That way the caffeine will have a chance to leave your system, before it's time for bed.
5. Your Bedtime Routine Needs An Upgrade
Remember, lifestyle choices can play a big role in how well, and how deeply, you sleep. And this includes what you do as you get ready for bed.
"Using electronic devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets before bed stimulate your mind and body, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place," Ross says. "This can affect your body's internal clock and subdue the release of melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone. This disruption to your body's natural sleep cycle can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep."
6. Your Body Is Stressed
While mental stress can keep you awake, partaking in physically stressful activities right before bed can turn you into a light sleeper, too.
"Engaging in stressful activities at night, like working out, can raise your body's core temperature, increase your heart rate, and signal your body to release adrenaline," Ross says. "Again, this comes back to affecting your body's natural sleep cycle. These kinds of activities make it more difficult for your body to engage in REM sleep, which means you'll be more apt to wake up during the night for multiple reasons."
While it's not necessarily bad to exercise before bed, it is technically a physical "stressor." So if you find that you're a light sleeper, you may want to move your workout routine to earlier in the day, and see if that makes a difference.
7. Your Bedroom Is Too Warm
While you might think a warm and cozy bedroom is where it's at for good sleep, the opposite is actually true.
"One of the main factors that impact falling and staying asleep is temperature," Franceschetti says. "Sleep happens with your core temperature drops. If this doesn't happen then you have trouble with both falling and staying asleep during the night."
That's why lowering the heat before you hit the hay is a good idea. As Franceschetti says, the room should be anywhere from 61 and 68 degrees. Once you cool it all down, you may find that you sleep better.
8. You Have A Sleep Disorder
While you might not think a sleep disorder could be to blame, it's definitely worth looking into.
"It’s important that if people are waking up frequently throughout the night that they make sure they’ve considered obstructive sleep apnea as a cause," Nicole Harkin MD FACC, of Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates, tells Bustle. "Other things that could clue you in that this might be the case include snoring, someone telling you that you stop breathing in your sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, or unexplained high blood pressure."
Your doctor can do tests to figure out sleep apnea is what's keeping you awake, and prescribe remedies so you can finally get the sleep you need.
9. You Have Acid Reflux
If you're someone who suffers from acid reflux, it might be what's keeping you awake — and for reasons you may not have even considered.
"Acid reflux can trigger both adrenaline release and pain," sleep expert Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, tells Bustle. "Both of these disrupt deep sleep." So it's not just the other typical symptoms, such as heartburn or nausea, that might have you tossing and turning.
Being a light sleeper can be tough, especially if you're waking up tired all the time. But by treating any underlying health conditions, as well as making a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can turn yourself into a deep sleeper, and snooze through the night with the best of 'em.