Broken Sleep: What Is It And What Does It Mean?

Let me paint a picture for you: you wake up in the middle of the night. First, you feel refreshed, even if it’s 3 AM and you should be asleep. You start to scroll through your phone, hoping you’ll become sleepy again. But by the time you do, you need to get to work.

Sleep. Wake up. Toss and turn. Sleep again, and repeat. Welcome to a night of broken sleep.

If it sounds familiar, then I don’t have to tell you the aftermath: becoming cranky, frustrated, and generally depleted of energy.

Broken sleep is a fairly common issue that most people will experience throughout their lives. Unfortunately, the causes for it can be so diverse that it can be really challenging to pinpoint exactly why it’s happening and how to find a solution.

Broken Sleep in a Nutshell

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If you have a regular broken sleep pattern, you are likely getting only 3-4 hours of quality rest every night, though it can be different for everyone. Essentially, you are unable to sleep through the entire night which makes exhausted by noon the next day. And it keeps happening.

A broken sleep pattern can have many causes, such as medical conditions or certain medications. But, it can also be influenced by habits like watching too much TV right before bed.

Broken Sleep Every Night: The Breakdown

Dealing with broken sleep every night is a huge nuisance. It eventually affects your quality of life since you are not sleeping enough for the body to fully recharge. And let’s face it, we all know how good we feel after a great night of sleep.

But the cycle can be broken, and to do that, it’s worth looking at the issue from all perspectives. 

Broken Sleep Meaning

Broken sleep isn’t the same as insomnia. Usually, people have no problems falling asleep when dealing with broken sleep – it’s remaining in this state that’s an issue.

So you might get around 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and you won’t feel tired when you wake up. But a few hours later, you’ll begin to feel drowsy or even exhausted.

Broken Sleep Symptoms

There are some immediate effects of broken sleep patterns:

  • Alertness in the middle of the night (2-4 AM)
  • Feeling sleepy in the mornings when you’d normally want to wake up
  • Dealing with drowsiness during the day

But if you’re dealing with broken sleep every night, side effects may include:

One night of broken sleep might not seem like such a big deal. But, if the problem persists, these small immediate effects can start to build up, and eventually affect every aspect of your life.

Continuous Sleep vs. Broken sleep

Does broken sleep count as sleeping? Technically, you’re not lying awake the entire night, so that must be a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, broken sleep doesn’t give the body the rest it needs to function properly. Any disruption to the natural sleep rhythm, especially if prolonged, should be addressed. 

One study looked at how broken sleep affected participants in just one night. Student volunteers were first asked to sleep a normal eight-hour period, then were woken up by phone calls to complete some tasks on the second night.

For each morning, the scientists looked at how alert the students were and analyzed their mood and their attention levels. Just one night of a broken sleep pattern made the students struggle with paying attention, increased confusion levels, and the likelihood of making mistakes on the study’s computer tasks. 

So even if you’re technically getting a few hours of sleep, it doesn’t count. The body isn’t properly resting, and over time the symptoms can become more and more visible.

3 Major Causes of Broken Sleep

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The root cause of a broken sleep pattern is an improper circadian rhythm, which could be thrown off by something medical, emotional, or even environmental. If it helps, I’ve done extension research across the web to find the best sleep blogs that can be a resource for any issues you are struggling to understand, including broken sleep patterns.

The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock which tells you when to go to sleep and wake up. It does this by producing melatonin. At night, the body will produce extra melatonin, which is why you feel sleepy. At dawn, melatonin levels drop, and you feel refreshed.

But when your sleep is broken, melatonin production can be lower well before dawn. I won’t go too much into the medical reasons why this happens, but below, I want to share with you three common reasons for waking up in the middle of the night and not sleeping right.

“I’m Losing Sleep Thinking About Someone”

Who hasn’t had the “I can’t sleep because I’m thinking of you” moment once or twice in their life?

Thoughts can have a critical effect on how well you sleep. Usually, if you can’t sleep because you keep thinking about someone, it likely means your mind is trying to get your attention regarding a specific relationship.

There are lots of reasons why you might keep waking up at night thinking about someone:

  • Having an “anxious attachment,” where you are very afraid of being abandoned
  • Dealing with the aftermath of a breakup or bad fight with someone
  • Subconsciously trying to process an event or memory, etc.

You can try distracting yourself whenever this happens by forcing your mind to think of something else. Eventually, you may successfully train your brain to stop waking you up with these types of thoughts.

“I Can’t Sleep Without the TV On”

Sleeping with the TV on can be bad for you. TV emits blue light, which can delay melatonin production. This also happens if you stay on your phone, tablet, or any other screen right before bed.

When you look at the TV at night, your body thinks it’s still daytime, so it doesn’t start to prepare for sleep. Eventually, this can throw your circadian rhythm off balance, which could lead to broken sleep patterns.

But how can you fall asleep without the TV on when this is the only way you know how to wind down? 

Well, you can switch to podcasts or even music to give your eyes a break. If you stop exposing your eyes to blue light at night, you can restore a healthy circadian rhythm, and the broken sleep may stop as well.

“I Can’t Sleep Because I’m Dreaming So Much”

I’ve also had moments where I’d be dreaming so much that I woke up tired. But it’s not the dreaming that causes broken sleep – it’s the other way around.

When your sleep pattern is broken, and you wake up frequently, you’re more likely to remember your dreams. So the issue isn’t that you’re having so many dreams lately, but that your poor sleeping pattern allows you to know how many times you dream.

Dreams are still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, so we don’t know everything about them. But dreaming a lot can make you tired because it usually means you wake up right after the REM sleep stage, which is the deepest stage. Doing this can leave you tired for the rest of the day.

Dreaming a lot every night can be tiresome, but there’s not much you can do to stop dreaming. Instead, fixing your circadian rhythm is a much better approach, as it can help you sleep through the night and not remember every dream you’ve had.

The Spiritual Meaning of Broken Sleep

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Since science doesn’t know everything about dreams, I’ve often wondered about other types of explanations. For instance, is there a spiritual meaning to a car in a dream?

A car usually symbolizes movement, so dreaming about a car could indicate my mind is trying to tell me something about my life’s path. The more information I can gather from the dream, the better I understand what the mind is trying to tell me.

If the car is parked, maybe I’m more frustrated in my life than I realize, like my path has come to a halt. A red car in a dream could be a warning sign for something, or it could indicate passion. If I’m driving the car, then maybe I need to retake control of my path.

But is there a spiritual meaning for broken sleep, specifically? Maybe my spirit is waking me up because I’m subconsciously worried about something, or I’m too overwhelmed by my daily responsibilities.

I think it’s good to look at broken sleep or dreams from a spiritual perspective as well, as it could help fill in the blanks and provide more information.

Broken Sleep: Final Review

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Are there lingering thoughts keeping the mind too active to sleep, like thinking about someone specifically? Is it a “simple” problem, like watching too much TV at night? Or is there a much deeper-rooted issue that your mind (or spirit) is trying to draw attention towards? 

Whether broken sleep is a spiritual or physical health issue by nature, I think the solution is pretty clear in both cases.

It’s necessary to address the root causes of why the sleep pattern was disrupted in the first place. To do that, it’s worth checking in with the mind and body and analyzing the specific circumstances in which the sleep is broken.

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Easy Sleep Guide

We are a group of individuals who have a fascination, with the world of sleep and dreams. Our website and social media community were created with the purpose of educating and informing our audience about every aspect of sleep. We cover everything from tips to the advancements in sleep technology. Our team, consisting of real life experts works tirelessly to curate top quality content that offers an understanding of sleep related topics. We take pride in being your trusted source, for all things related to sleep providing insights and knowledge to help you achieve an revitalizing sleep experience.

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