Unfamiliar with the term sleep sensitivity? You’re probably more likely to think in terms of being either a light or heavy sleeper. Today, there is new science that is casting light on this very real characteristic, and demonstrating how measuring it–and understanding it–can help improve your sleep.

Are you a sensitive sleeper?

Sleep sensitivity describes your natural ability to handle disturbances during sleep. These disturbances will typically last between 3 to 15 seconds and can take you into a lighter phase of sleep. A sleep disturbance is not considered wakefulness and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recall it. If a disturbance lasts more than 15 seconds, it is considered an awakening. These are a natural occurrence and on average, the number of sleep disturbances we should experience are as follows:

However, how we respond to these disturbances differs from person to person. In some people, sleep will return to a deep state almost immediately, while in others, deep sleep slowly returns, leaving them vulnerable to further disturbances.

What does this mean?

If your sleep sensitivity is high, disruptive factors in your body and environment are more likely to disturb your sleep. This would make you more likely to remain in a state of wakefulness or light sleep and experience poor sleep quality.

A low sleep sensitivity score indicates you have a strong natural sleep drive and are able to quickly return to a deeper state of sleep after a disturbance.

    • Low (0 – 0.7): The likelihood of sleep being easily disturbed is low.
    • Moderate (0.71 – 1.2): The likelihood of sleep being easily disturbed is moderate.
    • High (1.21 – 2.5): The likelihood of sleep being easily disturbed is high.

How is this measured? 

New technology is allowing us to measure this natural drive, or your sleep sensitivity, and assign a score.

Your sleep sensitivity is measured by calculating the rate at which your sleep deepens following a disturbance. The only way this is possible is by measuring sleep where it happens–in the brain through EEG (electroencephalogram) and access to Cerebra’s proprietary sleep depth metric–ORP Sleep Depth.

Unfamiliar with the term sleep sensitivity? You’re probably more likely to think in terms of being either a light or heavy sleeper. Today, there is new science that is casting light on this very real characteristic, and demonstrating how measuring it–and understanding it–can help improve your sleep.

What’s keeping you up?

Natural disruptions in sleep occur spontaneously, but specific factors in your body and environment can increase their frequency, reducing your sleep quality.

Environmental

    • Room temperature
    • Light sources (including electronics)
    • Outside noises
    • Inside noises (including a snoring partner)

Physical

    • Sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnea, insomnia, periodic limb movements (PLMs))
    • Body movements such as restless legs syndrome (RLS)
    • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
    • Medical conditions (e.g. pain, lung diseases, psychiatric disorders)
    • Lifestyle factors (e.g. excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol)
    • Medications (e.g. side effects from medications or controlled drugs)

What are the risks?

Light sleep is a risk factor for developing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia. If you’re regularly waking and struggling to get back to sleep, you might be at risk for complications of sleep deprivation, including daytime tiredness, impaired attention, and reduced motor control.

There can also be more serious consequences to your health, including:

   Mental

    • Anxiety & depression
    • Moodiness & irritability
    • Decreased alertness
    • Forgetfulness
    • Chronic Stress
    • Decreased motivation

   Cardiovascular

    • Hypertension
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Heart attack & stroke

   Reproductive

    • Subfertility
    • Menstrual irregularities
    • Decreased sex drive

   Metabolic 

    • Weight gain
    • Type II diabetes

   Immune

    • Infection
    • Cancer

What can you do?

Start by ordering a sleep study from Cerebra. You can’t get this type of information from a traditional sleep lab. The study is easily completed at home and will provide you with personalized results online within days. All studies are reviewed by a registered polysomnographic technologist and come with personal support by a clinical sleep health educator and direct access to Cerebra’s treatment network for clinical care.

Order your sleep study today.

References:

  • Younes, M et.al. (2020) Mechanism of excessive wake time when associated with OSA and/or PLMs, J Clin Sleep Med
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Epidemiology Program Office. (2009). Perceived insufficient rest or sleep among adults: United States, 2008. MMWR, 58(42), 1175-9.
  • Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, (Ed.). (2006) Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: National Academies Press
  • de Mello, M.T., Narciso, F.V., Tufik, S., Paiva, T., Spence, D.W., BaHammam, A.S., Verster, J.C., Pandi-Perumal, S.R. (2013). Sleep Disorders as a Cause of Motor Vehicle Collisions. Int J Prev Med., 4(3), 246–257.
  • Boulos, M.I., Jairam, T., Kendzerska, T., Im, J., Mekhael, A., Murray, B.J. (2019). Normal polysomnography parameters in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Respir Med., 7(6), 533-543.