Whether it’s headlights from a passing car or the pitter patter of cat feet that wakes you up for the umpteenth time in a night, light sleepers deal with problems that the rest of us usually sleep through. Having your sleep interrupted by things out of your control is more than frustrating. It can also affect your mood, metabolism and immune system.
Being a light sleeper is different from light sleep. Light sleep is one of four stages of sleep: The others being wake, slow wave sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We enter the light sleep stage first as part of a sleep cycle.
Light sleepers wake up in response to small disturbances, like noise from wind in the trees or a partner rolling over in bed next to you. They also tend to spend more time in light sleep than heavy sleepers. This is why getting a good night’s sleep can be more difficult for light sleepers. Symptoms of being a light sleeper include:
Researchers haven’t found a single reason why some people have more difficulty staying asleep than others, but some light sleepers may have a low “arousal threshold,” the minimal intensity at which a stimulus triggers an arousal during sleep.
Your arousal threshold is affected by several factors including the state of sleep you’re in, how long you were awake, anxiety, and age. Older adults are more prone to waking during the night and they sleep less overall.
Other causes may be undiagnosed sleep disorders, genetics, or lifestyle choices like drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day. Sleep disorders could include insomnia, snoring (a partner may be able to diagnose this), and sleep apnea. Poor sleep is related to long-term health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Sleep researchers have identified brain-wave spikes called “sleep spindles.” These spindles are bursts of brain waves during non-REM sleep and appear to protect sleepers from waking up in response to noise. Research has shown that sleepers with more sleep spindles tend to sleep more soundly and deeply, while sleepers with fewer sleep spindles tend to wake more easily. This may help explain why older people are light sleepers, since they produce fewer sleep spindles.
There are several things light sleepers can do to improve their sleep, including:
If these methods don’t work, you might want to consider speaking to a medical professional about your personal medical history. A doctor may be able to provide recommendations, refer you to a specialist or prescribe medications to help you sleep more soundly.
Learn More: 28 Tips to Fall Asleep Fast
WHOOP automatically detects your sleep and helps you understand your sleep quality, cycles, and duration. It also shows you how much time you spend in each stage, including when you’re awake.
Using the data, you can monitor your sleeping patterns and learn more about how you sleep. The WHOOP Sleep Coach uses your circadian rhythm, previous sleeps, naps, and daily strain to make recommendations on bed and wake times to help you maximize your sleep. Additionally, the Sleep Coach includes haptic alerts that act as a gentle vibrating alarm to wake you when you’ve hit your sleep goals or when you need to get up.