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How do you know you are sleeping poorly?

15 Feb, 2023
Jürgen Swinnen

Are you not sleeping well? Do you wake up often, have trouble falling asleep, or don’t sleep long enough? There can be many reasons, but it is important to resolve it. How do you know you are sleeping poorly? In this blog, learn more about poor sleep, the facts and fables, and how to sleep better!

So what is “sleeping poorly”?

If you are attracted to this title you are probably not sleeping well. There can be many reasons for this. Temporary temporary loss of sleep, by the way, is quite normal. Often the situation resolves itself quickly.

Poor sleep can include:

  • Sleeping too short
  • Waking up at night
  • Restless sleeping
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Sleeping too long

Be sure not to be too (mis)guided by the numerous sleep tracking apps or devices. The idea is not to review your sleep in detail after every night. Paying too much attention to your sleep can even lead to worse sleep.

If you are confronted with poor sleep every day , be sure to take the step toward help. Your family doctor can be the ideal bridge to professional help, however: Don’t be tempted by sleep medication as the first solution. Because that’s really meant to be a temporary stopgap measure. It (usually) does not address the often underlying sleep problem.

Most tips and suggestions begin with creating the right sleep environment. A catch-all term that includes the entire sleep environment as well as, for example: the impact of light, sound, colors, smells, temperature, hygiene and ventilation.

Why do I sleep poorly?

The number of people reporting poor sleep is shockingly high. As does the number of people taking daily sleep medication. Our current living world is disrupted in many ways at times, but that we are slipping so far and even our sleep is going down … that raises questions.

Sleep should be a given. After a busy day you are normally tired and your biological rhythm provides rest when you are tired and makes you fit when you can start the new day again. There are many reasons why we sometimes lose those basic elements.

Curious about the best ways to improve your sleep? Below we talk further about the reasons you may be sleeping poorly, and how to solve them.

How to know you’re sleeping poorly Step 1: The basics of better sleep

A lot of studies show that problems with sleep can lie with the environment and the bed. Solving these problems can make a world of difference in improving your sleep.

The following improvements can have a big impact on your sleep:

  • Improve the darkness in your bedroom
  • Proper ventilation of the sleeping area
  • Change sheets more regularly
  • Try placing plants near your bed

How to know you are sleeping poorly Step 2: Prepare for sleep!

What you eat and drink in the hours before you go to sleep has a definite effect on your sleep. Eating too late or drinking coffee too late can lead to disturbed sleep. Other caffeinated beverages or alcohol also keep some of us wide awake.

Is your body still full of stress because you worked until shortly before bedtime? Or is the adrenaline still pumping through your body after that super exciting movie or strenuous squash match? Only when you are completely relaxed is it time to go to bed.

The impact on your alertness is vastly different, because if you are alert, your body is not ready to sleep and you will also be very slow to catch sleep. Prepare for sleep, make time for rest and relaxation. When you notice that you are getting tired, it is time to go to bed.

How to know you’re only sleeping Step 3: Pay attention to your sleep comfort

How do you know you are sleeping poorly? It is extraordinary, but we crawl into a bed for quite a while, every night. So it’s best to pay attention to that bed as well. Therefore, it is important to have the right bed and mattress.

Are the base and mattress matched? Are you getting adequate support from your sleep system and pillow? Is your bedding fresh and adjusted to the temperature of your bedroom and your own body temperature?

In short, “Mind the bed! Like all other elements, the quality of your bed and the care you take of it plays an important role in getting a good night’s sleep. An investment in better sleep comfort can make a world of difference.

How long should I sleep?

How long you should sleep per night depends on your age. It can also vary from person to person, how long you need per night. Sleeping less than average is obviously not good. But sleeping too long can also have negative consequences such as fatigue and headaches.

AgeHours of sleep per night
3 to 6 years10 to 13 hours per night
6 to 12 years9 to 12 hours per night
12 to 18 years8 to 10 hours per night
Adults7 to 8 hours per night

Are you not sleeping enough each night? Then it’s time to make adjustments to your rhythm. Adjusting your sleeping environment, or bed, can also help you sleep better.

what are the consequences of poor sleep

What are the consequences of poor sleep?

Sleeping poorly affects your health. For example, you may experience short-term fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and headaches. From a bad bed or restless sleep, you can also suffer from back or neck pain.

In the long run, poor sleep can have further consequences, such as behavioral problems, stress, and even obesity. Therefore, it is important to solve your sleep problems.

Still sleeping poorly…

People with a (chronic) sleep problem recognize all these issues and have often studied them very extensively. And yet you still fail to enjoy a healthy night’s sleep.

Dutchman Eus van Someren of the Netherlands Brain Institute has for many years been studying the impact of hyperarousal, among other things, in people suffering from chronic insomnia. Hyperarousal can be explained as a special form of high and quasi-permanent alertness, even during sleep time.

Also read “Does an aggravation blanket help you sleep better?

Making Noradrenaline

He indicates that the possible explanation may be in the human brain and talks about the signaling substance norepinephrine and its influence on emotion processing. During the so-called. REM sleep, a lot of emotions are processed and, for example, emotional experiences of the day are processed.

For processing to be possible, the connections in your brain need to be “free. Noradrenaline does the opposite and strengthens connections, which is why that substance should not be present in your brain during the night.

Dr. Van Someren thinks that in people with chronic sleep problems, just the presence of norepinephrine in the brain during sleep may cause the permanent state of wakefulness.

The power button that is supposed to be on “off” during sleep flashes up and down all the time, so to speak. And that may keep you awake, according to Dr. Van Someren. American research on people suffering from so-called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) also points in that direction.

Underlying causes

In people who have faced severe traumatic experiences and suffer from PTSD, REM sleep appears to be disrupted by the excessive presence of norepinephrine. When it can be greatly reduced, there appear to be clearly identifiable improvements in REM sleep and in emotional processing of trauma.

If you enjoy reading we definitely recommend the book “Catching Sleep” by Bregje Hofstede, this interesting and beautifully written book was published by Das Mag publishers in February 2021. She writes about her own search for solutions to deal with chronic sleep problems she herself faced.


Poor sleep is a common problem. Avoid regular use of sleep medication. You better make adjustments to your environment and rhythm. Good sleep is important for good health. Long-term problems? If so, consult your doctor.

How to know you’re sleeping poorly: Frequently asked questions

In the short term you will suffer from fatigue, loss of concentration and headaches. Long-term consequences are stress and obesity.

When you wake up tired and tired during the day, you have problems concentrating. These are clear indications that you have not had enough, or poor quality, sleep.

An average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. 5 hours of sleep is the bare minimum, and is not a healthy sleep duration to maintain for long periods of time.