Man vs Sleep: The Nightly Battle


Melissa Wright, Reporter

According to English dramatist Thomas Dekker, “sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”  In relation to Dekker, there are plenty of studies that have recorded that the lack of sleep can destroy your health, weaken your immune system, fry your hormones, and affect the brain in ways never before thought of as harmful.

One of the biggest questions that people ask is why is it so hard to fall asleep? A simple answer to that question is that this is caused by dreading waking up in the morning, or thinking too hard of falling asleep. The title “sleeping disorder” makes it seem like something awful, but if someone likes sleep and can’t get enough, then it is awful. Sleeping disorders are not always horrible, but they aren’t something to have a parade about. They can, however, be diagnosed and treated.

There are more than 70 different sleeping disorders. Within those 70 or more, the most common sleeping disorders are Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome, and Narcolepsy. Sleeping disorders are conditions that prevent someone from not getting enough sleep, which later causes daytime sleepiness and dysfunction while maintaining daily tasks. Around 70 million americans suffer from them.

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that is defined simply as “inability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get enough sleep”. There are two different types of insomnia; primary and secondary. Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition such as heartburn or asthma; pain; or possibly medication they are taking; or a substance they are using such as alcohol. Insomnia is divided into two separate cases depending the amount of time it lasts. Acute Insomnia is the medical term for when it is for a short amount of time(1-7 nights) and Chronic Insomnia is when the disorder lasts anywhere from 2-3 days a week for a month or longer.

Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen. The two types of Sleep Apnea include Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Symptoms include; snoring, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, restlessness during sleep, gasping for air while asleep. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is similar, but unlike Obstructive Sleep Apnea the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. CSA Symptoms include gasping for air during sleep and reoccurring wakings throughout the night.

Restless leg Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder where a person inquires intense and sometimes an irresistible urge to move their legs. It can be brought on by sitting for long periods of time and occurs typically during the evening time. It causes an uncontrollable sensation and many people try to walk around and move legs more frequently while in bed to lower the urge to move them when trying to find sleep.

Narcolepsy is a a neurological disorder of sleep regulation and affects sleep and wakefulness. Those who have Narcolepsy encounter symptoms such as; sudden muscle weakness during emotions such as laughter, daytime sleepiness, uncontrolled episodes of falling asleep during the day, and multiple occasions where a person unintentionally falls down. People who acquire narcolepsy are normally around the age bracket of 15-25.

According to the cleveland clinic, “if you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor. He or she can perform a physical exam and help you identify the difficulties you are having with sleep. Keeping a sleep diary for two weeks may be helpful to your doctor. Some illnesses can cause disturbed sleep, so your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions.”

If your doctor suspects that you have a sleep disorder, he or she may refer you to a sleep disorder clinic. A sleep specialist will review your symptoms and may suggest that you undergo a sleep study.

According to Cleveland Clinic, “a sleep study or polysomnogram (PSG) is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The sleep study can be done at home (home sleep testing) for select patients. The recordings become data that are analyzed by a qualified physician to determine whether or not you have a sleep disorder.”

Reported by PhD Amie M. Gordon for Psychology Today,”a sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and during that time we move through five stages of sleep. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the fifth stage is when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs. Across these four stages we move from very light sleep during stage one down to very deep sleep in stage four. It is very difficult to wake someone who is in stage four sleep. Across NREM sleep, we have little muscle activity and our eyes do not typically move, but all of our muscles retain ability to function. This is the stage of sleep in which most dreaming occurs. Our eyes are not constantly moving, but they do dart back and forth, up and down. These eye movements may be related to visual images of dreams, but that is not confirmed and in general, the reason for these eye movements is still a mystery. Although our eyes are moving rapidly, the muscles that move our bodies are paralyzed (other important muscles, such as our heart and diaphragm continue to function normally)”.

Many parents get onto children for leaving their TV  or music on during the night because it is said that it takes away sleep even when sleeping. During sleep the brain can still register sound, but only on a basic level; when hearing a loud sound you may move or shift because it changes her heart rate that affects your blood pressure. The following morning many don’t realize how many times they may have moved, adjusted, or briefly woke up during the night due to the stage of sleep their body is in when making these adjustments.

Another question that many people tend to linger about is how long can a person stay awake before they begin to experience serious medical, neurological, physiological or psychiatric problems? An experiment was preformed by J. Christian Gillian, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of California. Gillian came up with an experimental answer after testing the question, that a 17 year old human being in 1965 could stay awake for a maximum of 264 hours which is approximately 11 days without any health issues during that time. He also noted that “all experimental subjects recovered to relative normality within one or two nights of sleep.”

When a person doesn’t get enough rest, it is very common to have daydreams, but when someone purposefully chooses to go a lengthy period of time without sleep, they begin to have a version of daydreams know as micro naps or micro sleep. Microsleep episodes occur when a person’s eyes are open, similar to daydreams, and can last up to two minutes. Most people do not realize that it has even occurred. Microsleep, unlike daydreaming, is a sleeping disorder. During micro naps the brain is turned to auto pilot and a person sleeps with eyes open unlike a day dream in a boring class.

Lack of sleep causes many health problems that can be both sudden or can take a long period of time to take toll on a person’s body. When people don’t get enough sleep, by morning they tend to reach for donuts, and other sweets which later can result in obesity. Obesity doesn’t just come from the food consumed while being tired, but the overall fact that the body is tired. While resting the body loses weight. Another health issue that arrises is depression. When the brain doesn’t receive sleep it causes chemicals to be jarred around and can cause mixed emotions, lack of motivation, or even whininess.

More serious health issues that have resulted are Type 2 diabetes and Heart Disease. Type 2 diabetes is brought on by high blood sugar, and with lack of sleep blood sugar goes up. According to WebMD, “Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not properly use the insulin. When insulin is not doing its job, high blood sugar levels build in the body to the point where they can harm the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart.” Heart Disease has been found to be a larger health issue when continuous restfulness occurs. Why? It is said that when you have a shortened amount of sleep your coronary artery calcification is increased, also known as calcium deposits. Reported by Healthline, “The aorta is the main artery of the body. Oxygenated blood leaves the heart by way of the aorta and is carried to all parts of the body. The left ventricle is the chamber of the heart that pumps blood into the aorta through the aortic valve. Aortic valve stenosis occurs when this valve doesn’t open all the way, preventing blood from flowing properly. A narrow aortic valve limits the circulation of oxygenated blood to the rest of your body. Calcium is an important mineral needed for strong bones. However, the mineral may present problems in your heart if it deposits in the aortic valve. Calcium deposits usually affect the flaps (known as leaflets) in a valve. Calcium deposits can prevent the aortic valve from properly opening and closing.”

If you have continuous restfulness or lack of sleep you may be suffering from a sleeping disorder, and it would be smart to be examined by your doctor. Not getting enough sleep may not create a sudden issue, but it will catch up to you in the long run. Keep in mind that everything you put into your body and do with your body effects the amount of rest and health of your overall body.