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Sleep, what to do when it is interrupted by so many awakenings?

March 12, 2018

There are those who find it hard to fall asleep and those who wake up in the heart of the night, trying to recover sleep, often in vain. Insomnia has different faces and can also occur with the face of sleep maintenance disorder: “One is not in the presence of a difficulty to fall asleep; one closes one’s eyes, sleeps for a few hours and then wakes up. Then try to close them again, maybe you fall sleep for a while and then you wake up again. Sleep therefore becomes superficial, until you get up without feeling rested, without having benefited from a restorative sleep,” adds Dr. Lara Fratticci, a neurologist of Humanitas.


Irritable and devolved

The difficulty in sleeping or the lack of enjoyment of continuous sleep, which has been interrupted several times and earlier than hoped for, have a significant impact on individual life. During the day, in fact, fatigue, drowsiness, cognitive difficulties, difficulties in concentration or attention can occur, up to mood disorders and irritability.


Sleep retention disorder is more common among women than men. Its causes can be various: “There can be organic problems such as sleep disorders, for example parasonnias, characterized by abnormal behaviors, in which there is a sympathetic hyperactivation of the autonomic nervous system, or restless leg syndrome”, the specialist recalls.

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Hyperactivation of the nervous system can also be the result of other conditions that cause a difficulty in maintaining sleep: “Conditions such as psychological stress and disorders such as depression or anxiety. The patient often reports that he or she is not able to “turn off the brain” and is therefore unable to sleep sufficiently.


Women may experience insomnia as menopause approaches, but even simple aging may lead to reduced sleep hours, with repeated night awakenings and early alarms.

For a good sleep hygiene

What are the possible remedies? “The cause of the disturbance must be identified. This will allow the most appropriate treatment to be defined. For example, if sleep deprivation is due to mood disorders, a cognitive-behavioral therapy may be considered, or the pharmacological therapy related to insomnia may be reviewed. There are drugs – explains Dr. Fratticci – such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers that may not promote sleep”.


It is also important for the patient to ensure good sleep hygiene by creating an environment conducive to night rest: “There should be no light sources or noises; the patient should not take caffeine and stimulants during the last hours of the afternoon; he should avoid afternoon naps and should not use the bed as a place to watch TV or stay on the computer”. Still, it would be better if you did not exercise in the two or three hours before going to bed and if you wake up at night, try to do something relaxing and try to fall asleep again.


Then there is the so-called sleep restriction. If the patient recognizes that he sleeps six hours per night but spends eight hours in bed, he should try to go to bed to sleep six hours and spend only those hours in bed. Thus, after learning this custom, he will try to go to bed a quarter of an hour earlier every week: “The criterion is to try to sleep only in that period of time in which sleep is more refreshing, deeper, in order to gradually increase the sleep hours and get closer towards seven/eight hour sleep”, concludes the specialist.

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