An adjective that sounds a little like what it means, fitful means stopping and starting, on-again off-again, switching suddenly. I had a fitful night's sleep: I woke up several times throughout the night.
A fit is a disturbance that happens without warning, like a tantrum, tremor, or spasm. If something is fitful, it's "full of fits." A night at the opera is a night of fitful pleasures: the arias are cool, but the rest of the show is boring. I've made only fitful progress trying to lose weight, because I lose only a few pounds at a time, and they almost always come right back: my progress is fitful because it comes in "fits and starts."