New research suggests that fitful, broken sleep – such as getting up every few hours to a newborn baby – may be worse for you than just staying awake.
“When your sleep is disrupted throughout the night, you don’t have the opportunity to progress through the sleep stages to get the amount of slow-wave sleep that is key to the feeling of restoration,” study lead author Patrick Finan, a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says.
His findings are published in the journal Sleep.
Broken sleep affects not just new parents but shift workers and insomniacs who are also more subject to depression – although scientists don’t know exactly why.
To better understand the link, Finan and his colleagues tracked the sleep of 62 men and women over three nights. Half the people were woken up eight times over the course of the study, while another group was forced to go to bed late, but allowed to sleep uninterrupted.
Those who were woken up through the night expressed more negative feelings about their mood and felt less energetic than those who were simply deprived of sleep.
The study found that interrupted sleep meant less time in deep, slow-wave sleep.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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