Waking up in the middle of the night

Waking up in the middle of the night

Sleep interruption. What it is. What it does. And how to fix it.

Our bodies need at least 7-8 hours of continuous sleep every day. Total sleep time is important but the ability to avoid interrupted sleep is also crucial for a good night’s rest.

We have 5 different sleep stages. We start with light sleep wherein we drift in and drift out and can be easily awakened. Then we reach the last stage, the REM sleep where dreams usually happen.

girl on cellphone in bed

These sleep stages take time. Many people usually count the time they get into bed as part of the 8 hours requirement. But some of us usually squeeze in 10 to 20 minutes of scrolling on our social media feed before closing our eyes, cutting off a few minutes of our total sleep time.

Waking up in the middle of your sleep at least once or twice means it was interrupted. Interrupted sleep can lead to sleep deprivation, daytime sleepiness, or insomnia and increases stress responsivity, emotional distress, reduced quality of life, behavior problems, and mental health problems.

Keeping yourself informed of the symptoms, causes, and implications of interrupted sleep can help you find preventative measures to minimize your sleep disturbances.

Causes of Sleep Interruption

man grabbing his head in discomfort

Are you suffering from any of these? Interrupted sleep has a wide range of potential causes and other factors may be dependent on the person’s situation.

Stress is one of the common reasons why sleep gets interrupted. Anxiety and depression are another, both of which stem from stress. You can get anxious worrying about problems and making mental notes on the stuff you need to get done the following day. Getting depressed over work or over an incident that happened to you during the day, also makes it hard to get back to sleep after waking up.

New parents to newborn babies or those with young children can suffer from lack of sleep due to waking up multiple times during the night. Caregivers for persons with disabilities or sick loved ones have similar challenges.

Living a lifestyle of excess consumption of alcohol or caffeine, erratic sleep schedules, using electronic devices such as cell phones a few minutes going to bed can affect your sleeping patterns. Loud noises and too much light in the bedroom or even snoring can interfere with sleep.

Seniors also suffer from sleep fragmentation when they experience a natural change in their sleep patterns resulting in less time spent in the deep sleep stage. They spend more time in the early sleep stages which makes them prone being disturbed easily.

Serious health concerns such as sleep apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) are known to cause sleep disruptions. Medical conditions such as frequent urination at night, cardiovascular issues, lungs, hormonal, and neurological problems are sleep disorders that should also be taken seriously.

Jet lag, prescription drugs, and graveyard shifts can also cause sleep interruption.


How to Avoid Sleep Interruption

happy couple in bed

Practicing good sleep habits can help you get a good night’s rest without any disturbances, and following a consistent bedtime routine can help you relax. Below are some tips you’ll want to try to reduce sleep interruption.

  • Practice a regular sleep schedule like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

  • Exercising an hour a day may help you sleep more soundly. Try to avoid physical activity 2 hours before bedtime.

  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine about 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

  • Avoid large meals 2 hours before bedtime time.

  • Avoid naps later than 3 PM.

  • Make sure you are sleeping in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature.

  • Use blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask to avoid being bothered by light sources that may disturb you.

  • Try white noise to block out other noise or wear earplugs to bed.

  • Limit your use of electronic devices before going to bed.

  • If you’re sharing your bed with a partner or child, invest in a mattress that reduces the transfer of motion.

Good sleeping habits can improve our health, as well as physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Regularly practice good pre-sleep rituals that will help promote sleep with less to zero interruptions.

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