An adequate amount of sleep is necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. After an entire day’s work, it is important that the body gets its deserved amount of rest. Sleep at the right time for the right duration is necessary for not just physical but also mental health. Many studies have shown that a person is able to have better cognition and have better overall work performance if he/she has a proper sleep schedule. Apart from increased productivity, a good sleep regime also helps prevent many diseases by strengthening the immune system and lowering the risk of health problems as a whole.
Needless to say, a lot of diseases encircle those who have disturbed sleep cycles. These problems often lead to many long term chronic illnesses, that most often cannot be reversed back. That person is then put through a long course of medications to manage these illnesses.
The right amount of sleep is different for different people. An infant requires sleep of at least 12 to 16 hours and this duration keeps decreasing with age. Therefore with time, an adult requires a maximum of 6 to 7 hours of sleep on a daily basis.
What happens to the body when one sleeps?
Our bodies have an inbuilt biological clock that often resets once a person gets up in the morning. This biological clock has its own circadian rhythm, which is maintained by the up and down regulation of certain hormones.
As it starts getting darker, the body produces a hormone; melatonin, which induces sleep and by giving signals to the body which makes us drowsy. This hormone is released based on the absence of light.
In the morning, another hormone; cortisol, is released which starts off the body’s metabolic machinery, giving it signals to wake up.
Generally, during the course of sleep, all functions of the body are slowed down, with minimal amounts of metabolism happening inside the body.
However, there is an upsurge in the growth hormone levels in the body, which is essential for young children and teenagers. This makes it extremely important for children and teenagers to have a proper sleep regimen so that growth hormone can have its maximum effect.
Sleeping disorder and its types
There can be a multitude of reasons that can result in sleep deficiency in a person. First and foremost, is not getting enough sleep due to a busy schedule or overuse of caffeine, alcohol or drugs that can keep the person up for a long duration.
A person who suffers from stress, anxiety or depression might also have irregularities in their sleep cycle, making them extremely tired and not being able to function in the daytime.
A person can also have disturbed sleep cycles due to some underlying medical condition.
The most common sleep disorder as witnessed by many is insomnia. It is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep. A person who experiences it, often complains about frequent nighttime awakenings with difficulty falling back to sleep as well. This greatly affects the quality and quantity of sleep that an individual gets, and hence makes the person very lethargic the following day.
The pathophysiology that revolves around insomnia has been traced down to be multifactorial. It can either be due to genetic causes or due to a state of hyperarousal. This theory is backed up by enhanced activity due to the high autonomic activity of the brain.
Obstructive sleep apnea
This is a serious medical condition, in which the person does not get enough oxygen while sleeping. These decreased levels lead to the person gasping for air as they wake up irritably. It can either be due to some underlying condition; such as hypertension, anemia or due to less capacity of lungs to carry out respiration properly.
However, due to frequent bouts of breathlessness during the night, that person’s sleep gets highly compromised. Management of sleep apnea can be done through medications by removing the underlying cause.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
This is a syndrome also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. As the name entails, it is the uncomfortable sensation of continuously changing the position of the legs throughout the night. This might lead to the person not being able to feel at rest while sleeping, due to the continuous urge to change its position.
RLS is most often associated with ADHD and Parkinson’s disease and hence does not have any definite treatment.
This is a class of sleep disorders that occur specifically when one is his/her unconscious state. These include sleepwalking, sleep talking, teeth grinding, bed wetting as well as groaning. These conditions also disturb the sleeping patterns of an individual, as this person is likely to wake up after these episodes.
This condition becomes extremely problematic if the person gets into an accident due to this disorder. Therefore, parasomnias are managed by prescribing muscle relaxants, sleep-inducing agents such as melatonin as well as antidepressants.
It is characterized by sleepiness during odd hours of the day, extreme sleepiness as well as sleep paralysis. Narcolepsy is most often accompanied by cataplexy; in which a person loses control over his/her muscles.
This condition can be managed by medicines as well as therapy.
Without proper sleep, the risk of being susceptible to many acute as well as chronic diseases is quite inevitable. Research shows that there are many long term consequences. These affect not just the heart, the liver, the kidney but also the brain.
People who have problems maintaining a proper sleep cycle experience early onset of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, stroke, as well as kidney failure.
Hence, it is advised to all everyone to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, in order to save yourself from the many health conditions that can easily be avoided.