Fragmented Sleep Causes, Treatment, and Lifestyle Changes
After the end of a day, sleep is supposed to replenish the lost energy and recharge us for the next day. But when you keep waking up many times at night and struggle to fall back asleep, it doesn’t help you relax or recharge. Most people think waking up multiple times a night is normal, but this condition is called fragmented sleep. The awakenings during your normal sleep cycle may range from brief episodes after which you fall back asleep, or longer periods of wakefulness followed by difficulty going back to sleep. People who have fragmented sleep wake up feeling tired in the morning. Other common symptoms of fragmented sleep include daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, foggy memory, and difficulty concentrating.
Why does fragmented sleep matter?
Recent studies have found that fragmented sleep is equal to getting no sleep at all because both cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue the next day. Many people who experience fragmented sleep hardly consider it a problem, and then they wonder why they wake up with a headache or have difficulty staying awake through the day. The average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Anything less than this is insufficient. Those who think they only need four hours of sleep may not feel the consequences immediately, but soon the effects of insufficient sleep will catch up.
Lack of sleep elevates stress levels, increases appetite and suppresses the ability to burn calories. It also causes forgetfulness and inefficiency at work, while daytime sleepiness may also cause accidents. When a person is fatigued for days or weeks in a row, it can lead to various illnesses. Increased blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and elevated blood sugar levels are some of the long-term problems that can arise from lack of sleep.
Causes of fragmented sleep
There are a few types of fragmented sleep. Short term fragmented sleep can be due to waking up to care for a new baby or because of an illness like a cough or a sore back. This kind of fragmented sleep is situational and goes away after some time. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the person. Once the disturbances are gone, normal sleep can restore.
Fragmented sleep can also result from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, snoring, or periodic limb movements (restless leg syndrome). Fragmented sleep is known as sleep-maintenance insomnia, which is difficulty staying asleep. This is different from sleep-onset insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep.
Poor sleep is also caused by lifestyle habits such as caffeine and alcohol consumption, exercising close to bedtime, or napping for a long time in the day. There may be other causes of chronic fragmented sleep, but they can only be diagnosed by a healthcare professional.
Fragmented sleep remedies
Sleep-maintenance insomnia is easier to treat than sleep-onset insomnia. The first thing you have to do is to allow yourself to be tired and sleepy. This includes avoiding a nap during the day. As the fatigue accumulates through the day, it is easier to fall and stay asleep at night. Really sleepy people are less likely to have a fragmented sleep.
It is also necessary that distractions are removed before bedtime. Switch off the phone, fix the leaking faucets, and wear an eye mask to prevent any light from distracting you. If possible, shut the windows to prevent noises from outside to wake you up. Also drink less fluid close to bedtime to avoid getting up for the bathroom.
If you always wake up several times at night, consider consulting a doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions like sleep disorders or snoring.