To Sleep Or Not To Sleep

By: Alex Ellorde

A teacher wrote this note in one of her students' records; “Always late in class. Seems inattentive during discussions. To inquire regarding his situation.” One day after class, the teacher met with this student to ask regarding his condition. She was expecting that her student might relate some problems with his family or financially that interferes with his academic performance. She was surprised, however, to learn that the reason for her student's constant tardiness and poor performance in school is lack of sleep and difficulty in sleeping. She thought that her student was just making up a lame excuse and reprimanded him severely. Later that week, when she casually related this to her friend who happens to be a doctor, he told her that her student may actually have a serious medical problem called insomnia.

Insomnia is defined as a sleeping disorder where a person has difficulty sleeping or remaining asleep, thus, lacking a high-quality of sleep. The length of time that this condition persists may vary; from a single night to possibly a week or more. This condition may be caused by different factors such as physical illness or psychological problems. Moreover, its effects may largely impair a person's life which is why this condition must be regarded seriously. However, like most health problems, insomnia is manageable or cured given proper treatment.

The length of time that the sleep problem is experienced serves as basis for classification of the different types of insomnia. The first type which is called transient insomnia or short-term insomnia may last one night, a few nights or a few weeks. Another type of insomnia which persists for a longer period of time, a few months or even years, is termed as chronic insomnia or long-term insomnia. Another classification of the condition depends on the factors or causes related to it. If the problem exists without any underlying condition and is mainly caused by harmful sleeping habits, it is considered as primary insomnia. On the other hand, when sleeping disorders arise as a symptom of another preexisting condition it is then classified as secondary insomnia. The latter method of classification helps a lot in determining what form of management or treatment should be applied to cure the problem.

As mentioned earlier, insomnia may be brought about by different factors or causes. It can be triggered by mental conditions, food or drugs, sleeping behaviors or habits, sleeping environment and medical or health condition. When a person is under stress, anxiety or fear, this may have an effect in his or her quality of sleep. Some medications, caffeine, nicotine and some herbal supplements may also affect sleep. Sleeping can be hindered or interfered by events such as a change in time zone or work shifts and by activities such as napping during the day, exercising before bedtime and eating or drinking too much before sleeping. A noisy environment, disruptive sleep partner, uncomfortable type of bed and unwanted room temperature can also make it difficult for a person to fall asleep. Lastly, trouble in sleeping may also be experienced when a person has any illness or pain, undergoes hormonal changes or has medical conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Having this condition can greatly disturb or trouble a person's sleeping and waking hours. Usually, people with insomnia will undergo undesirable changes in their mood and daily activities. They may feel irritable and impatient most of the time and experience difficulty in concentrating and focusing on tasks. This condition may also lead them to often feel depressed and anxious. As a result, they exhibit poor performance in school and at work, and somehow become more accident-prone.

Those who are diagnosed to have insomnia, however, should not panic or feel hopeless because of their condition. Fortunately, various treatments or solutions are already available to address this problem. Medications such as hypnotics and sedatives such as benzodiazepines, ramelteon and anti-depressants can be prescribed by sleep doctors to help decrease or eliminate difficulty in sleeping. Another therapy available is called cognitive-behavior therapy where a person is advised to modify his or her daily activities towards having better sleeping habits. Alternative and traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and aromatherapy as well as other substances like herbal supplements can also be used to treat sleeping disorders. These treatments, however, should not be taken or undergone without proper prescription or advice from medical professionals. Inappropriate use or application of these may cause untoward reactions and side effects such as nausea, dizziness and diarrhea, cognitive and memory disturbance, substance abuse and even death. It is therefore necessary to always seek professional advice regarding matters of treatment.

Insomnia is probably one of those unfamiliar or misunderstood health problems. This does not mean, however, that the condition is uncommon. Everyone probably has experienced or knows someone who had experienced one or more causes of insomnia. Everyone is also vulnerable to having it. Therefore, it is important to be knowledgeable of this condition to be able to address it properly. Had the teacher in the situation stated earlier known what insomnia is, what causes it, how it affects one's life and what treatments or solutions are available, she may have appropriately done something to make her student's life better.

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