Constantly Moving in Your Sleep


Written by Rebecca Levi

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process

Table of Contents

It’s normal to move around a little bit when you sleep. Many people experience occasional twitches as they drift off to sleep. Some individuals rhythmically move their feet or toes in the early stages of sleep and it’s common to shift positions during the night to get more comfortable.

However, if your bed partner remarks on your disruptive sleeping behaviors, your sleep tracker picks up unusual activity, or your nighttime movements interrupt your sleep—it’s worth looking into why you are constantly moving in your sleep. In some cases, excessive movements during sleep can signal an underlying disorder or health condition.

Key Takeaways


  • Constantly moving while you sleep could be a sign of a sleep disorder or health condition.
  • Unusual movements during sleep are most common in children and older adults.
  • Be sure to treat and manage issues like stress and pain that could lead to restless sleep.
  • Talk to a doctor if nighttime movements disrupt sleep or cause daytime tiredness.

Reasons You May Move So Much in Your Sleep

About one in five children and 4% of adults experience abnormal movements or behaviors during sleep. These range from simple movements, such as teeth grinding, to complex behaviors, such as acting out one’s dreams.

While some movements are harmless and do not require treatment, others may be a sign of a sleep disorder or underlying medical condition. If you are constantly moving in your sleep, it’s important to find out why, especially if your movements are compromising the quality of your sleep.

  • Restless Legs Syndrome: People with restless legs syndrome feel an urgent need to move their legs, usually while they are lying down or sitting still. They may also experience tingling, crawling, or burning sensations that temporarily go away when they move their legs. Episodes usually occur at night, which can make falling and staying asleep difficult.
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder: Those with periodic limb movement disorder experience repetitive twitches and jerks in their arms, legs, or both while they sleep. Generally, these episodes happen every 20 to 40 seconds and they may cause a person to kick or disturb their bed partner.
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) causes individuals to act out their dreams during the REM stage of sleep. People with RBD may move in harmless ways as they sleep, but they can also thrash, kick, punch, or jump out of bed, sometimes harming themselves or their sleeping partners.
  • Nocturnal Epilepsy: Nocturnal epilepsy refers to seizure disorders that affect people at night, usually while they are sleeping. Nighttime seizures can share a number of symptoms with sleep disorders, including arm thrashing, kicking, leaving the bed and walking around, or moaning and crying out.

What If You Are Just Experiencing Restless Sleep?

For some people, moving around at night may simply be the result of restless sleep. There are many reasons people toss and turn when they would rather be sleeping, including: 

  • Stress and anxiety
  • An uncomfortable mattress
  • Pain or discomfort from conditions like arthritis or asthma
  • Digital distractions, such as cell phone notifications 
  • Lingering effects of caffeine or alcohol 
  • Medication side effects 

When you wake up repeatedly throughout the night, your sleep quality suffers. Poor sleep can lead to sleep deprivation and negatively impact your quality of life. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include feeling sleepy during the day, difficulty focusing and multitasking, irritability or sadness, and poor work performance. 

If restless sleep is affecting how you feel during the day, it’s best to discuss your concerns with a doctor. A medical professional can help determine what is causing your symptoms and what steps you can take to get a better night’s sleep.

About The Author

Rebecca Levi

Staff Writer, Sleep Health

With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Indiana University Bloomington, Rebecca enjoys making accurate, up-to-date health information accessible to all readers. As a freelance writer and editor, she has covered everything from healthcare and experimental music to education. Rebecca lives in Tennessee, where she spends her free time reading, writing fiction, and making music.

  • POSITION: Side sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Cold Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Dolphin

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