Electric blanket

Turning in my sleep: Normal or not?

23 Jan, 2024
Jürgen Swinnen

Changing sleep positions during sleep is absolutely normal- we move, turn and spin as many as 40 to 50 times a night. But is turning during sleep a lot normal? As you are sleeping, you will hardly notice yourself moving during your sleep. As you get older, frequency of movement also decreases.

The main difference between tossing and turning, and moving is because most of the time you don’t sleep or sleep only very lightly when tossing and turning. Wobbling in bed not only disturbs your bed partner’s sleep, it also affects you. Often tossing and brooding go hand in hand. Stress from your work or problems in your personal life are running through your head so you literally can’t find your bearings.

Food & drinks before bedtime

Did you eat late and still have something on your stomach? Or is that amount of caffeine from that last glass of Coke, cup of tea or coffee getting in the way of your sleep? If so, it’s like that you will be tossing and turning in bed because you can’t sleep. Just like if you have trouble falling asleep after an intense sports workout late at night. In these cases, it is better to just get back up and relax quietly until fatigue sets in again and your body feels ready to go sleep.

A mattress that is too hard or a poor sleeping position can also bother you during sleep. Sleeping in an awkward position can restrict your blood circulation or cause oppressive pain, causing you to roll from one side to the other.

The young woman lying in a bed
The young woman lying in a white bed, top view
The young man lying in a bed
The young man lying in a white bed, top view

What is a good sleeping position for me if I’m turning in my sleep?

We know by now that during sleep we frequently change positions and often adopt intermediate postures. We have little control over this. However, when we are falling asleep we do consciously change position to get comfortable.

Most people have a preferred sleep position and move into that sleeping position as they relax and fall to sleep. Physotherapists (physiotherapists) and scientists active in the study of human ergonomics prefer supine sleeping positions. However, there are benefits for every sleeping position. Let’s quickly go over the different positions:

1. Sleeping on your back

Ergonomically, this sleeping position is the most restful for a healthy body. At least that is what many physical therapists (or physiotherapists) and sleep scientists claim. In fact, for babies, supine lying is strongly recommended in the first few months of their lives to reduce the risk of cot death.

However, for people who snore during the night they will have noticed that supine position is not ideal. This position is also not recommended for people with sleep apnea.

2. Sleeping on your side

Do you suffer from sleep apnea or are you a talented snorer? Then side-lying is the ideal sleeping position. Also, if you are kept awake with lower back pain, it is better to fall asleep on your side. When you assume this pose, you can stretch your body out and it allows your back to relax from tailbone to neck. However, avoid a fetal position that is too curled up.

Choose a medium to soft mattress if side lying is your favorite sleeping position. This way you avoid pressure spots and pinched blood vessels, especially at the level of your shoulders and hips.


3. Sleeping on your stomach

Somewhere I once read of a study that concluded that only a very small percentage of the total number of stomach sleepers are really notorious stomach sleepers. Often, as infants and toddlers, they can hardly be changed from this position.

There would, according to those conscious researchers, be a link to the basic flight and freeze response. By turning away from the outside world, these belly sleepers seem to find peace within themselves. Nice story? Right?

Most people who are stomach sleepers, have often simply chosen a mattress that was too hard. Sleeping is also a habit and your body is going to adapt to that habit.

From an intermediate position with raised leg on the left to one on the right, the pressure on the lower back increases. This position often brings with it a reduced quality of sleep because your sleep phases are interrupted each time your have to reposition yourself. Also, your back and neck vertebrae will have a pretty hard time in this sleeping position. It’s best to opt for a lower or even no pillow if you do sleep on your stomach.

Problematic excessive exercise or restless legs

When excess movement during your sleep becomes problematic, it may be due to a sleep problem known as Restless Legs Syndrome (RBS, or Restless Legs Syndrome RLS). How can you know this?

  • Your legs regularly feel annoying or restless?
  • When you sit the feeling increases?
  • It feels exactly more intense during the evening or night?

If you find yourself nodding along and recognise yourself in these situations, be sure to contact your doctor. If you don’t sleep alone, then your bed partner has probably already told you that you move around a lot. RLS is hereditary and can be treated with medication. These drugs are also used for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Frequently asked questions about turning in your sleep:

Turning a lot in your sleep can indicate stress or restless sleep. However, it is common to do dozens of moves a night. This stimulates blood circulation. Excessive turning and tossing in your sleep may indicate RBS (Restless Legs Syndrome).

Prevent turning in your sleep by properly adjusting your bed to your position. That way you don’t turn unwanted by gravity. This often results in a body reaction as well, causing you to move more and sleep more restlessly.

Maintain a low level of stress before bedtime and watch what you consume before crawling under the covers. Moving around in your sleep is perfectly normal. Excessive exercise requires you to readjust your bed, improve your evening routine and adjust your diet.

Is turning a lot in your sleep normal? Conclusion:

Turning a lot in your sleep is normal, but tossing and turning in bed can indicate stress, poor digestion or the wrong mattress.

Your sleep position can also affect your health and sleep quality. The best sleeping position depends on your personal preference, but some positions have more advantages or disadvantages than others.

If you have problematic exercise or restless legs, it may indicate a sleep disorder that requires treatment.