What It Really Means If You Move Around A Lot In Your Sleep

If you've ever gone to sleep in one position, only to wake up and find yourself completely turned around from where you started, you may be an active sleeper. According to sleepwear manufacturer Mey, "Active sleepers roll over several times during the night, and turn from one position to another." How common is this phenomenon, and what could be behind it?

According to doctor of chiropractic and functional medicine expert Stacie Stephenson, as many as 40 to 50 nighttime movements during the course of sleep is considered normal, as reported by Mind Body Green. Frequent movement during sleep is not uncommon among infants, toddlers, or even throughout adolescence (via Verywell Family). And even more extensive movements, such as momentarily sitting upright while asleep, have been observed in children, clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep medicine expert Dr. Shelby Harris told Verwell Family. It turns out that restful sleep comes with maturity. "Sleeping without moving all around the bed is more of a learned behavior than anything and just takes time to get there," Dr. Harris says.

If excessive nighttime movement is something you haven't quite grown out of, experts offer an explanation as to why you may be experiencing more restless movements than average.

Health conditions that can lead to frequent nighttime movement

In more severe cases, excessive sleep movement may be caused by a medical condition such as Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) or REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (via Sleep Health Foundation). In the case of PLMS, involuntary movement of the arms or legs takes place every 10 to 60 seconds during sleep. PLMS may or may not wake those with the condition, as movements can be as subtle as the bending of a toe or more outright such as the jerking of a knee. Bouts of movement may only occur for a matter of minutes or may last for hours, and the condition is most often seen in older individuals and those with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).

According to experts at The Mayo Clinic, those with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder experience more exaggerated movements during the course of REM sleep in response to vivid nightmares. This can take the form of kicking, thrashing, punching, flailing, as well as verbal outcries. Be sure to consult with a physician if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder.

Improve your sleep quality to reduce restlessness

Moving around a lot in your sleep, however, is not an automatic indicator of a potential health condition. Doctor of chiropractic and functional medicine Stacie Stephenson explains to Mind Body Green that environmental factors may also be negatively influencing your quality of sleep, leading to greater-than-average nighttime movement. Taking care to prep your body for sleep as early as in the afternoon can go a long way. Stephenson suggests, for example, restricting coffee intake after 3 p.m. "Many people find after reducing caffeine intake, they sleep so much better they no longer feel the need for that mid-afternoon cup of coffee," Stephenson says (via Mind Body Green).

Another recommendation is to limit workouts to earlier hours of the day, in order to avoid amping up the body's energy close to bedtime. And creating an optimal sleep environment is key for a restful night's sleep. Stephenson suggests low lighting, a cool room temperature, and eliminating screen usage in the hour or so before bedtime.