Basic information of 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 problems falling asleep when they first go to bed and is referred to by most physicians as “sleep on-set insomnia”. Other people fall asleep easily but wake up after only a few hours and have problems going back to sleep. Still others fall asleep easily, but their sleep pattern is not one that goes through the entire cycle of sleep. This is often referred to as “sleep maintenance insomnia”. To better understand this fairly common sleep disorder and the effects of insomnia on a person’s body, we must first learn about sleep and better understand why sleep is so necessary to a healthy life.

Sleep is the period of time when the body appears to repair the damage that has occurred while awake.

The study of sleep is comparatively new and what sleep does for the body is not entirely understood. But researchers do know that people can go longer without food than without sleep. In studies done with mice deprived of sleep versus mice deprived of food, the sleep deprived mice get ill and die faster than the unfed mice.

Sleep studies have revealed that there are 5 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, brain activity slows down even more and the slowest brain waves, called delta waves, sporadically appear. In stage 4, the brain waves are almost totally delta waves. Stages 3 and 4 are called “deep sleep” and it is difficult to wake a person during stage 4.

Stage 5 is called REM sleep and during this stage everything changes. Breathing becomes rapid, there are rapid eye movements; this is the stage where subjects dream. Researchers believe that quality, restorative sleep happens when a person goes through four or five sleep cycles during a sleep period.

Deficiency of sleep first affects the brain, so theories are that the brain needs to rest so as to recharge itself or reorganize data and may also need to rid itself of waste products produced while awake. Subjects kept awake for days begin to have mental symptoms first; such as hallucinations, inability to concentrate, and problems with memory.

During sleep, researchers have also found that metabolic rates and energy consumption are reduced. The cardiovascular system also slows down during sleep as blood pressure drops as well as heart rate. 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approximately 64 million Americans suffer from insomnia each 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, chronic stress or anxiety, heart disease, sleep apnea, menopause or diabetes; so it’s important to see a doctor 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 traveling or is worried about a temporary problem. When insomnia last for a period of 3 weeks to six months it is classified as acute insomnia. But the problem is insomnia which last from months to years and is classified as chronic insomnia. Major health problems caused by chronic insomnia are many and vary from fibromyalgia to obesity and can even be fatal. Experts believe that chronic insomnia is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Copyright © 2008