Sleeping disorders negatively impact the person, their family, and society. The objective of this paper is to describe the importance and types of sleep, the link between sleep and certain diseases, the effect of sleep disorders on individuals, their families, and society, and how to treat these disorders.
Sleep is a requirement needed by every individual. It is believed by some that sleep allows the body to recuperate, but the reason why we sleep is so that we can have normal cognitive brain activity (The science of sleep). “Nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters control whether we are asleep or awake by acting on different groups of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.” (NINDS, 2007), showing our brain is very active while we are asleep.
Every person requires a different amount of sleep. The three main factors are age, sex, and health. Teenagers need approximately 9 hours of sleep while adults only need seven to eight (NINDS, 2007). These figures are only averages and some people may only need as little as five hours and others may need ten hours. It is dependent on what their body asks for. The amount of sleep can increase if the person has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Sleep deprivation can lead to something called the “sleep debt” (NINDS, 2007). Your body will eventually demand you to pay the debt.
What would happen if we didn’t get enough sleep? Many people are familiar with the side effects from lack of sleep. They include grumpiness, grogginess, irritability and forgetfulness. If you are continually unable to sleep, your language and the memory part of your brain is severely affected in a negative way. People who are sleep deprived have been compared to intoxicated drivers. Sleep deprived people drive as badly if not worse than people that are under the influence (The science of sleep). You can tell if you haven’t had enough sleep if you feel drowsy, even when doing boring activities.
Scientists are testing to find out why we need sleep. One such test involves rats, which live an average of two to three years. When deprived of REM sleep they only live 5 weeks and rats that have been deprived of REM and NREM sleep only live 3 weeks. Before they died, their body temperatures dropped and they gained sores on their tail. It is believed the sores were developed because the rat’s immune system became impaired. Experts say that sleep deprivation can be harmful to the immune system (NINDS, 2007).
2.1- REM and NREM
Sleep can be broken down into two categories, rapid eye movement (REM) and nonrapid eye movement (NREM). There are four stages for NREM sleep. Stage one is also known as light sleep. You are half asleep and your muscles begin to slow and tighten. In this state you can easily be woken. Stage two is known as true sleep and is entered within ten minutes of light sleep. Our heart slows and our breathing changes. The majority of our sleep consists of stage two. Stage three is called Deep Sleep. This is the stage when the brain starts to create delta waves. These waves have a high amplitude but low frequency. The heart rate and breathing are very low, the lowest throughout the night. The last stage has no name but is known by the breathing and muscle activity. If we are woken up during this stage we have difficulty adjusting and usually feel groggy for a short period of time (The science of sleep).
REM sleep occurs approximately seventy to ninety minutes after we fall asleep. We usually have about five of these a night. We aren’t aware of what is going on, but our brain is functioning, usually more so than when we are awake. The process starts when the brain gets signals from the pons. The signals travel to a location called the thalamus and then sent to the cerebral cortex. The pons also have the ability to shut down the spine temporarily giving us paralyses. The REM is when the majority of our dreams occur. It is believed that by paralyzing us, it prevents us from acting out our dreams. The REM stimulates the locations of the brain for learning. This is very important for babies because of brain development. This is also why babies usually have more REM sleep than adults (NINDS, 2007).
Every night we spend more than 2 hours dreaming. No one is sure why we dream but, Sigmund Freud, a person of great influence in psychology thought it was a “safety valve” for unconscious wants. In rare situations certain people have a REM sleep behavior disorder. This is when they actually act out their dreams. Many a times crashing into furniture or striking someone trying to catch a ball (NINDS, 2007).
2.2- Parasomnias and Dyssomnias
Sleeping disorders are a current problem. At least 40 million Americans are affected each year. To be classified as a person living with a sleep disorder, you have to continually have inadequate or nonrestorative sleep (Roy H Lubit, 2009). There are many sleeping disorders and they can be placed into two different groups, parasomnias and dyssomnias. Parasomnias are unusual physical mannerisms while sleeping, such as sleepwalking and sleep terror. Dyssomnias are concerned with the amount and quality of sleep. These include insomnias and hypersomnia, narcolepsy, breathing-related sleep disorder (ie, sleep apnea), and circadian rhythm sleep disorder (Roy H Lubit, 2009).
2.3- Neurodegenerative Disease
At Hopital du Sacre Coeur, they conducted a study to find out if there is a link between sleeping disorders and neurodegenerative disease. Neurodegeneration is a disease that affects the nervous system. Symptoms usually start as a child and include muscle spasms, muscle contraction of the limbs, and sometimes slow writing. This disease leads to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s (NINDS, 2007). In the experiment there were 93 patients, 5 males and 88 females, and 23 percent of them got a neurodegenerative disease (CBC, 2008). Patients that are unable to get REM sleep have an estimated risk of 17.7% chance to get a neurodegenerative disease in five years, 40.6% within ten years, and 52.4% in 12 years (CBC, 2008). This clearly states a relationship between these two disorders. It is estimated in the U.S. that one in 200 people will get this disorder because of the lack of REM sleep. Doctors believe they should follow and pay attention to these because they might lead to answers about diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and etc (MUHC, 28).
When our body needs sleep we do not function nor act the same way as if we were fully rested. As I have already stated, we can become irritable but, if this becomes a continuous problem, this person will most likely live with anxiety, excess disability, reduced quality of life and the danger of suicide (Roy H Lubit, Sleep Disorders, 2009). Certain groups, such as the KGB, prevented people from going to sleep and used it as a form of torture (Wheeler, 2004). When people have been deprived for a period of time they lose their ability to think coherently.
” I was kept without sleep for a week in all. I can remember the details of the experience, although it took place 35 years ago. After two nights without sleep, the hallucinations start, and after three nights, people are having dreams while fairly awake, which is a form of psychosis. …. To deprive someone of sleep is to tamper with their equilibrium and their sanity.” Menachem Begin
People who can’t sleep properly suffer and it has a horrible impact on all aspects of their life. If they are young and attending school, they will probably not do well. They would not be able to learn at the level expected of them and they may be tired and not interested in learning. This may lead to feelings of inferiority and anger. As I mentioned earlier, depending on the type of disorder, it could also lead to neurodegenerative diseases in the future. Unless the sleep disorder is recognized and dealt with, the individual will never enjoy a fulfilling life. This individual also has a family: a mother, a father, and perhaps some siblings. If the individual is suffering, then everyone in the family suffers. The parents will not understand why he is the way he is and may choose a wrong method to try and help him. He may be treated differently than the other siblings and there may be a lot of anxiety in the family. Stress is felt in the relationships within the family.
Society is made up of families. If there are problems in the family, then society, as a whole, also suffers. One example is when a person with a sleep disorder is no longer a valuable contributor to society. He cannot achieve his potential. In fact, he may also be a leech upon society, relying upon the government for welfare, assistance, and help. Perhaps, with the right medical advice at the right time, certain individuals could understand their problem and learn how to deal with it. In this way, they could strengthen themselves, their family, and their society.
Many have turned to medical help to deal with their chronic sleeping problem. Sometimes it is necessary. If an individual is affected with sleep apnea (the difficulty to breathe while sleeping) it could lead to the possibility of suffocation or it will wake you up many times during the night. This can be fixed by placing a device on your head that forces you to breathe. The intention of this is to improve the quality of life. Not every sleeping disorder can be dealt with in this way though. Many doctors will subscribe their patients sleeping pills. There is currently millions of prescriptions of this drug every year. In hindsight, this is an easy and quick solution to deal with someone’s problem, but there are many side effects to these pills. “The drug’s side-effects include lingering daytime sedation and cognition problems, which are intensified in older patients” (CBC News, 2007), it also has a very addictive quality. It is said that half of the elderly patients that have been prescribed these pills, will become addicted in 6 months.
There are certain things we can avoid to help us have a better night sleep. The three most common culprits are caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol because these are items we can pick up in many local stores. Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps people awake. Smokers usually wake up early because they are suffering from nicotine withdrawal and alcohol robs you from getting a deep sleep and REM sleep, forcing them to stay in a light sleep (NINDS, 2007).
Sleeping disorders negatively impact the person, their family, and society. I have discussed the importance of sleep, the nature of sleep (REM and NREM), the general categories of sleep disorders (Parasomnias and Dyssomnias), the impact of sleep disorders, and the treatment of disorders. I believe I have organized the paper to inform people as to the importance of this issue and how deeply it affects all aspects of our life.
In researching this paper, I realized how little I knew about sleeping and sleeping disorders. What would happen if I had a sleeping disorder? Would anyone know it, recognize it, or know how to treat it? I believe that sleeping disorders are a very serious problem and not too much is known about them. I believe that the government has a responsibility to make the public more aware of these problems. In this way, doctors would not be able to just prescribe sleeping pills as a cure. Doctors need to be more qualified in the detection of sleeping disorders and the public need to be able to understand what sleeping disorders are and what remedies are available. In this way, the individual can hope to achieve a more fulfilling life. Education, advertising, and public awareness are all tools that can be used to better inform society.
I believe that sleeping disorders have a very negative impact on the individual, the family, and society. The individual cannot function properly and this impacts both the family and society. The loss can be measured either in dollars (less meaningful job, lower income), and emotionally (individual and family stress). Society has enough problems, I believe we need to be pro-active in trying to deal with this problem. Every person has the right to live a happy and fulfilling life.