You may have days where you feel like you had trouble sleeping, but from what you can recall of the previous evening, you fell asleep easily and didn’t wake until your alarm sounded. What you might not remember is waking up multiple times through the night - you might find this out from your partner.
It’s actually quite common to have awakenings at night that you don’t remember, including ones that last up to a minute or more.
Sleep and memory
When we sleep, we lose much of our ability to make new memories—it’s actually a kind of amnesia. The ability to remember what happens in our dreams varies widely from one individual to the next. So-called “high dream recallers,” people who retain more memories of their dreams, also spend about twice as much time in periods of wakefulness throughout the night as people with lower dream recall. Scientists suggest that it is during these periods of wakefulness that some memory consolidation of dreams may take place. This type of sleeping trouble can have an effect on the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Some waking is normal
Awakenings can be quick.You might briefly rouse, shift your position in bed, and go back to sleep. You may also have longer awakenings of a minute or so and still not remember them the next day. These longer awakenings are normal and can occur at any age, but the most important factor is how you feel during the day. If you typically feel rested, alert, and energised during the day, then something in the range of 5-8 brief awakenings throughout the night is likely not something to worry about.
Causes of sleeping trouble
On the other hand, if you’re feeling tired during the day - but aren't sure why - then it’s possible you might be having trouble sleeping, which could be related to awakenings. You may be experiencing what sleep scientists call “micro-arousals1.” Micro-arousals are very short awakenings, lasting less than two seconds. But they often occur many times within a brief period. Micro-arousals can be disruptive to sleep, and are often (but not always) symptoms of larger sleep issues like Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), each of which can lead to sleeping trouble. Both of these disorders are frequently accompanied by fractured sleep and by many un-remembered awakenings. The likelihood of experiencing RLS and PLMS increases with age. Research indicates that 25% of people between 50 and 60, and 40% of people 60 years and older may have PLMS2.
Other sleep disorders
It’s also possible that sleep apnea could causing troubled sleeping by waking you and contributing to daytime fatigue. Most sleep apnea sufferers don’t remember their awakenings. For some people, it takes seeing themselves sleeping on video or lab evidence from a sleep assessment to convince them.
Recurring awakenings and daytime exhaustion can be stressful to live with, which is why we have created “Unlocking the Pillars of Health” eBook. This eBook will act to help you identify areas for improvement to reduce wakefulness. Additionally, if you're sick and tired of snoring and drowsiness causing issues in your life, try our Online Sleep Assessment below