Uncovering 10 Common Reasons Behind Poor Sleep Quality

There are many potential causes of poor sleep, including stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, medication side effects, sleep disorders (such as insomnia or sleep apnea), poor sleep hygiene (such as using electronic devices before bed or having an irregular sleep schedule), and certain medical conditions (such as thyroid problems or heart disease). 

In this article, we will uncover some common reasons behind poor sleep quality and hope this can help you understand sleep quality.

What is poor sleep quality?

Poor sleep quality refers to a person’s subjective experience of the sleep they are getting and is caused by various factors, including sleep apnea. 

Improving sleep quality may also involve lifestyle changes such as creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

Signs of poor sleep quality

  1. Fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness
  2. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  3. Irritability or mood changes
  4. Poor concentration or memory
  5. Reduced motivation or energy
  6. Increased accidents or errors
  7. Headaches or muscle aches
  8. Frequent awakenings during the night
  9. Restless tossing and turning
  10. Feeling unrefreshed upon waking up.

Why is sleep quality important?

Sleep quality is essential for the following reasons:

Physical health

Adequate, high-quality sleep is essential for physical well-being and maintaining a robust immune system.

Mental health

Sleep is crucial in maintaining emotional and psychological stability. Poor sleep quality can increase symptoms of anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Cognitive functioning

Good sleep quality is linked to improved memory consolidation, learning, and overall cognitive performance.


Sleep deprivation can negatively impact reaction time, attention, and decision-making skills, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.


Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of chronic health conditions and a shorter lifespan. In short, sleep quality is essential for physical, mental, and emotional well-being, overall health, and quality of life.

10 Common reasons behind poor sleep quality

Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and substance use can also play a role in poor sleep. It’s often a combination of factors that contributes to poor sleep quality.

It can be helpful to work with a healthcare provider to determine the specific causes and develop a treatment plan.

Late-night sleep

Going to bed too late can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to poor sleep quality. The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is programmed to be most alert during the day and most sleepy at night.

When a person goes to bed late, they may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, which can result in feelings of grogginess and fatigue the next day. Additionally, going to bed too late can increase the risk of developing insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is recommended, aiming to go to bed and wake up simultaneously every day, including on weekends.


Anxiety can have a significant impact on sleep quality. People with anxiety may have racing thoughts, worry, and physical sensations that make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Stress can also cause nightmares, disrupting sleep and making a person more likely to wake up during the night.

Anxiety disorders can also cause insomnia and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety disorders and can worsen anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as muscle tension, stomach upset, and headaches, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Treatment for anxiety, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication, can improve sleep quality. It’s also essential to practice good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Regular exercise and stress management can also help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.


Temperature affects sleep quality in the following ways:

  • A cool room (around 65°F) can improve sleep quality by reducing body temperature and promoting relaxation.
  • A warm room can interfere with sleep by causing discomfort and sweating.
  • Night sweats can disrupt sleep and lower sleep quality.
  • Consistent temperature helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality.


Electronics can determine the quality of sleep by tracking various physiological and behavioral metrics such as:

  1. Brainwave activity (using EEG sensors)
  2. Eye movements (using EOG sensors)
  3. Body movements (using accelerometers)
  4. Heart rate and heart rate variability (using photoplethysmography)
  5. Snoring and other sounds (using microphone sensors)

These data can be analyzed to determine the different sleep stages (such as REM, light, and deep sleep) and identify factors that may impact sleep quality, such as sleep apnea, restless movements, and stress levels.


Alcohol can interfere with the quality of sleep in several ways:

  1. Disrupts circadian rhythm: Alcohol consumption can alter the sleep-wake cycle and lead to insomnia.
  2. Reduces REM sleep: Alcohol decreases the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the stage of sleep associated with dreaming and feeling refreshed upon waking.
  3. Increases sleep fragmentation: Alcohol can cause frequent awakenings at night, leading to fragmented sleep.
  4. Causes dehydration: Alcohol acts as a diuretic and increases urine production, leading to dehydration, which can further disrupt sleep.

Overall, alcohol can result in less restorative and less refreshing sleep, which can affect one’s overall health and well-being.


Caffeine can interfere with sleep quality by increasing alertness and delaying sleep onset. Consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can lead to difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, and waking up at night.

Limiting caffeine intake to the morning and early afternoon and avoiding consuming it close to bedtime is recommended to promote better sleep quality.

Sleep schedule

Sleep schedule refers to the sleep pattern and wakefulness over 24 hours, including the timing and duration of sleep. Sleep quality refers to how well someone sleeps, considering factors such as the ease of falling asleep, the time of rest, and how refreshed one feels upon waking. Both sleep schedule and sleep quality are essential for overall health and well-being.

Sleep schedule affects sleep quality in several ways:

  1. Irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to insomnia.
  2. Going to bed and waking up at varying times can reduce the secretion of sleep hormones, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  3. Late-night exposure to bright screens, caffeine, and other stimulants can interfere with sleep quality.
  4. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and mood swings, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.


Exercise has been shown to positively impact several factors, leading to improved sleep quality. For example, regular exercise has been linked to longer total sleep time, improved sleep efficiency, and increased deep sleep. Exercise can also help regulate circadian rhythms and reduce stress and anxiety, contributing to better sleep.

Exercise can improve sleep quality by:

  • Increasing daytime alertness and reducing fatigue
  • Regulating circadian rhythm and promoting better sleep patterns
  • Reducing stress and anxiety levels
  • Tiring muscles and promoting physical relaxation
  • Improving overall physical and mental health.

Artificial light

Artificial light can impact sleep quality by disrupting the circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. The blue light emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

It can lead to difficulty falling asleep, reduced sleep quality, and increased feelings of fatigue upon waking.

To determine the quality of sleep, one can track the amount and quality of sleep using wearable devices or sleep-tracking apps, monitor sleep patterns and habits, and assess symptoms such as fatigue and sleepiness during the day.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. Treatment for sleep apnea often involves using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or other devices to help keep the airway open during sleep.

Sleep apnea affects sleep quality by causing frequent interruptions to breathing during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and decreased oxygen levels in the blood. It leads to fragmented, non-restful sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and reduced sleep quality.

Unhealthy habits and stress as causes of poor sleep quality

Yes, unhealthy habits such as late-night caffeine consumption, irregular sleep schedule, prolonged screen time before bed, and an unhealthy diet can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle and cause poor sleep quality.

Stress, anxiety, and depression can also interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to poor sleep quality.

Environmental factors affecting sleep quality

Environmental factors can affect sleep quality in the following ways:

  • Noise can cause arousal and interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Light (especially blue light from electronic devices) can suppress the production of the melatonin hormone, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • A too-hot or cold temperature can make sleeping uncomfortable, causing frequent waking and difficulty falling back asleep.
  • Uncomfortable bedding or pillows can cause discomfort and physical stress, leading to tossing and turning and difficulty sleeping.
  • Altitude can cause difficulty breathing and restless sleep for those living in high altitudes.
  • Cluttered or poorly arranged rooms can cause anxiety and stress, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Poor ventilation can cause stuffy air, making breathing difficult and leading to restless sleep.
  • Disturbances from pets or partners can cause arousal and interruption of sleep.

Medical conditions that impact sleep quality

Many medical conditions can impact sleep quality. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Sleep apnea (obstruction of airways during sleep)
  • Restless leg syndrome (urge to move legs during rest)
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)
  • Narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness)
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (repeated limb movements during sleep)
  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Chronic pain conditions (such as arthritis or back pain)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Menopause and other hormonal imbalances
  • Substance abuse (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, etc.)

These medical conditions can cause physical, psychological, or physiological disruptions that interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to poor sleep quality.

How to improve sleep quality?

To improve sleep quality, one can follow these tips:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment with a comfortable bed and a quiet, calm, and dark room.
  • Limit exposure to screens (TV, phone, etc.) before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by these devices, can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Engage in regular physical activity and relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation to manage stress.
  • Consider a white noise machine or earplugs to block out external noise.
  • Avoid napping during the day, especially in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Try a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath.
  • Consult a healthcare provider if sleep problems persist, as an underlying medical condition may affect sleep quality.

Following these tips and adopting a healthy sleep routine can improve sleep quality, and enjoy the many benefits of restful and rejuvenating sleep.

How to measure sleep quality?

Sleep quality can be measured through the following methods:

  • Sleep diaries
  • Actigraphy
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep questionnaires and scales
  • Heart rate variability
  • Smartphone and wearable sleep trackers
  • Home sleep tests
  • Clinical sleep studies.
  1. Does poor sleep quality affect skin aging?

    Yes, poor sleep quality can affect skin aging. Lack of sleep can cause the skin to appear dull and tired and increase the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Sleep deprivation can also lead to decreased collagen production, an essential protein that gives skin its elasticity and youthful appearance.

  2. What is the best food for sleeping?

    The best foods for sleep contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep. Foods high in tryptophan include:

    – Turkey
    – Tuna
    – Eggs
    – Nuts (walnuts, almonds)
    – Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
    – Bananas
    – Whole grains
    – Chickpeas

    Eating a small, balanced snack before bedtime can also promote sleep.

  3. How many hours of sleep is healthy?

    The recommended amount of sleep for most adults is 7-9 hours.

My Final Thoughts

Poor sleep quality can seriously affect one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can lead to decreased alertness, and productivity, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Identifying and addressing any underlying medical needs is crucial to improve sleep quality, adopting healthy sleep habits, creating a sleep-conducive environment, managing stress, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

Consulting with a healthcare provider can help find the best approach to resolving sleep problems.