Interrupted Sleep

September 20, 2017

What Can interrupt normal sleep? 


To answer this question, we firstly need to define what is a "normal" sleep? There are different types and stages of sleep. There are four NREM stages and one REM stage, there is also four to five cycles of sleep each night. You may not progress through all the stages in every cycle, and we should sleep for around eight hours per night. These are the elements that constitute a "normal" sleep.


From time to time, there are any number of factors that interrupt our sleep and 90% of the population suffers from some sort of sleep difficulty at some stage in their lives. However, there are things that you can do to achieve the best possible night's sleep every night. By auditing your own sleep factors, you can make a difference and improve your health and quality of life.


Your sleep can be affected by external factors, which are to do with the environment that you are sleeping in. Light, sound, temperature, sleep environment, partner tossing or snoring, shift work, are just a few in a long list.


Light - Light disturbs your circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythms are essentially your "body clock" or individual daily rhythms to biological processes. Sunlight is one of the primary cues and is linked to the daily sleep-wake cycle. With reduced sunlight, the brain increases the production of the hormone melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. To achieve the best possible sleep, make sure there is no light coming into your bedroom and turn off the bedside lamp. In certain cases, a sleep mask might be the answer.


Sound - Noise can affect how you sleep. Regular rhythmic noise, called white noise, for example a ceiling fan in your bedroom, might help you fall and stay asleep. However, other noises, for example, dogs barking outside will wake you up. If you cannot control the noise in your bedroom, then try earplugs.


Temperature - Body temperature has been linked to the amount of deep sleep an individual gets during the night, with cooler temperatures leading to more deep sleep. Scientists cannot agree on the ideal room temperature but it is believed to be between a cool 15 and 19° Celsius.


Sleep Environment - Your sleep environment is your bed and bedding, that is, your bed base, mattress, quilt, pillows, sheets and blankets. To get a good night's sleep, you need to be comfortable. Your sleeping platform should be hygienic and allow you to sleep in an anatomically neutral position. This will help you get to sleep and stay asleep. If your pillow is too flat or too high, you might wake up exhausted with a sore neck and shoulders. An old lumpy mattress can lead to all kinds of health problems including a sore back or headaches. If you have allergies or asthma, hypo-allergenic bedding will protect from possible allergic triggers such as dust mites. You should audit your sleeping platform and bedding and ensure they can be the best they can be. This could prove the difference between sleeping poorly and getting a great night's sleep.


Partner Disturbance - Bed partners who move around a lot, or who snore, can negatively impact your sleep. Firstly, make sure that your mattress is big enough to give you and your partner both enough room to move around. If you are affected by a snoring partner, you should firstly talk it through with them. You might consider earplugs and your partner might be agreeable to seeking treatment for a potential sleep disorder.


Shift Work - Because circadian rhythms are linked to exposure to light, night shift workers are operating counter to their circadian rhythms. Shift workers, on average, sleep less than other workers and many experience daytime sleepiness. This means they are at a higher risk of experiencing some health problems, because body functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, digestion, and brain activity fluctuate over each 24-hour period under the guidance of the circadian clock. Shift work over a long period of time can lead to heart disease and obesity.


In summary, there are many external factors that can interrupt your sleep. Understanding these goes a long way towards achieving an optimal night's sleep.


Sources:, accessed September 20 2017, accessed September 20 1017, accessed September 2017, accessed September 2017,  accessed September 2017



This blog is for information only. For health advice specific to you, please consult your Health Professional.