Remember the last time you had a good night's sleep? How often have you hit the bed early? Isn't sleep the first casualty of our hectic lifestyles? It's time for you to wake up to the hazards of sleep disorders.
Sleep is a physical and mental resting state in which a person becomes relatively inactive and unaware of the environment. In essence, sleep is a partial detachment from the world, where most external stimuli are blocked from the senses. Normal sleep is characterized by a general decrease in body temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate and most other bodily functions. In contrast, the human brain never decreases activity. Studies have shown that the brain is as active during sleep as it is when awake. Sleep and wakefulness alternate, usually between night and day respectively.
The average sleep-deprived individual may experience impaired performance, irritability, lack of concentration and daytime drowsiness. He/she may be less alert and unable to concentrate. Additionally, because sleep is linked to restorative processes in the immune system, sleep deprivation in a normal adult causes a biological response similar to body fighting off an infection.Persistent sleep deprivation can cause significant mood swings, erratic behavior, hallucinations and in the most extreme, yet rare cases, death. A pioneer in sleep research, Dr. William Dement, noted that most undergraduates enter college with some knowledge of personal health, but little to no knowledge of the value of sleep. He suggests that all students should not only learn the importance of physical fitness and good nutrition, but healthy sleep, calling all three the "fundamental triumvirate of health".
Each person will need an average of seven hours of sleep (plus and minus: 1 hour).
Insomnia is the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep. Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours of sleep a person gets or how long it takes to fall asleep. Insomnia may cause problems during the day, such as tiredness, a lack of energy, difficulty in concentrating and irritability marked by:
o Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep.
o Waking up too early in the morning.
o Un-refreshing sleep.
o Advanced age (insomnia occurs more frequently in those over the age 60).
o Women are also more prone to insomnia.
o A history of depression.
o If stress, anxiety, a medical problem, or the use of certain medications occurs along with the above conditions, insomnia is more likely.
o Environmental noise.
o Extreme temperatures.
o Change in the surrounding environment.
o Sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag.
o Medication side effects.
o Don't expect to have difficulty sleeping and stop worrying about it.
o Check caffeine consumption.
o Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
o No smoking before bedtime.
o Avoid excessive napping in the afternoon or evening.
o Regulate disrupted sleep/wake schedules.
o Diagnosing and treating underlying medical or psychological problems.
o Identifying behaviors that may worsen insomnia and stopping (or reducing) them.
o Possibly using sleeping pills, although the long-term use of sleeping pills for chronic insomnia is controversial. A patient taking any sleeping pill should be under the supervision of a physician to closely evaluate effectiveness and minimize side effects.
o Trying behavioral techniques to improve sleep, such as relaxation therapy, sleep restriction therapy and reconditioning.
Mostly it happens that human body's natural circadian rhythms tell us when we should be sleeping. Many of our physical and chemical roles keep fluctuating during different times of the day. Take for example; cortisol concentration which changes daily. Cortisol is the most potent gluco-corticoid produced by the human adrenal. This peaks during the morning hours when glucose is needed for activity and reaches its low point late in the evening. So the chances of heart attacks are very high in the morning time. It is important to take proper rest while working in night shifts and avoid heart attacks and related health problems.
People who work at nights are more prone to a dangerous heart condition - possibly because of the chronic stress caused by their work patterns. A research suggests that "employees who worked in day shifts are more safe than the night shift employees. The chances of heart attack are very high for night shift employees".
There are specific and effective techniques that can reduce or eliminate anxiety and body tension. As a result, the person's mind is able to stop 'racing', the muscles can relax and restful sleep can occur. It usually takes much practice to learn these techniques and to achieve effective relaxation.
Some people suffering from insomnia spend too much time in bed unsuccessfully trying to sleep. They may benefit from a sleep restriction program that at first allows only a few hours of sleep during the night. Gradually, the time is increased until a more normal night's sleep is achieved.
Another treatment that may help some people with insomnia is to recondition them to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep. As part of the reconditioning process, the person is usually advised to go to bed only when sleepy. If unable to fall asleep, the person is told to get up, stay up until sleepy and then return to bed. Throughout this process, the person should avoid naps and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Eventually the person's body will be conditioned for proper sleep.
Expert: Dr. Bhavna BurmiSenior Clinical PsychologistEscorts Heart Institute