At present, no one is sure as to why sleep exists but it is acknowledged that sleep plays a very significant role in our lives. While scientists are at a loss explaining the varying sleeping habits of different animals, they do concede that sleep is crucial and a sleeping disorder may be detrimental to the health and productivity of a person (Carey, 2009).
In this paper, I shall illustrate the importance of regular sleep to a person. This shall be through a review of a situation in which I did not get enough sleep and the effects this had on me. The effects of long term sleep reduction shall also be discussed as well as sleeping disorders and their possible remedies.
Sleep Deprivation (Insomnia)
Under normal circumstances people often get their regular doze of sleep each night however, there are times when this is not the case. Factors such as stress, depression, fear and anxiety have been documented as major causes of sleep deprivation.
When people are affected by these stressors, Sleep ceases to have a refreshing effect on them and in some cases; they find it hard to sleep. According to the WHO (2004), these are all classic indicators of a disturbed sleep which are faced as a result of a person’s psychological state and sleep cycle changes.
This chronic sleeplessness may lead to constant feelings of fatigue, anxiety, reduced productivity and lack of concentration. Emotionally, people affected by insomnia are mostly detached and moody. Inadequate sleep disorder over a significant length of time may weaken the immune system and research shows that maintained total sleep deprivation is fatal in some animal species (WHO, 2004). The physical health of a person may also suffer as a result of sleep disorders.
Hypertension a medical condition whereby the blood pressure is gradually elevated to levels that can lead to organ damage can also occur as a result of deprived sleep. This condition, leads to such illnesses as heart attacks, renal failures or even strokes, all of which can be fatal.
Common sleeping Disorders and Drug Remedies
Sleeping disorders are describes as the inability of a person to experience regular undisrupted sleep. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the two common classifications of sleep disorders are Parasomnias and Dyssomnias (WHO, 2004). Parasomnia causes acute phenomenons during one’s sleep e.g. nightmares and sleepwalking. Dyssomnia relates to sleep disorders that are consequences of lack of sleep e.g. insomnia and sleep apnea.
Scientists have over the years worked hard to come up with medications to cure or at the least retard sleeping disorders. Wright (2001) confirms that sedatives and hypnotics are the most common treatments that have been used for insomnia over the decades. Over the counter sleeping pills containing sedating anti-histamines are effective but may result in daytime sleepiness.
Owing to the fact that sleep disorders can be a result of mental stress, antidepressants are also used to treat insomnia. Restlessness especially of the legs is a known cause of disturbed sleep. To alleviate this situation, low dosages of dopamine can deter this condition (Kalat, 2009)
However, there are several natural ways of combating insomnia. Behavioral treatment is one such remedy. The general lack of sleep may be caused by our activities during the day. Therefore in order to overcome insomnia, one should avoid taking excessive coffee during the day(4-6 hours before sleeping) because of its caffeine content, avoid taking alcohol before sleeping because it is a stimulant, eat foods that are easily digestible, ensure that you have a comfortable bed and avoid noises or bright lights in the bedroom.
In addition to this, a warm cup of milk has been known to have a calming effect on the brain. According to research, milk contains an enzyme called tryptophan and Lactium protein which help in relaxation of the brain leading to the first phase of sleep. Also avoiding arguments before going to bed is very helpful in ensuring a good night sleep.
Arguments lead to anxiety and anger, factors which stimulate brain activity. On the same note, relaxing techniques may help in having a good night sleep. Doing some knitting, light reading and abdominal breathing helps the mind relax and one can sleep peacefully.
Other than the above mentioned remedies, the most important means of overcoming insomnia is by practicing sleep hygiene. Wright (2001) articulates that the bedroom should be a place of sleep and intimacy only. This means that such behaviors as smoking, watching TV, eating or discussing marital issues should be discouraged in the bedroom. She claims that how we perceive the bed affects the level of comfort associated with it. As such, the bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet to ensure a good night sleep.
This paper set out to illustrate the importance of sleep by reviewing the effects of deprived sleep. An overview of the different classification of sleep disorders has been given and some common medical remedies given. From this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that regular undisturbed sleep is of utmost importance for one’s psychological and physical well being.