According to Samuel Johnson, The Idler, and I quote “Sleep is a state in which a great part of every life is passed…Yet of this change so frequent, so great, so general, and so necessary, no searcher has yet found either the efficient or final cause; or can tell by what power the mind and body are thus chained down in irresistible stupefaction; or what benefits the animal receives from this alternate suspension of its active powers… And once in four and twenty four hours, the gay and the gloomy, the witty and the dull, the clamorous and the silent, the busy and the idle, are all overpowered by the gentle tyrant, and all lie down in the equality of sleep”.
Very often you come upon people complaining about sleep, either they are sleeping too much, or they are not having enough sleep. Some others complain that they are not sleeping at all. One lady told me she had gone three nights and three days without sleep. But that was all the complain, for otherwise she was OK. One 83 year old man was brought to my clinic from the village last week with the complain of not having enough sleep. He sleeps only when he takes some sleeping pills. After physical and laboratory examinations nothing significant was found. I reassured him and counseled him on some of the expectations of senility (old age). He left my clinic very happy telling me that I have cured him.
Sometimes the fear of sleep or no sleep is the major problem. In the quotation at the beginning Samuel Johnson said that no searcher, or researcher if you like, has yet found the cause or by what power the mind and body are forced into sleep. Yes we know that diseases like hypertension or factors like stress can cause sleeplessness, but often times we see people without any of these conditions, or even people we may say are in good health, still say they cannot sleep. Records have it that over one hundred million Americans are estimated to have occasional sleep problems, and about one in six have chronic insomnia and consider it a serious problem.
Researchers and searchers may not have all the answers but, fortunately, a significant amount of research devoted to sleep and insomnia over the past twenty five years has uncovered many things one can do to improve one’s sleep. As a matter of fact, because of side effects from sleep medications, behavioural techniques are now considered the most effective form of treatment for chronic insomnia. But let us start from the beginning, what is insomnia? When can one actually say that he is not having enough sleep? What is “enough sleep”? Are there situations when not having enough sleep can be considered “normal”.
Actually there is no standard definition of insomnia. The amount of sleep required for feeling rested varies widely among individuals. Some people feel rested with four hours of sleep while some others require ten hours of sleep. According to Dr. Patricia Lacks, at Washington University, insomnia may be any of these situations; difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or poor quality of sleep. Sleep-onset insomnia is when it takes you an average of at least thirty minutes to fall asleep. Sleep-maintenance insomnia is when you wake up after falling asleep and stay awake for more than thirty minutes, or early morning awakening before the desired wake-up time without being able to fall back to sleep. People with poor quality of sleep will complain that generally they are not sleeping well.
One may have just one of these types of insomnia or a combination of two or the three types. For one to actually be diagnosed of insomnia he must exhibit at least one of the sleep-disturbance patterns and at least one of the effects that carry over into your day. Anyone suffering from insomnia may suffer daytime fatigue as a consequence of the insomnia. He may also have impaired performance and mood disturbance. Insomnia can be caused by stress or other behavioural factors such as unrealistic sleep expectations, inappropriate scheduling of sleep, consuming caffeine (as in chewing kola nut or drinking coffee), inadequate exercise, depression, some medical problems, alcohol or drug use.
Remember, if you feel that you are not having enough sleep, but the next day you are very OK and go about your normal business, without any daytime fatigue or impairment of your performance, or even mood disturbance, relax. You don’t have to sleep like a log all night to be normal. And if by any chance you wake up once in a while amidst sleep take it as an opportunity to say your ROSARY. And don’t miss that opportunity. Remain blessed.

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