Sleep is a multifaceted natural function that plays a fundamentally crucial role and is vital for sustaining physiological, mental and emotional health. Contrary to outward appearances and although the body may seem to be passive, the brain remains in a highly active state during sleep and it goes through a number of stages.
Everybody needs sleep and it is every bit as vital as nutritious sustenance and healthful hydration. However, how much sleep individuals required greatly depends on their age and their state of health. Assuming they are healthy with no underlying disorders and that their immediate environmental conditions (also known as sleep hygiene) are favorable; most infants sleep between 16 and 18 hours per day, teenagers about 9 hours and young adults between 7 and 8 hours. The vast majority of the elderly adults have some form of sleep disorder and therefore tend to sleep much less.
Also known as somnipathy, sleep disorders are a wide range of abnormal and unhealthy dysfunctions of sleep patterns in people as well as other species of animals. The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) had thus far identified more than 70 (seventy) distinct sleep disorders which they classify in three general and broad categories: insomnia (no sleep), obstructive sleep apnea (interrupted sleep) and narcolepsy (too much sleep). Insomnia is considered to be the most frequently occurring sleep disorder and it is mostly prevalent in women and the elderly of both genders.
National statistics guesstimate that there are approximately 40 million people in the United States who suffer from chronic and long-term sleep disorders of one kind or another and that there are 20 more million who suffer occasional sleep disorders occasionally.
Most Common Factors Causing Sleep Disorders
Most sleep disorders are the direct or indirect results of physiological, emotional or environmental changes in people’s lives and those may be:
Physiological Changes. Physiological changes may include a wide variety of medical conditions and / or their symptoms:
- a) Pain, most specifically pain along the spinal cord (back pain, neck pain and sciatica), joint pain such as due to arthritis as well as any general or specific chronic and severe pain anywhere else in the body.
- b) The usage of certain drugs (prescribed, over-the-counter or illegal) including alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. Also the withdrawal from such drugs.
- c) Hormones, primarily in women, which undergo drastic ebbs and surges numerous times in women’s lives.
- d) Incontinence includes the complete inability to control the bladder and / or the frequent need for urination particularly during the night.
Emotional Changes. Emotional or psychological changes may include anxiety, fear, stress, distress or just good old worry.
Environmental Changes: Environmental changes usually refer to events that may lead to circadian rhythm disorders such as when switching work shift from day to night and traveling across time zones may lead to circadian rhythm disorders. Sudden loud or harsh noises are also considered environmental changes.
Dealing with Sleep Disorders
Most sleep disorders are treated by any one of the following four general methods or a combination of any two, three or four of them: behavioral and psychotherapeutic, rehabilitation and management, oral over-the-counter or prescribed medications and a variety of somatic treatments.