Everything you need to know about fragmented sleep
Fragmented sleep is when you wake up multiple time throughout the night without any obvious reasons. Most microarousals that you experience are not natural. Microarousals are natural in humans and mammals during transitions between sleep cycles and generally do not cause any daytime fatigue.
Fragmented sleep, however, involves awakenings that the sleeper recalls later. People with this type of fractured sleep struggle to get back to sleep after these awakenings, which decreases their total time spent sleeping, resulting in sluggishness and daytime fatigue.
Those who experience these awakenings may have a condition called sleep-maintenance insomnia. That is, they can fall asleep at bedtime, but cannot maintain undisturbed sleep throughout the night. By contrast, sleep onset insomnia occurs when people struggle to fall asleep at bedtime.
Some people experience unfragmented, or consolidated, sleep in two periods during the night, with a longer awakening in between. This is not considered fragmented sleep. Rather, this is considered biphasic sleep, and it is fairly common.
Fragmented sleep is not considered to be a sleep disorder. However, it is considered to be a symptom of other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy. While sleep fragmentation is common, there is still no definitive number that says how many people it effects.
Unrefreshing, unsatisfying sleep is more than an annoyance. As we’ve mentioned before, this condition has serious health consequences, including weight gain, mood problems, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Treatment for sleep fragmentation generally involves treating any underlying sleep disorders like narcolepsy or sleep apnea.
Sleep physicians recommend that people with unwanted nighttime waking work to improve their sleep habits in the following ways:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Avoid screens and electronics at least an hour before bed.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine intake, especially in the last hour before bed.
- Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks at least eight hours before bed.
- Sleep in a space that’s dark, cool, and well aerated.
- Use a mattress that provides enough support and comfort, while being hygienic and airy.
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