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Tossing, turning and troubled sleep

6th March 2024 • 5 min read
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We all toss and turn sometimes, but when restless sleep becomes the norm, there are a few simple solutions.

Picture this: you lie down in bed after a long and tiring day, close your eyes, feel yourself start to relax… and then spend hours tossing and turning, only to wake up more exhausted than you were the night before. 

Getting into a never-ending wrestling match with your bedsheets is no picnic, and for many of us, it’s one of the biggest barriers to a better night’s sleep. But the good news is there are a few simple solutions that can help you enjoy a more restful sleep.

What exactly is restless sleep?

Though it can be very disruptive, restless sleep isn’t actually a recognised sleep disorder. It’s considered to be different to insomnia, and there’s no set medical definition for it. However, common symptoms can include:

  • Frequent tossing and turning

  • Trouble falling asleep 

  • Racing thoughts that keep you awake

  • Waking up repeatedly

  • Feeling like you’re only half asleep

  • Frustration that you can’t sleep soundly

  • Feeling drowsy and sluggish during the day

Why am I tossing and turning so much?

There are many things that can cause restless sleep, but stress and anxiety are common culprits. The pressures of everyday life can make it difficult to unwind before bed, and you can wind up spending hours worrying about all the things that happened during the day – the terse email you received from your boss, the parking fine you’re yet to pay, the fact that you can’t remember where on earth you left your car keys… any of this sound familiar?

Of course, even when you’re feeling completely relaxed and carefree, tossing and turning can still occur – especially if you’ve recently consumed stimulants like caffeine and nicotine. In a survey conducted in 2022, 75 per cent of respondents consumed at least one cup of coffee per day, and 28 percent reported having three or more cups a day. Drinking coffee and smoking will ‘wake up’ your nervous system, and if you do either of these things before bed, you may find that you have trouble falling asleep, sleep more lightly, or wake up more often during the night. 

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When it comes to restless sleep, stress and anxiety are common culprits.

Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep. Although having a glass of wine might make you feel drowsy, you’re actually more likely to wake up during the night if you’ve been drinking. According to Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation, consuming alcohol before bed can cause night sweats, nightmares and headaches, and will probably make your sleep feel “much less restful”. For this reason, they recommend avoiding alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.

Poor sleep hygiene is something to watch out for, too. Things like scrolling through your socials or binge-watching your favourite TV series before bed can increase alertness and interfere with your melatonin production. And if you’re someone who likes to have a cheeky midnight snack, you might find yourself tossing and turning in bed while your body goes to work digesting your food. 

How to tackle restless sleep

For starters, think about how your everyday habits might be making you restless at night, and try to create new patterns that promote good sleep. Here are some ideas to try.

Get some exercise

In case you needed another reason to get active, studies show that regular moderate physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Just steer clear of vigorous exercise right before bed, as this can be stimulating and may have the opposite effect.

Reduce stimulants and alcohol

If you’re someone who can’t get through the day without having a coffee, aim to drink it earlier in the day. Try to avoid smoking before bed, too – or better still, get the support you need to quit. And while drinking alcohol might make you sleepy, consider skipping the night-time tipple in exchange for a restful, dreamless sleep.

Quiet your mind

If it’s racing thoughts that tend to keep you awake, schedule in some calming activities before bed. A good wind-down routine will help you calm your mind before sleep. Try having a hot bath, practising gentle yoga or listening to peaceful music, for example. And switch off electronic devices at least 1.5 hours before bed to allow your melatonin to kick in. 

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Quiet your racing thoughts with gentle yoga or peaceful music before bed.

Why your mattress matters 

Good sleep requires a restful sleeping environment. To prevent tossing and turning, your mattress needs to be comfortable enough to help you fall asleep easily, and provide enough support to ensure you sleep consistently through the night.  

The Forty Winks King Koil Chiro Clarity Mattress, for example, contains memory foam for body-conforming comfort and pressure relief to minimise tossing and turning. Featuring a twice tempered PostureTech support system with comfort layers, the Forty Winks Sealy Atlanta Mattress is another good option for those that wrestle with sleep throughout the night.

But with so many options, how do you know which mattress is right for you? The Forty Winks bedMATCH® system helps take the guesswork out of choosing the best mattress. Just lie in your preferred sleeping position on our test bed, which contains sensors connected to a sophisticated computer system. Armed with information about your height and shoulder, hip and waist widths, bedMATCH® finds the perfect mattress for you based on the postural support you need.

And if it’s your partner’s tossing and turning that’s keeping you awake, we’ve got you both covered. Our bedMATCH® system can create a personalised MySide mattress solution to suit both of your body types and sleep needs. One of our helpful Sleep Specialists can recommend a selection of MySide mattresses designed to help both of you get a restful night’s sleep.

Ready to get a better night’s sleep? Explore our product range here.

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