What is the best mattress?
When thinking about sleep and health, it's common to focus on the issue of the amount of sleep and whether we're getting the recommended number for hours of sleep. While total sleep time is undoubtedly important, sleep continuity, or the ability to avoid disrupted sleep, is also critical.
Most people know that sleeping at stops and starts doesn't feel as refreshing. Research studies have shown a correlation between subjective ratings of sleep quality and sleep continuity. Disrupted or fragmented sleep can contribute to insomnia, sleep deprivation, daytime sleepiness, and the numerous other potential consequences of insufficient sleep.
Knowing more about the symptoms, causes, and implications of disrupted sleep can help you stay informed about your situation and find the best treatments or preventive measures to minimize your sleep disorders.
Symptoms of disrupted sleep
For many people, the central symptom of sleep disruption is easily noticeable: waking up from sleep one or more times during the night (or during the day for people working a night shift).
The timing and duration of these waking episodes may vary. A person may have only a few breaks in sleep or several. They may be awake for only a few minutes or for an extended period before going back to sleep. A person may experience, go round and round, or feel only half asleep without falling into a deeper rest.
However, not all cases of disrupted sleep are evident to the sleeper. Some people experience very brief and minor awakenings during the night without realizing it. For example, people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have repeated lapses in breathing that cause brief awakenings from sleep. These respiratory excitations are short enough that people with OSA usually don't know they're happening.
With a condition such as OSA or other situations in which sleep fragmentation is frequent but not noticed by the sleeper, excessive daytime sleepiness is likely to be a key symptom of sleep disruption.
The implications of disrupted sleep can be significant with impacts not only on sleep quality, but also on numerous aspects of individual health.
People who have disrupted sleep tend not to get enough sleep overall. Research has found a strong correlation between sleep continuity and total sleep time, indicating that people with disorders have a higher risk of not getting enough sleep. Not surprisingly, problems with sleep maintenance are a frequent complaint among people with insomnia. This can cause daytime sleepiness that detracts from school or work performance and increases the risk of accidents while driving or operating machinery.
During healthy sleep, a person progresses through a series of cycles, each of which is made up of distinct stages. Repeated interruptions and awakenings can disrupt that process, causing far-reaching effects of disrupted sleep on brain function, physical health, and emotional well-being.
Sleep disruptions have also been associated with neurodegenerative disease including age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer's dementia and Parkinson's disease. Fragmented sleep is considered an early symptom of these conditions, but research suggests that it may also be a contributing factor to their development and/or progression.
In addition, repeated awakenings during sleep have been linked to mood disorders such as depression. One study demonstrated a stronger correlation between disrupted sleep and a positive mood decline compared to reducing total hours of continuous sleep. In addition, these problems were aggravated by consecutive days of disrupted sleep, suggesting that the effect may accumulate over time.
Disrupted sleep can also cause detrimental impacts on physical health. Otherwise, healthy people have been found to have increased sensitivity to pain after just two nights of fragmented sleep. The long-term inability to proceed through each stage of sleep combined with the activation of multiple body systems during repeated awakenings has been linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and metabolic problems, including type 2 diabetes. Disturbed sleep may also be linked to cancer risk, although more research is needed to better understand the complexity of the relationship between sleep and cancer.
All these potential effects of disrupted sleep on the brain and body indicate that healthy sleep means more than just getting enough sleep; it also requires avoiding interruptions that inhibit continuity when sleeping.
Consequences of disrupted sleep
There is a wide range of potential causes of disrupted sleep, and multiple factors can be involved in any specific person's situation.
Sleep fragmentation is often a problem for older adults because they experience a natural change in their sleep patterns that results in less time in deep sleep. With more time in the light sleep stages, they wake up more easily, leading to a greater number of disturbances and awakenings.
Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS), which creates a strong sensation of moving the legs more frequently, are known to disrupt sleep. Other coexisting medical conditions, such as pain, frequent urination at night (nocturia), cardiovascular problems, as well as hormonal, pulmonary, and neurological problems can threaten sleep continuity. Prescription medications can interfere with sleep, and complex schedules for the timing and dosage of medications may require waking up during the night to take medication.
Stress from a person's personal or professional life can cause disrupted sleep, and anxiety, including worrying or ruminating about problems, can make it harder to go back to sleep after waking up. Parents with infants or toddlers may wake up several times during the night, and caregivers of sick or disabled loved ones may face similar challenges.
Changes in a person's daylight exposure can disrupt their circadian rhythm and make it difficult to sleep continuously. This often occurs in people who have jet lag after an intercontinental trip or who work the night shift and must try to sleep during the day.
Lifestyle choices can also increase the risk of disrupted sleep. Scattered sleep schedules, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, and the use of electronic devices such as cell phones in bed can disrupt a person's sleep patterns.
Consult with a specialist
If you have interrupted sleep that has been going on for a long time, is persistent, or is getting worse, you should talk to your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
- Significant daytime sleepiness.
- Mood swings during the day.
- Snoring that is loud and/or involves panting or choking sounds or other abnormal breathing during sleep.
Prevent and cope with bad sleep
While not all causes of disrupted sleep are under your control, there are concrete steps you can take to try to prevent disrupted sleep before it occurs or address it if you've already found it to be a problem.
Improvements in sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a general term used to describe habits and routines related to sleep along with the sleep environment. Good sleep hygiene removes barriers to both falling asleep and staying asleep, facilitating solid night's rest without distractions or disturbances.
Habits and routines
A central element of sleep hygiene is making sure your daily habits work to your advantage to promote consistent sleep. Examples of healthy sleep tips to improve your habits include:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine, including plenty of time to relax and unwind.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and large meals at night, especially in the hours before bedtime.
- Reduce the use of electronic devices before bed and try to never use them when in bed.
- Getting out or opening blinds to expose yourself daily to sunlight.
- Finding time to be physically active every day.
To facilitate sleep continuity, you want to remove as many possible sources of sleep disorders from your bedroom as you can:
- Use blackout curtains, a low-voltage night lamp, and, if necessary, a sleep mask to avoid being disturbed by excess light.
- Wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to block out noise.
- Adjust your bedroom temperature to make it comfortable, erring towards a cooler fit.
- Make sure your mattress, pillows, blankets, and sheets are comfortable and cozy.
What is the best mattress?
Materials & Care
Serta’s exclusive Reactex® System consists of three layers of cooling technology. Each cooling layer has more cooling capacity than the previous layer, so heat is pulled away from your body and deeper into the mattress. The result is cool, comfortable sleep all night long.
CustomFit™ HD Memory Foam
Premium, high-density memory foam conforms to your body for comfortable support all night long.
Deep Reaction® Max Gel Memory Foam
This highly dense memory foam has both cushioning and confirming qualities for comfortable deep-down support.
*Only available in Arctic Premier Hybrid model.
Peak Support™ Ultra HD Memory Foam
Premium, ultra-high-density memory foam provides steady support, so you don’t sink too far into your mattress.
*Only available in Arctic Premier Foam model.
Serta® Balanced Support Foam
Balanced Support Foam is used to strike the ideal balance of cushioning and support, no matter how firm or plush you prefer your mattress.
*Only available in select models.
EverCool® Fuze Gel Memory Foam
A fusion of cooling gel and premium memory foam, this comfort-inducing combination cradles you and helps cool you in a substantial, pressure-relieving embrace.
*Only available in Arctic Plush Foam and Arctic Medium Hybrid models.
Serta® Micro Hybrid Coil™
This is a unique layer of micro-coils designed to work in sync with the memory foam layers around it. As you lie down, these coils closely react to every contour of your body, aiding the transition between relaxing comfort and all-night support.
*Only available in Arctic Premier Hybrid model.
1025 Hybrid Support™ System with BestEdge® Foam Encasement
In this advanced innerspring system, individually wrapped coils work independently to conform to every curve of your body and provide durable support.
*Only available in Hybrid models.
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