Most already know that the amount of sleep you get is an important factor in your overall health. However, the benefits of a good night’s sleep are not just measured by quantity. Quality also counts. So how can the quality of your sleep suffer? The most significant issue that arises with sleep is fragmented sleep – when you wake several times during the night.
A study at Tel Aviv University is pointed to the fact that fragmented sleep may be as harmful as lack of sleep. In the study, participants slept for one full eight-hour night of sleep. The next night they were awakened by four phone calls and asked to complete a brief computer exercise before returning to bed, awakening them for about 10 to 15 minutes. They were asked to do the same tasks each day to test. So how did they fare? The study found that this fragmented sleep impacted participants in the following ways:
1. Negative impact on mood
Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality severely impacts brain function and reduces serotonin levels in the body, which can lead to irritability and depression.
2. Reduced attention span
Sleep impairment causes a disruption in the hippocampus and other regions of the brain responsible for reason and memory. Poor sleep can reduce attention span and overall productivity.
3. Impaired cognitive ability
The same regions of the brain that are impacted by poor sleep also control reason, logic and response time. Poor sleep reduces all three, and can even lead to lasting effects in brain function.
So what causes fragmented sleep? There are plenty of causes, from noise pollution to chronic medical conditions to pain, but these are some of the most commonly experienced by adults in the US.
1. Sleep apnea or heavy snorers
Sleep apnea can be treated several ways according to the Mayo Clinic. The most common is CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure. Other airway treatments and oral appliances are also available. Surgery may be called for in some cases if other means do not work. Surgery may also be suggested for those with certain jaw structure problems.
2. Restless leg syndrome
The Mayo Clinic says this syndrome may be treated with certain drugs, muscle relaxants or, even, sleep medications.
3. Parents of newborns
Time may be the cure but until then, parents may switch off night duty so neither has continuously fragmented sleep.
Some mood disorder medications may cause interrupted sleep. If there is a constant problem with interrupted sleep, talk to your doctor for suggestions for better sleep.
There are other groups of people who experience interrupted sleep and those include doctors or other professions who receive nighttime phone calls, smokers, moderate to heavy drinkers, those with recent weight gain, post-menopausal women and men with low testosterones.
The important message here is that if you are experiencing fragmented sleep, you should discuss it with your doctor. If it is a habit you can change – like not drinking caffeine beverages that cause frequent urination – change that habit. Consider a sleep clinic that can give you a good evaluation of your sleeping habits. If the problem is an uncomfortable mattress or aches and pains from the way you sleep on your mattress, consider investing in a new foam or hybrid mattress. These high quality mattresses keep you comfortable and supported throughout the night. That means better, longer and more restorative sleep—and all the benefits that come with it!
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