Is Broken Sleep a Bad Thing?

Do you wake up at 2, 4 and 6 a.m.? While it probably won't hurt you to experience occasional nocturnal stirrings, night after night of interrupted sleep is dangerous to your mental and physical health. Here's what you can do to help yourself sleep through the night.

If interrupted sleep means you're not getting enough sleep every night, your immune system, endocrine system, memory and ability to perform simple everyday tasks are all compromised. Regular, restorative sleep is essential for day-day functioning as well as your long-term health.

For adults, nocturia, or the need to urinate at least once but often several times during the night, is one of the most common reasons for broken sleep. Stress, chronic pain conditions, menopause and other medical and psychological changes in your health can also be responsible for rude awakenings. If you fall back asleep quickly and get the equivalent of a full night's sleep, you may not suffer as much as if you wake up in the middle the night and stay up for hours at a time.

To mend your sleep patterns, first look at your lifestyle habits to see if there's room for improvement. The "rules" for sleeping through the night are pretty much the same as those for any form of insomnia:

  • Cut out or cut down on caffeinated beverages during the day. The caffeine in coffee, tea and energy drinks can make it harder to get to sleep and just as hard to stay asleep through the night.
  • Avoid late-night meals or large amounts of fluids.
  • Make sure the room temperature is no higher than 75°
  • Don't lay in bed worrying or scheming. If you can't sleep, get up and go to another room until you feel sleepy. Avoid thinking of your bed as a place where you bring your problems and concerns or a place where you spend long periods of time awake.
  • Try not to nap during the day.
  • Don't go to bed until you are tired.
  • Get more exercise and sunlight during the day.

If lifestyle changes don't help you sleep through the night, you may have an underlying disorder that won't respond to simple changes in your day-to-day routine. Speak with your primary health care provider to find out if you have an underlying medical or sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and if you can benefit from medication or some other form of treatment.



Guan, ZC. "Advances in Clinical Study of Nocturia." Journal of Peking University. 2010 Aug 18;42(4):487-92. Web. 18 Feb 2011.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine: Link Between Sleep Quality and Natural Sunlight. 7 Apr 2005. Web. 18 Feb. 2011

West Virginia University: Sleep: More Important Than You Think. 22 Sept 2010. Web. 18 Feb 2011.