What causes interrupted sleep?
From furry friends nosing under the blankets, and kids creeping in, to duvet stealers, loud snorers and bed hoggers - there are lots of sleep disruptors that can ruin a good night’s sleep.
However, broken sleep can often occur without any outside help at all. It can be equally frustrating when we keep waking up in the middle of the night, or waking like clockwork at 3am, rising far too early, or finding it a struggle to get back to sleep. Broken sleep patterns can leave us feeling fatigued and more. So, let’s look into the main physical reasons behind interrupted sleep.
Thoughts running through your mind? Worries about work, finances or other issues? Elevated stress levels can kick our body into wake mode with increased heart rate and blood pressure. If we keep waking up in the night with anxiety, once those intrusive thoughts pop into our head, it can be hard to put them away again.
Problems often seem worse in the middle of the night, so making a note or jotting down a quick action plan for the morning may help you switch off again.
We may all experience sleepless nights occasionally, however, constantly waking up in the night is more likely to be a sign of insomnia. In the UK, the NHS estimate that 1 in 3 adults suffer from the condition which can vary in severity. People can also experience insomnia during their menstrual cycle, or if they are particularly sensitive to caffeine.
It’s a fact that we need less sleep as we get older. Adults over 65 need between 7 - 8 hours on average, roughly a full hour less than middle aged adults. The menopause can also disrupt the sleep cycle as the hormonal changes can cause night sweats and hot flushes, leaving you to wake up in cold sweats, interrupting our thermo regulation.
Medications and health conditions
The following underlying conditions, and the medication used to treat them, can increase the likelihood of sleep interruptions; obesity, diabetes, arthritis, GERD heart conditions, asthma, menopause and chronic pain have all been linked to poorer sleep quality.
Medications such as anti-depressants, beta-blockers, corticosteroids, diuretics, and some cold remedies can interfere with your sleep, along with pain killers that contain caffeine.
Neurological and mental health conditions such as depression, ADHD, and Parkinson’s can be characterised by frequent sleep disturbances.
Good sleep habits can help reduce those consistent 3am night awakenings, so to give yourself the best chance of sleeping through the night, look to maintain a proper sleep schedule with fixed lights out and alarm times.
Sleep disorders can increase waking in the night. Sleep clinics can help diagnose and treat sleep disorders, which should be taken very seriously, as sleep apnea can cause the breathing to stop temporarily which can be dangerous.
Is waking up in the middle of the night bad for you?
We need deep, restorative sleep to maintain our health and wellbeing, which is achieved during specific stages of the sleep cycle. The odd disruption won’t cause any harm, however, persistent sleep deprivation and lack of REM sleep has been linked to a variety of long term health problems. Ultimately, sleep deprivation weakens our immune system and disturbs our endocrine system and hormone production.
How can interrupted sleep affect your daily life?
Can’t function without that first cup of coffee? A caffeine addiction isn’t the only way sleep interruptions can manifest in our daily life. Other common symptoms include;
- Finding it harder to concentrate
- Being more forgetful
- Physical signs around the eyes such as dark circles, bloodshot and puffy bags
- Craving carbs, sugar, and caffeinated drinks
- Feeling moody, emotional, or low
- Finding it harder to get up in the morning
- Putting on weight more easily or finding weight harder to shift
- Feeling rundown or catching more colds
- Feeling more aches and pains
Tips to help you sleep through the night?
Tired of not sleeping through the night? The following tips can help improve your chances of getting a full night’s sleep.
- Get more exercise during the day - being physically tired can help a busy brain switch off
- Avoid intense exercise less than 2 hours before bed
- Eat your last meal of the day no later than 3 hours before bed
- Evaluate your sleep space and look at any improvements that can be made, such as extra light and sound proofing where possible
- Avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants before bed
- Develop a better sleep schedule and healthier bedtime routine using the Simba Sleep Coach, our personalised sleep app developed with sleep expert, Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan
- Give up smoking
- Give yourself a screen time limit and refrain from looking at your phone if you do wake up
- Use meditation, white noise, or gentle stretching to help calm the nervous system
- Don’t nap during the day
- Outside of illness, medication or menopause, if you are waking up sweating, if your mattress or bedding is too warm or holding heat, at Simba we use ventilating Aerocoil® layers in our mattresses and cooling Stratos® technology in our duvets and pillows for superior temperature regulation
When should you see a doctor?
If your disrupted sleep becomes persistent or more frequent, or you’re struggling to get through the day or complete regular tasks, it’s time to talk to your GP for help and support.