If you’ve ever wondered if your sleep quality is what it should be, you’re not alone. But even though your sleep might feel fine, it’s always worth exploring if your sleep could be better. There are countless links between sleep and the rest of your life, however it’s not always easy to find the connection.
From low immunity to lack of focus, bad sleep has a way of influencing your wellbeing. And after numerous sleep studies and experts weighing in, we now know the red flags to look for - the ones that indicate your sleep might not be as restful as it should be. You’re in luck though, because we’ve also got some antidotes to these warning signs.
1. You have trouble falling asleep
Does it take longer than you’d like to finally fall into your slumber? Well, when it comes to sleep, quality trumps quantity. So even if you’re getting a solid 8 hours a night, if you struggle to fall asleep, there’s a chance the rest of your sleep isn’t cutting it either.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it should take about 10-20 minutes to fall asleep once you're in bed. If it takes longer than 30 minutes, it may be a sign of insomnia, another sleep disorder, or some quality control problems. Things like caffeine, alcohol, medication, and intense exercise too close to bedtime are also often at play.
How to remedy this…
If you're struggling to fall asleep, there are a few things you can try. For starters, it might be worth looking at your evening routine. To boost your bedtime, practice relaxing ways to unwind, like sipping sleepy time tea, reading in bed, and having a consistent bedtime. You’ll also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol at least six hours before sleep, and of course, switch the blue screens off at least one hour before bed.
For more soothing steps to a quality sleep hygiene, have a look at our go-to guide. For an active mind, we love guided meditation or white noise in the background. If it’s a stiff or sore body keeping you awake, then some light stretches before bed, regular exercise, and a well-loved natural mattress to help you snuggle in comfortably are no-brainers.
2. You have difficulty focusing
If you’ve ever felt like you’re in a bit of a fog after a night of poor sleep, you’re not alone. A study found that people who experienced poor quality sleep had lower neural activity in areas of the brain responsible for cognitive functions and decision-making. As a result, those who experience subpar sleep may find it harder to stay focused, concentrate at work, and complete tasks in a normal amount of time.
How to remedy this…
In addition to working on your sleep routine, there’s a few ways you can ward off the side effects of a bad night’s sleep. One of our favourite hacks is to spend some extra time outdoors. The influence of the sunlight on your circadian rhythm prompts the body to perk up, while exposure to sunlight can boost serotonin levels, improving your mood and overall wellbeing.
Movement - such as a light walk or moderate exercise - also stimulates alertness in the brain, while napping for up to 25 minutes will help recharge your body and mind (if you can squeeze one in!) Just be sure to keep it short, as napping any longer will only leave you feeling more drowsy. In the workplace, take regular mini breaks like a lap around the office, tea break, or quick stretch to reset. These won’t completely make up for a bad night in bed, but they’ll help fight off red flag side effects while you kickstart your sleep cycles.
3. You feel tired most of the day
Do you find yourself feeling tired and sluggish during the day, even if you've had a full night's sleep? This is yet another red flag that points to your sleep quality being poor. If you're not getting enough deep, restful sleep, your body may not be fully recharging overnight. This can leave you feeling fatigued and cranky during the day - far from a good combo!
If constant yawning, low energy levels, distraction and apathy are all familiar parts of your life, then consider these red flags waving.
How to remedy this…
Take a look at your sleep setup - from what you sleep on to the lighting in your bedroom, because they all play a role in restorative sleep. For starters, choosing a natural mattress that matches your sleep style is crucial, with natural materials like organic latex and coconut coir perfectly suited to making mattresses for every preference. On top of that, natural bedding products avoid chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, physical health issues, and disruptions to your sleep - so it’s win win!
According to sleep specialist Dr. Martha Billings, “Poor air quality, excess heat and noise may also impact sleep.” In Billings’ opinion, your bedroom shouldn’t be too hot, and should be both quiet and dark, so heavy block-out curtains are a good option here. And if noise is an issue, consider using white or brown noise to keep disturbance low.
4. Your mental health is suffering
Research has found a link between poor sleep and mental health issues, with a study finding that people who experience sleep disturbances are more likely to suffer anxiety and increased levels of tension.
Adding to the pile, research by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who slept poorly were also more likely to have higher levels of stress. On its own, stress can be detrimental to your mental health, but from a long term perspective, stress can also lead to issues like mood swings, change in appetite, and an inability to navigate stressful situations.
So if you notice you’re feeling more agitated, anxious, or depressed, your sleep quality might be to blame.
How to remedy this…
When your sleep starts affecting your mental health, it helps to use mindful strategies, on top of tending to your sleep hygiene. Creating a nightly ritual that helps you unwind before bed will not only support your mental state, but by taking steps to relax, you might even find your sleep improves too!
Consider reading a chapter of a book or listening to a guided meditation as a way of switching off before sleep. If you’re prone to an overactive mind when it’s time to hit the hay, journaling can be a great way to offload your worries, plan out your next day, and get your loudest thoughts out of your head and down on paper.
You could introduce some soothing steps like diffusing lavender essential oils while you sleep, or giving your mental health an even bigger boost by seeing a therapist. You’ll be surprised at how much your sleep.
5. Your physical health & immunity are down
Your sleep quality isn’t just plaguing your mental health - it’s also heavily linked to various physical health issues. According to sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker, chronic inflammation is a major side effect of subpar sleep, which can lead to physical ailments including autoimmune diseases, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Adding salt to the wound, poor sleep can also lower your immune system, making you more prone to illnesses overall. A study conducted by researchers from the University of California found that people who experienced regularly rough sleep had lower levels of cytokines, which are proteins that help regulate the immune system.
On that note, getting sick more often, slow recovery from illness, or struggling with your physical health are all red flags that could be pointing to poor sleep.
How to remedy this…
Despite the compounding problems bad sleep can cause, the top health remedies are also wonderful ways to get your sleep back on track. Exercise is one of the go-to solutions for improving your health, with most experts recommending 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity at least five days each week.
Next is diet, specifically foods that fight inflammation. According to research by Harvard Medical School, these foods include tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, and fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.
In a happy coincidence, when you follow these remedies, your sleep quality is only going to improve.
Squash your sleeping red flags
A bad night’s sleep is part of life - but when your sleep quality starts to bleed into other aspects of your life, then it’s time for a little improvement. Poor quality sleep doesn’t just show up in bed, with side effects ranging from reduced physical and mental health, difficulty at work, stress levels and fatigue. But sometimes, these links don’t appear as obvious. So if you notice these red flags cropping up often, take them as a sign to get back to your sleep basics.
Once you’ve got the ideal setup for a good night’s sleep, it’s only a matter of time before these red flags start to resolve.