The key culprits of a sleepless night, according to new study

Sleepless night woman. (Getty Images)
Did you know women are more likely to have a bad night's sleep due to stress? (Getty Images)

New research has revealed the main culprits of a restless night, which you can take as your welcome reminder to finally crack the cause for your lack of sleep and get more shut-eye.

A staggering 86% of young adults surveyed admit to being unable to achieve restful sleep due to stress, while 44% across all age groups cite noise and light infiltration as significant obstacles, the study by Blinds 2go finds.

But elsewhere, things like gender, age and regional variations can also affect how well you slumber. Here are some of the key culprits, based on the study, with insights from a sleep specialist on why they can have a bigger impact than you might realise and what you can do about it.


Wake up, alarm clock and man in a bed with burnout, fatigue and annoyed by alert sound in his home. Time, stop and Japanese male person in a bedroom frustrated by bell noise, insomnia or exhaustion
Stress can affect our REM sleep. (Getty Images)

With nearly 90% of 16-30 year olds reporting stress-related sleep disturbances, the national survey of more than 2000 respondents finds, this highlights a critical issue impacting this generation's wellbeing.

But how does stress, something that affects us across the board, actually impact us at night? "High levels of stress during daytime are known for affecting sleep quality, either by delaying sleep onset but also negatively affecting sleep consolidation due to higher levels of cortisol and frequent and more prolonged awakenings," Ana Brito, certified somnologist at Somnissimo, explains.

"During our REM sleep, our brain is processing all the information we are exposed to throughout the day, our worries, tasks and concerns. Therefore, a higher level of stress related to these can contribute to a more fragmented sleep and less restoring REM sleep."

Noise, light and temperature

Beautiful young woman lying in bed.
Create the right sleep environment for you so you're not diistrubed. (Getty Images)

With noise and light also major contributions to sleep disturbance in all ages, you might want to consider things like blackout blinds.

"Exposure to excessive or disruptive noise can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even low levels of noise during the night can disrupt the sleep cycle, leading to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep. Sudden or loud noises can trigger brief awakenings, potentially preventing the transition to deeper, more restorative sleep stages," Brito explains.

"Noise disrupts sleep by activating the brain's arousal centres, even if the individual doesn't fully wake up. Common sources of sleep-disruptive noise include traffic, neighbours, household appliances, and electronic devices. Creating a quiet sleep environment or using white noise machines to mask disruptive sounds can be effective strategies to promote better sleep."

Temperature also showed up in the study, something to consider now our bodies will be exposed to the changing seasons. "Sleep is closely linked to the body's ability to regulate temperature. Both too hot and too cold environments can negatively impact sleep quality," Brito adds. "The ideal sleep environment is typically cool, as a drop in core body temperature is conducive to the initiation and maintenance of sleep.

"Excessive heat can lead to discomfort and restlessness, making it difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, overly cold temperatures can cause discomfort and may result in the body working harder to maintain warmth, potentially disrupting sleep.

"Individual preferences vary, but a general recommendation is to keep the bedroom temperature between 17-19 degrees Celsius for optimal sleep. Additionally, using breathable bedding and adjusting clothing layers can help individuals find a comfortable sleep temperature."


Mother using laptop and smartphone while holding toddler daughter
A higher daily demand on women can impact their sleep. (Getty Images)

Women are 10% more likely than men to have a bad night's sleep due to stress (linked to Brito's earlier point) and phone use before bed.

"A higher demand on working women, especially mums, could contribute to the fact that higher levels of stress affect their sleep. Phone usage until later in the night, sometimes even in bed, can hurt our sleep – and in Blinds 2go’s data, women frequently mention that it is mainly in the evening that they spend more time on their devices due to work and family commitments, contributing, therefore, for a higher impact of this habit in their sleep."

While you may not be able to rid yourself of responsibility, you could work on your screen time close to bed time.


Disappointed sad woman holding mobile phone while laying on bed at night
It's not just the older generations that struggle with stress-related sleep. (Getty Images)

While unsurprisingly younger generations are more susceptible to phone-related sleep disturbances, 25-34-year-olds experience heightened levels of stress and work-related worries, further impacting their shut-eye.

Both Millennials and Gen Z struggle with stress-related sleep, but Millennials bear the brunt, with 47.27% citing it as a primary disruptor compared to 38.78% of Gen Z, suggesting a link between age and stress-management strategies.

Regional variations

Liverpool, United Kingdom: December 27 2018 People shopping around Liverpool Central Street on a Sunny day. Bold Street located in the heart of Liverpool city, famously having small and large businesses.
How sleep deprived is your home town? (Getty Images)

In Greater London and the West Midlands, stress, temperature fluctuations and noise are the main culprits. Meanwhile, Liverpool is the city with the highest percentage of stress-related sleep disturbances and Cardiff leads in reporting stress as a primary sleep disruptor.

While it's highly unlikely you'll be able to get up and move, it's a reminder of just how many things can affect our sleep in a domino affect, and how important it is to find the right balance for you among them all and prevent restless nights.

"A good night's sleep plays a crucial role in enhancing productivity in various aspects of life, improving memory, physical performance, creativity and problem-solving and decision-making skills. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle complex tasks and maintain a high level of attention throughout the day," says Brito.

Watch: Experts say they've found the ideal amount of sleep for the middle-aged and elderly