Insomnia as well as importance of sleep

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by problems in a person’s sleeping patterns and affects people differently. Some people have troubles falling asleep and this is known by most medical professionals as “sleep on-set insomnia”. Others fall asleep easily then wake up after only a few hours of sleeping and then have problems going back to sleep. And then others fall asleep with no problems, but their sleep pattern does not go thru the entire sleep cycle. This is known as “sleep maintenance” insomnia.

To best understand common sleep disorders and the effects of lack of good sleep on a person’s body, we must first learn more about sleep and get a better understanding of why sleep is so necessary to a healthy life.

Sleep is when the body seems to repair the damage that happens while awake. The study of sleep is relatively new and what sleep does for the body is not totally understood. But it is know that people can go longer without food than without sleep. In studies with mice deprived of sleep vs mice deprived of food, the sleep deprived mice get sick and die quicker than the unfed mice.

Sleep studies have revealed that there are five stages of sleep. Stage 1 is a very light sleep when all body systems begin slowing down but the person can still be easily wakened. Stage 2 is a period where eye movement stop and brain waves begin to slow down. In stage 3 sleep, brain function slows down even more and the slowest brain waves, known as delta waves, periodically appear. In stage 4, the waves are nearly all delta waves. Stages 3 and 4 are known as “deep sleep” and it is difficult to wake a person during stage 4.

Stage 5 is called REM sleep and during this stage all changes. Breathing becomes faster, there are ‘rapid eye movements”; and this is the stage where people dream. Scientists believe that good, restorative sleep happens only when a person goes through four to five complete cycles during a sleeping period.

Deficiency of sleep first affects the brain, so the theory is that the brain needs to rest so to recharge and to reorganize data and also needs to purge itself of waste products created while awake. Studies with subjects kept awake for days, show that the subjects begin to have mental symptoms first, such as inability to concentrate, hallucinations, and problems with memory.

During sleep, researchers have also found that metabolic rates and energy consumption are reduced. The cardiovascular system slows down during sleep as blood pressure and heart rates begin to drop. Chemicals are replaced and muscles are restored and in children, growth hormones are released.

So, with so many functions in the body affected by sleep, it becomes easy to understand why insomnia can be an extreme problem. According to the United States Dept of Health & Human Services over 63.5 million Americans suffer from insomnia during a year. It also seems to occur 1.4 times more commonly in women than in men.

Often insomnia is actually a secondary symptom of a primary medical illness such as depression, heart disease, chronic stress or anxiety, sleep apnea, diabetes or menopause ; so it’s important to see your primary care physician if you are having trouble sleeping.

If insomnia only occurs time to time, it is commonly referred to as intermittent insomnia. This is the type of insomnia that occurs when a person is travels often or is worrying about a transitory problem. When insomnia continues for over six months it is known as “acute” insomnia. But the problem is insomnia which last from months to years and is known as chronic insomnia. Key health problems caused by chronic insomnia from obesity to fibromyalgia and to many that can even be fatal. Experts believe that chronic insomnia has a greater mortality rate than high blood pressure, smoking, and heart disease.