Sleep is one of the most crucial parts of life, playing a large part in the wellbeing of the human body since birth. Without adequate amounts of sleep, numerous processes that are essential to life would not be able to be executed efficiently; thus leading to adverse effects on a person’s wellbeing.
Table of Contents [Hide]
- The Importance of Sleep
- Sleep Deficiency: What You Should Know
- Sleep Deficiency and Mental Health
- Sleep Deficiency and Physical Health
- Too Much Sleep: What You Should Know
- How Much Sleep Do You Need?
- Sleep Disorders
- Types of Sleep Disorders
Sleep is such an important factor that a deficiency of sleep can lead to a much larger risk of developing numerous diseases and also puts a person at a greater risk of being involved in an accident, which could have devastating consequences. On the other hand, however, sleeping too much can also be bad for the body’s health and also cause a number of health conditions to become a problem in a person’s life.
Considering the fact that too much sleep and too little sleep is bad for the human body’s wellbeing, many people become quite confused when it comes to sleep. Not only do they have to make sure they achieve just the right amount of sleep to ensure they do not suffer from sleep deficiency or sleep too much, but they also have to consider the quality of their sleep as this also seems to play an important part in providing the body with the benefits of sleep.
Unfortunately, there are some conditions that can affect how we sleep – both in duration and in quality. While it is known that some common ailments can lead to excessive sleep or make falling asleep harder, there are some conditions that directly relates to a person’s sleep. Some of these diseases or disorders can make it extremely difficult to sleep, while others may cause a person to find it difficult to wake up and make them sleep for long periods of times, as well as frequently.
In addition to some diseases and disorders affecting a person’s sleep, it is also important to note that there are also numerous medical conditions that can affect a person during their sleep. These health ailments can cause a variety of symptoms while a person is asleep – sometimes only mild effects, but in other cases more serious effects that require medical attention to avoid potential complications from developing.
In this post, we want to take a look at why sleep is so important for the wellbeing of the human body, what happens when you do not get enough sleep or when you sleep too much, as well as focus on some of the most common sleep disorders that people suffer from that can have an impact on a person’s ability to fall asleep, cause a person to sleep too much or cause symptoms during sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
Let’s start our post by looking at why sleep is such an important part of life and the wellbeing of the human body. Understanding sleep, what happens during sleep and why sleep is important is important for better understanding how sleep deficiency and excessive amounts of sleep can be harmful to a person’s health.
The importance of sleep will also provide a better overview of why sleep disorders can be disastrous in a person’s life, causing them to experience a variety of symptoms that may have an adverse impact on their sleep duration or sleep quality.
The first part of sleep that needs to be taken into consideration is what happens to the brain while a person is asleep. During sleep, the brain gets ready for the day that is coming up. Thus, if a person does not sleep enough, the brain would not get an adequate amount of time to properly prepare for the following day.
In addition to helping the brain get ready for tomorrow, sleep also helps the brain recover from the stress that was applied to it during the previous day.
ResMed explains that sleep is also important for ensuring* damaged cells are healed adequately and for boosting the function of the immune system. Thus, sleep does not only affect the brain, but really plays a role in the entire human body. Additionally, sleep also helps the entire cardiovascular system, including the heart, recharge and get ready to handle the stress of the following day.
The Two Phases of the Sleep Cycle
The term sleep cycle is often used to describe what happens during sleep. There are two phases within a person’s sleep cycle, and both of these phases play an important role in maintaining a healthy body and mind. The two phases that occur during each sleep cycle include:
- The Rapid Eye Movement Phase, also called the REM phase.
- The Non-Rapid Eye Movement Phase, also called the NREM or the non-REM phase.
The NREM phase accounts for up to 80% of a sleep session, while the REM phase only accounts for approximately 20% of a person’s sleep session. During the NREM phase, most benefits that the body itself utilizes from sleep happens. This is when tissue can repair and grow, as well as when important hormones are released in the body. The NREM phase also helps to restore energy to help a person be prepared for the day that is approaching.
The REM phase is the part of a person’s sleep cycle where they have dreams. During this phase of sleep, memories, information, stress and emotions are processed by the brain and then consolidated. This phase also stimulated certain parts of the brain that is involved in skill development and learning; thus posing as an essential part of sleep for learning.
What is Sleep Deficiency?
Now that we have discussed why sleep is important, you should have a better understanding of why so much pressure is placed on the fact that people need to make sure they gain an adequate amount of sleep every day. Further motivation for ensuring* sleep cycles can be completed every night through enough sleep can be gained by looking at the many effects that sleep deficiency tends to have on the human body.
It is already well-known that sleep deficiency causes fatigue and tiredness the next day. This is something we have all suffered before. Think of that time where you had to prepare for final exams during College – you had to sit up until late at night to study; thus you had little time to sleep. When we do not sleep enough, the body is unable to re-energize itself; thus we would not have enough energy to get through the next day.
Another well-known impact of sleep deficiency is the fact that it makes a person much more likely to make mistakes and even to fall asleep during daytime. While some mistakes are not truly considered harmful, such as when a person forgets to get something from the store, more significant and harmful mistakes can also be made and can lead to dreadful consequences.
For example, a person might make a hazardous mistake when they are driving or they could even fall asleep while behind the steering wheel. This could easily lead to an accident occurring, which, in the worst case scenario, may even lead to instant death.
Medical News Today explains that occasionally suffering from a deficiency in sleep usually does not have any serious effects on the body’s wellbeing, except for the fact that the person may fall asleep during daytime, it is important to consider the longer term effects that sleep deficiency may have on the body. With time, daytime sleepiness may become more serious, a person may start to experience problems with their emotions, their performance at work can suffer greatly and they may also find that their quality of life is adversely affected.
A study published on Science Daily by Wiley-Blackwell reports that new evidence has shown that there is a strong connection between obesity and sleep deficiency as well. They explain that the new evidence has provided evidence that sleep deficiency causes problems with the regulation of appetite, as well as causes blood pressure levels to increase* and impairs the body’s ability to metabolize glucose properly. In turn, this can all contribute to a greater risk of obesity.
Obesity has been linked to many health problems; thus by increasing* the risk of obesity through poor sleep habits, a person is also becoming exposed to an additional set of health risks that are now not only caused by their lack of sleep, but also by their excessive weight gain.
Sleep Deficiency and Mental Health
We have discussed how sleep deficiency affects the body, but let’s take a closer look at the specific mental health problems that a lack of sleep can cause. A report published on Scientific American explains that it was originally believed that psychiatric disorders and issues caused people to suffer from sleep disorders, but new evidence now suggests that the opposite scenario is actually true – this means that sleep deficiency, instead, is to be blamed for the development of psychiatric disorders.
They continue to explain that a recent study has found sleep deficiency to cause problems with the way the brain is wired and how different parts of the brain communicates with each other. The scientists monitored the effects of showing a series of images to participants of the study – some participants had an adequate amount of sleep behind them, while the others were sleep deprived.
It was found that certain parts of the brain had a much more intense reaction to certain images in those who had a lack of sleep, and that the brains of those who were sleep deprived seemed to communicate with others parts of the brain while being exposed to certain images as compared to those who had a sufficient amount of sleep.
Apart from these findings, the National Sleep Foundation also reports that sleep deprivation can lead to numerous emotional and mental issues developing, including some symptoms that are usually associated with anxiety disorders and depression, such as constantly experiencing feelings of emptiness and sadness.
Additional symptoms and mental problems may include irritability, an altered mood and not feeling as enthusiastic as a person usually feels.
Sleep Deficiency and Physical Health
While it may seem somewhat obvious that sleep deficiency may have numerous effects on a person’s mental health, due to the fact that the brain needs rest after the day’s stress, it is important that people realize sleep deficiency may also lead to the development of numerous problems with their physical health.
Apart from obesity, which we have already discussed, sleep deficiency may also increase* a person’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The increase* in blood pressure that is usually caused by sleep deficiency may also have an adverse effect on other areas in a person’s life, as high blood pressure has its own list of adverse health effects to be considered.
Too Much Sleep: What You should Know
Quite a lot of attention has been placed on the fact that millions of people are suffering from sleep deficiency. Now that we have discussed how a lack of sleep can affect a person’s mental and physical health in many negative ways, we should also discuss how too much sleep, on the other hand, can affect the wellbeing of the human body as well.
According to a post by Huffington Post, excessive sleep can be hazardous to a person’s health, just like too little sleep can be. The also explain that medical professions have found that oversleeping, as it is termed, is often caused as a symptom related to a medical condition that a person is suffering from.
For example, many people who suffer from depression may experience fatigue and feeling tired all the time. This can, in turn, cause them to sleep more than they should.
While depression is known to cause a person to sleep more in some cases, it is also important to understand that sleeping too much may have an adverse impact on depression as well; thus the link works both ways. In addition to being connected to depression, oversleeping may also cause impairments in cognitive functionality.
Just like sleep deficiency has many adverse effects on the physical health of the human body, so does oversleeping. It has been found that too much sleep can cause inflammation throughout the body to increase* and pain symptoms to become worse. People who sleep too much are also at a risk of experiencing problems with their fertility; thus making it more difficult for them to conceive successfully.
The risk of numerous diseases is also greatly increased when a person sleeps too much, such as:
- Risk of developing diabetes
- Risk of developing cardiovascular disease
- Risk of having a stroke
- Risk of becoming obese
Additionally, sleeping most of the time causes a person to miss out on life and may also have a large impact on their ability to be productive in a workplace; thus reducing* their chances of succeeding in their career and making it more likely for them to stay in bed when they should be going to work.
How Much Sleep do You Need?
With both sleep deprivation and oversleeping causing a number of adverse health effects, affecting both the physiological and psychological wellbeing of the human body, a lot of people are trying to find the answer to how much sleep they should get every night to ensure they are able to benefit from sleep, but without causing them to experience the unpleasant complications of too much or too little sleep.
Generally, the younger a person is, the more sleep their body requires for optimum health and to perform all vital functions that occurs while asleep. Recently, the National Sleep Foundation in the United States completed a two-year study to determine the most appropriate sleeping time recommendations for people based on their age.
After the two-year study, important updates were made to the already-published sleeping recommendations by the same organization.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that their new recommendations for sleep are as follows:
- 0 – 3 months of age: Newborn babies are recommended to sleep between 14 and 17 hours every day.
- 4 – 11 months of age: Infants are recommended to sleep between 12 and 15 hours every day.
- 1 – 2 years of age: Toddlers are recommended to sleep between 11 and 14 hours every day.
- 3 – 5 years of age: Preschoolers are recommended to sleep between 10 and 13 hours every day.
- 6 – 13 years of age: School-age children should get between nine and 11 hours of sleep every night.
- 14 – 17 years of age: Teenagers should get between eight and 10 hours of sleep every night.
- 18 – 25 years of age: Younger adults are recommended to sleep between seven and nine hours every night.
- 26 – 64 years of age: The sleep recommendations for adults are similar to those for younger adults, at seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
- 65 and older: Older adults are recommended to obtain between seven and eight hours of sleep every night.
While these general recommendations have been specified by the National Sleep Foundation, it is important to note that for all age groups, the recommendations offer a time range, instead of a specific amount of time. This is because sleep requirements do not only defer between different age groups, but is also affected by a particular individuals’ specific needs.
For example, while one adult individual may feel that seven hours of sleep is an adequate amount of sleep for them per night, another may still feel somewhat tired when they only sleep for seven hours every night, and may rather need to sleep for about nine hours per night instead. For this reason, it is important not to only take the recommendations offered here into account, but also to consider your own requirements – as long as you stay within the recommended time periods, you will be able to experience the benefits of sleep and avoid the unpleasant effects of sleeping too much or too little.
We have looked at why sleep is important, discussed the consequences of both sleep deficiency and oversleeping, as well as taken a look at how much sleep the National Sleep Foundation recommends a person obtains each night based on their age.
Now, let’s turn our focus to sleep disorders and how they can affect your life, as well as how to manage these sleep disorders to experience a higher quality of life and to make sure they do not affect your ability to enjoy life without feeling tired or depressed.
What are the Types of Sleep Disorders?
There are quite a large number of sleep disorders that are known to exist, each affecting a person’s ability to sleep in a unique way. Some disorders may cause a person to find it difficult to sleep, while another sleep disorder may rather have an effect on a person while they are asleep.
Let’s discuss some of the most common sleep disorders that a person can suffer from. We will look at the symptoms of these disorders, as well as the potential causes and treatment options that can help people overcome the dreadful effects that some of these disorders can have on their lives.
Insomnia is probably the most commonly known sleep disorder that can affect a person’s sleep. This condition causes problems with a person’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, and may have hazardous effects on their daily life.
According to NHS Choices, the condition seems to affect as much as 30% of the adult population in the United Kingdom, which means almost one in every three adults suffer from insomnia to the level where it has an adverse effect on their health.
Medical News Today explains that there are three different types of insomnia that a person can suffer from. These include:
- Transient Insomnia – This type of insomnia describes symptoms that last for a period of up to three days or nights.
- Acute Insomnia – This type of insomnia describes symptoms that develop and last for a few weeks, but then clears up.
- Chronic Insomnia – This type of insomnia describes symptoms that are persistent and can last for several years in some cases.
While transient insomnia and acute insomnia are usually the results of lifestyle factors, such as a stressful even that might be coming up (this could include exams or an important meeting at work), chronic insomnia is often a sleep disorder that is associated with another underlying health problem that needs to be sorted out.
It is important to understand that insomnia is not related to age as any person of any age can suffer from this sleep disorder. It has, however, been found that adult women are more likely to suffer from insomnia-related symptoms than adult men.
While certain types of insomnia is usually connected to an underlying health problem, it should be noted that insomnia can also contribute to the development of certain chronic diseases when the symptoms are left untreated and the patient’s ability to obtain a sufficient amount and quality of sleep is not restored.
Insomnia can be caused by numerous contributing factors. As we have noted before, chronic insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical condition. This could include chronic pain, acid-reflux disease (also known as GERD), chronic fatigue syndrome, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnea, asthma, congestive heart failure and more.
In some cases, hormonal changes in the body may also contribute to insomnia. This is especially common amongst women with fluctuating estrogen levels during menstruation.
Certain psychological disorders and problems are also known to contribute to the development of insomnia – sometimes these conditions may only cause acute insomnia, but there are many cases where psychological issues lead to the development of chronic insomnia. Psychological disorders that may contribute to insomnia include depression and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and some types of psychotic disorders.
Any factors that causes a disruption in a person’s circadian rhythm can also have an effect on a person’s ability to fall asleep. Jet lag, high altitudes, being exposed to extremely cold or hot temperatures, and having to change shifts at the workplace can all cause a person to experience insomnia – but usually only for shorter periods of time.
The most common treatment options for insomnia include certain lifestyle changes and practicing relaxation techniques. Any underlying problems need to be attended to as well. There are also some medications that can help a person fall asleep. This includes sleep medicines, Benzodiazepines, antihistamines, antidepressants and Orexin receptor antagonists. There are also some over-the-counter medicines that can be used, but these often cause side-effects that continue to be present the next day.
Sleep Apnea Disorders
Also simply called sleep apnea, this sleep disorder does not always affect a person’s ability to fall asleep, but it can contribute to insomnia. Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition. The term “sleep apnea” is used to describe interruptions in a person’s breathing while they are asleep.
People with sleep apnea usually stops breathing during sleep – when the condition is not treated in a timely manner, it can cause a person to experience repeated sessions where they stop breathing while asleep. In turn, this can cause a restriction of oxygen supply to the brain and other important parts of the body, as reported by WebMD.
Sleep apnea can be divided into two different categories:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Often called OSA, this is the most common type of sleep apnea found in the general population. With this type of sleep apnea, the airways are blocked during sleep, which is often caused by soft tissue collapsing in a person’s throat while they sleep.
- Central Sleep Apnea – This is a more serious and less common type of sleep apnea that does not involve collapsed tissue in the throat or a restriction in the airways during sleep. Instead, with Central Sleep Apnea, problems with a person’s respiratory control center exists; thus the brain may fail to signal certain muscles to breathe while the person is asleep.
There are numerous risk factors for sleep apnea that have been discovered by medical experts. Men are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea, as well as those individuals who are older than 40 years. People who are overweight or obese are also more likely to develop sleep apnea, as well as those individuals with a relatively large neck.
Nasal obstruction, which can be caused by sinus issues, allergies and a deviated septum, also contributes to sleep apnea, as well as gastroesophageal reflux. Other potential risk factors include large tonsils, a small jaw bone, a large tongue and having sleep apnea in the family.
Sleep apnea can cause numerous health problems if it is not treated. These complications include high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes and depression. People suffering from both sleep apnea and ADHD can experience worse symptoms of ADHD with untreated sleep apnea.
Research has also suggested that untreated sleep apnea can increase* a person’s risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Another common complication of sleep apnea is frequent headaches.
Narcolepsy is one of the rarer sleep disorders that does not affect as many people as insomnia and sleep apnea does. This condition is a chronic neurological disorder, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and has an adverse effect on the mechanism of the brain that controls sleep-wake cycles.
Individuals who suffer from narcolepsy often find that they feel like they have been well rested after they wake up in the morning, but throughout the day, they tend to feel sleepy. In many cases, narcolepsy can make a person fall asleep unexpectedly during the day. There are also many cases where people find that narcolepsy interferes with their sleep during the night.
In the United Kingdom, narcolepsy is relatively rare. According to the NHS Choices, the sleep disorder affects roughly 25,000 individuals in the country. Narcolepsy usually starts to produce symptoms at a relatively early age, but is most often diagnosed amongst people who are between 20 and 40 years of age. Any person can be affected, but some evidence has suggested that men are at a slightly higher risk of developing narcolepsy than women.
Symptoms of narcolepsy often include excessive sleepiness during the day, which can make concentrating difficult, as well as make it harder to stay awake. Sleep attacks can also happen during the day, which causes a person to fall asleep unexpectedly.
Some people may also experience cataplexy as a symptom, which refers to problems with their muscle control, but this symptom is temporary and clears up. Sleep paralysis is also relatively common in people with narcolepsy, which causes the inability to speak or move while the person has fallen asleep unexpectedly.
Narcolepsy can be caused by numerous factors. Hormonal changes are one particular trigger that has been associated with the development of this sleep disorder. Hormonal changes that occur when an adolescent is going through puberty, as well as the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, are especially known to cause symptoms of narcolepsy.
There are certain types of infections that can also trigger narcolepsy. Swine flu is one particular type of infection known to cause these symptoms. Additionally, the medication that doctors use to vaccinate a patient against swine flu, known as Pandermix, is also a possible trigger for narcolepsy. Another potential trigger is major psychological stress.
Narcolepsy cannot be cured at the moment, but there are ways to reduce* the severity of the sleep disorder. One of the most important methods to treat* the condition is for a patient to improve* their sleeping habits. This includes obtaining an adequate amount of quality sleep during the night, as well as to take brief naps during the day. This can help to reduce* daytime sleepiness and also assist with reducing* drowsiness, should a patient experience this symptom.
In more severe cases of narcolepsy, certain medication may be used to reduce* the symptoms a patient is experiencing; thus helping to reduce* their sleep attacks and daytime sleepiness, while also assisting them with attending to their day-to-day tasks more adequately.
Certain stimulants, including methylphenidate, modafinil and dexamphetamine can be prescribed to a patient to help stimulate their central nervous system. This might assist the patient with staying awake during daytime. Some patients are prescribed sodium oxybate, which helps to treat* cataplexy as a symptom and also assists with improving* sleep during the night. This medication might also assist with reducing* daytime sleepiness.
Antidepressants have also been shown to be potentially effective for treating narcolepsy. Three particular types of antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to a patient to assist with reducing* sleep paralysis, hallucinations and cataplexy. These three antidepressant types include:
- Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors, also called SNRIs
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, also called SSRIs
- Tricyclic Antidepressants, also called TCAs
Parasomnias is quite a broad term as it is used to describe any disorders that affect a person during sleep. The term does not, however, include sleep apnea, as this disorder has its own classification. There are a large number of different parasomnias that people can suffer from, and many of these sleep disorders are relatively common amongst the general population.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, some common types of parasomnias that a person may suffer from include:
- Sleep paralysis
- Sleep-related eating disorder
- Sexsomnia, also known as “sleepsex”
Different parasomnias occur during different stages of the sleep cycle. Some of these sleep disorders tend to start as soon as a person falls asleep, while others rather occur during at a later stage during their sleep cycle. There are also some types of parasomnias that may occur when a person wakes up.
Many of the parasomnias known to medical experts and sleep researchers have been linked to genetic causes; thus if a person has parasomnias in their family, they are at a higher risk of experiencing such a sleep disorder. Certain types of neurological and brain disorders can also be the cause of certain parasomnias.
For example, narcolepsy can cause a person to experience sleep paralysis, which is technically classified as a parasomnia. In some patients, medication may also be a contributing factor to the development of parasomnias in a patient.
According to BMJ Best Practice, men are at a higher risk of developing certain types of parasomnias, as well as men who are older than the age of 60 years. Women are also at a higher risk of developing specific types of these sleep disorders, including isolated recurrent sleep paralysis and nightmare disorder.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is another relatively common sleep disorder that can have an effect on a person’s sleep quality and duration. The disorder is also simply called RLS and is a disorder that affects the human body’s nervous system. The disorder causes the person to experience an unusual urge to move their legs constantly, even while they are sleeping.
According to WebMD, the symptoms of restless leg syndrome does not always only affect a person’s legs. The person might experience uncomfortable sensations in their arms, as well as in certain other parts of their body as well. The uncomfortable sensations that the person experiences in their legs cause them to want find relieve through moving their legs.
May people describe the uncomfortable sensations as “pins and needles” or feeling like there is a “creepy crawly” sensation in their legs. Their legs may also become itchy. The symptoms of this sleep disorder become worst when a person has rested for some time, which is why it is so common during sleep.
Restless leg syndrome can affect both men and women, but there is some evidence that suggests it is more common amongst women. Age does not play a major role in the development of restless leg syndrome as the disorder is found in young and old, but the more severe symptoms are usually only found in older individuals.
This sleep disorder can be caused by certain types of medication, including allergy medication, antipsychotic medication and certain types of antidepressants. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of experiencing the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Certain chronic diseases, including kidney failure, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes are also known to contribute to restless leg syndrome.
Restless leg syndrome is often treated with certain types of medication. Dopaminergic drugs, such as Requip, Neupro and Mirapex are often used to treat* these symptoms. Benzodiazepines and some anticonvulsants can also be utilized to treat* the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Patients experiencing severe pain might be prescribed narcotic pain relievers to assist with their symptoms.
Quality and adequate amounts of daily sleep should be important for the overall well-being of the human body, but certain diseases and disorders can make it difficult to follow a strict sleep schedule to experience the many benefits that the right amount and the right quality of sleep have to offer. Some sleep disorders can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep, such as insomnia, while others might cause them to feel tired throughout the day and wake up constantly during the night, such as narcolepsy.
In this post, we looked at some important sleep disorders that people should know about, including what symptoms to look out for, the triggers and risk factors of these disorders, and we looked at how these disorders are treated to provide a relieve of the symptoms experienced.
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