I am an interrupted sleeper. I typically wake up about 3 - 5 hours after going to sleep. After that, sometimes I will wake up again during the night. The most consistent is that I almost always wake up about an hour before my alarm goes off on the days that I have to go to work. I suffer from allergies, asthma, and acid reflux, which are all contributing factors for why I wake up so frequently. What happens when a person has interrupted sleep such as this?
First, we have to examine why sleep gets interrupted. There are many things that could be causing sleep disruption. Some of these we have control over, while others are often out of our control:
- Babies - If you have a newborn or young baby, you know that most wake up frequently during the night. It could be that they are hungry, they need a diaper change, they are sick, and the like. Even though you want to stay cozy in your bed, your baby needs immediate attention. Actually, children of many ages often need assistance from mom or dad at night. It could be because of a nightmare, a bed wetting episode, or something else. Children account for much sleep loss to parents.
- Sleep Apnea - Current estimations believe that approximately 22 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea. This condition creates a person’s breathing to start and stop, which in turn results in much broken and lost sleep.
- Medical Conditions - As I wrote, I suffer from allergies, asthma, and acid reflux. It is not uncommon for the symptoms of one of these (coughing from the asthma, burning from the acid, etc) to be what has woken me up during the night.
- Restless leg syndrome - It is believed that 10% of the US population suffer from this. Though it can actually be a symptom of other medication conditions, the reality is that it is the cause of interrupted, restless, or sleepless nights for many.
- Hospitalization - If you have ever been a patient in a hospital, then you probably know first-hand how common it is to be woken up during the night while you are there. Many tests need to be performed during the night and being in a different environment or hearing different noises could also be waking you.
Experiencing interrupted sleep isn’t just something annoying that happens, but it actually can be quite unhealthy. A few things can occur when your sleep is interrupted:
- Mood changes including possible depression - It’s no surprise that if you have your sleep disrupted, which frequently means you don’t get enough sleep, then the end result is you are cranky. But it could be more than a temporary change in mood that has occurred. Repeated sleep deprivation due to disrupted sleep can actually result in depression. It’s important to be mindful of your mental health. If you feel that you might be suffering from depression due to interrupted sleep, it’s important to reach out to a professional who can assist you in dealing with this.
- Disturbs sleep cycles/stages of sleep - I’ve already mentioned sleep stages in a previous Somniloquy blog. Though we naturally flow in and out of each of these stages throughout the night, it’s best to not be abruptly woken during one of the stages.
- Affects your memory and your mind - When you don’t get proper sleep, especially when your sleep is on-again-off-again, this can cause you to have problems retaining information. Depending on the severity of sleep deprivation that is experienced due to this, symptoms can be so grievous that it’s even possible to experience hallucinations.
- Negative health effects - If a person experiences sleep disruption long-term, this can lead to issues with weight, hypertension, and some cancers. Actually, there are a slew of medical ailments that can be caused or exacerbated by broken sleep.
I’ve only touched on some of the things that can and do happen when you have interrupted sleep. As always, if you feel that your sleep is being disrupted habitually and/or if you notice or feel that it is affecting your health, you should check with your doctor or other medical professional. Together you can create a game plan that would work for you to keep some of the sleep disturbances to a minimum.