Sleep and Sleep Disorders

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Sleeping is a natural physiological process in mammals, birds and reptiles and therefore human beings find themselves requiring sleep as part of life (Sleepdex, 2009). The reason as to why people need to get sleep is however based on several theories developed by scientists in this field. Perhaps a better understanding of the need to sleep can be better understood by looking at disorders that are associated with sleep. This paper looks into the history of sleep with specific focus on why human beings need to get sleep.

In addition, the paper also discusses some common sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleepwalking. Why do we need to get sleep? Many theories have been developed as an effort to explain sleep and more so the need to get sleep. Aristotle (c. 350 BCE) is noted to have described sleep as “an inhibition of sense of perception” for “conservation (ThinkQuest, 2009). ” This was a view that suggested that sleep was necessary as a way of renewing the body. Research on sleep has from then taken different dimensions with the aim of understanding the process of sleep as well as the importance of sleep.

Basically, there are some explanations that have been proposed as a result of this research. Sleep is believed to renew the brain by allowing neuronal repair and exercise of some vital connections which when left unexercised would breakdown. This repair theory is not only associated with repair of the neurons but also helps in the repair and restoration of muscle tissue and aging cells. Sleep is therefore a means of refreshing the body and restoring spent energy. This may be due to lowering of the metabolic rate as well as the rate of energy consumption.

During sleep, important hormones are also secreted thus helping in building the body. Growth hormone is particularly secreted during sleep in children and young adults. Sleep helps in restoration of the brain such that data reorganization, information processing and memory renewal are highly boosted by sleep. The importance of sleep is emphasized by the need to have the cardiovascular system rest thus maintaining a normal functioning. Failure to get enough sleep is associated with impairment of the immune system (Sleepdex, 2009).

Although plays important roles in the body of human beings, sleeping disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleepwalking deny some people these benefits. Insomnia Insomnia is a condition characterized by difficulties in falling or staying asleep. Sleep-onset insomnia is characterized by trouble falling asleep whereas sleep-maintenance insomnia is depicted by recurrent awakenings and feelings of tiredness after waking up. Two types of insomnia have been identified: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Secondary insomnia is more common with 8 in 10 insomnia patient suffering from secondary insomnia.

The insomnia is related with some medical conditions or medications whereas primary insomnia is believed to occur due some changes in life such as chronic stress and emotional disturbances and 10% of the population have primary insomnia. Insomnia leads to excessive sleeping at daytime, malaise, increased anxiety and depression. Psychological disturbances such as poor concentration and memory loss are also associated with insomnia (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Diseases and Control Index, 2009).

Narcolepsy This is a chronic neurological disorder whereby the brain is unable to regulate sleep-wake cycles making the sufferers experience short-lived urges to sleep at daytime. The sleeping episodes never last for more than just a few minutes. It is estimated that 1 in 2000 Americans have this sleeping disorder and the disorder affects males and females in almost equal proportions. The main symptom characterizing narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) occurring in 100 percent of the individuals. With EDS, the patient’s normal activities are hampered daily regardless of whether the patient got sufficient sleep or not.

Cataplexy (quick loss of muscle tone) is also seen in up to 70% of the patients whereas sleep paralysis and hallucinations are just mild. Initial symptoms usually present at the age of 10 to 25 years (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2009). Sleepwalking Sleepwalking is also known as somnambulism and this is a sleep disorder whereby a person walks or gets involved in other doings while apparently still asleep. Classified as a rapid eye movement (REM) behavior, the disorder mainly characterizes during the dream stage.

Persons with the sleepwalking behavior are believed to be unable to release a certain chemical that paralyzes the body during sleep. The disorder that is common in childhood is characterized by quite walking around the room or sometimes frantic running with the eyes open in a staring mood. It is often difficult to bring the person into senses during the episode and they usually forget about the episode completely. The disorder has a familial relationship although environmental patterns such as sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety and drug and substance abuse are known causes.

The disorder is known to lead to obstructive sleep apnea, nighttime asthma, and psychiatric disorders among other conditions (WebMD, 2009). Conclusion Sleep is very important for normal physiologic functioning of the human body and mind. Failure to get sufficient sleep often leads to sleep disorders that interfere with normal body functioning and daily activities. The most effective remedy for these sleep disorders is to get enough and fulfilling sleep in addition to addressing other reasons behind lack of enough sleep.

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