Unconscious Wakefulness Could Shorten Your LifeSpan

April 26, 2021
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

Do you wake up throughout the night, or respond to sound light or other outside stimuli? If you do, you may not even realize it. Called “unconscious wakefulness,” it may cause you to feel tired or have low energy during the day, and unfortunately, there may not be a whole lot you can do about it.

Unconscious wakefulness can have many causes. Not just the outside stimuli itself, but some people are more prone to reacting to outside stimuli than others. This could be due to excessive weight, sleep apnea, or it could be purely environmental. But if you think it’s no big deal you could be in for a surprise. A recent study has found that unconscious wakefulness could mean an increased risk of death over time. Here’s what you need to know.

Unconscious wakefulness is caused by what experts describe as “sleep arousals.” The study has revealed that how often and for how long people experience sleep arousals show a clear link between sleep arousals and “dying for any reason, including from heart disease.
The study examined data from 8000 people and found that among women who experienced sleep arousals, they had double the risk of death from heart disease in the six to eleven years following the study, while men had the same risk of death and heart disease to the tune of over 25 percent higher than men without unconscious wakefulness.
It should be noted that the study was performed on older, white people, so there is no data for other groups regarding unconscious wakefulness and death, but the study did show that the link between death and poor sleep quality should not be ignored. The study’s authors suggest that people monitor their sleep habits with the use of digital sleep monitors that can be worn, such as a fitness tracker or smartwatch, or by undergoing a sleep study.
While sleep apnea may or may not have been a factor in the study participants’ sleep arousals, it is also important to treat sleep apnea, as this does cause repeated waking throughout the night, and has also been tied to cardiovascular disease, among other diseases. If you suffer from sleep apnea and are looking for a solution that does not involve CPAP therapy, speak to Dr. Mingus about your options.