How long should an average person sleep? This question is yet to have a definite response because everyone gives a different answer. However, most scientists settle on 8 hours as the average hours of sleep required by an adult. However, this figure still depends on age, sex, and health condition of a person.
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Due to this ambiguity, many people suffer from lack of sleep or do not get enough sleep knowingly or unknowingly, resulting into insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that has always been defined by everyone as having sleeping difficulties. One will always toss and turn in bed the whole night only to wake up sleepy and this results into exhaustion and fatigue the following day. It affects people’s moods and ability to function the whole day and makes one feel very weak and lazy.
The dictionary definition of the word insomnia is the inability to sleep or stay asleep for an adequate length of time, another version of this definition is the inability to have the standard amount of sleep. I define insomnia as a condition in which one finds it difficult to fall asleep, maintain sleep, has a disturbed sleep characterized by frequent wakeups with difficulty going back to sleep or waking up earlier than usual.
In simple words, insomnia occurs when a person is not able to sleep or has problems when it comes to sleeping. However, there is no universal definition of the word and as Wylie writes, “definitions of insomnia are loose to the point of inanity” (Wylie, 213).
The word originated from a Latin word insomnis which is made up of two words: “in”, meaning not, and “somnus”, meaning sleep. Difficulty in falling asleep occurs when one is unable to sleep at the beginning of the night and stay awake until late.
For instance, a student taking exams will spend the whole night thinking about the tests out of anxiety thus does not have any sleep, or a person may spend half of the night on the internet or watching a favorite television show. Insomnia may also be caused by stress, sickness, acute feelings of depression, medication and so on.
The inability to maintain sleep occurs when one cannot remain asleep for the rest of the night and instead wakes up once or recurrently during the night causing fragmented sleep. In addition, the person has trouble going back to sleep and may fail to catch any sleep for the rest of the night.
This form of insomnia will affect the person’s daytime activities as they cannot concentrate or focus on a task, in acute cases, it may affect the immune system. Persons with this form of insomnia find it difficult to concentrate for long hours and frequently take short naps to compensate for the previous night’s lack of sleep. Difficulty remaining asleep can be caused by anxiety or by depression.
Waking up at an unusually early or odd time of the day and difficulty in catching sleep thereafter is another form of insomnia. This form of insomnia often results into restlessness and a tired feeling during the day. Wylie (pp.216) writes that it can be as a result of stress or disruptions while one is asleep through either noise or switching on or off of lights. Ultimately, a person can have deep sleep that is uncontrollable during the day.
Generally, insomnia can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical problems such as depression, heart diseases, painful and regular headache, and hallucination experiences. Besides, persons suffering from insomnia are likely to cause accidents, some of which might be dangerous. Consequently, it is very important for everyone to have adequate sleep. This can be undertaken by having a regular sleep schedule in an area free of disturbance of interference.
There are three different types of insomnia: transient insomnia which is the most common one and lasts for a few days. It is mainly caused by stress resulting from temporary situations and will only last as long as one is still stressed up.
Second is situational insomnia that occurs when one has sleepless nights for a period ranging from 2-3 weeks resulting from current stress in the person’s life. The third type of insomnia is chronic insomnia which lasts for some time and should be treated medically by health professionals.
It is caused by acute stress. According to Wylie (pp. 213), “chronic insomnia is linked to a number of physical and psychological ills: increased risk of cancer, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, infertility, miscarriage depression, anxiety, irritability, dementia, impaired cognitive and reasoning skills, lowered immune-system function, heightened awareness of pain…”.
In order to overcome insomnia, one has to check on his or her daily routine and adjust from behaviors that disrupt normal sleep. Excessive intake of coffee during the day is one of the habits that disrupt sleep and this has to be avoided. Some people take alcohol or use sleeping pills in order to sleep or rather to cure insomnia, such interventions may only worsen the problem.
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People suffering from insomnia should focus on changing habits that cause sleeplessness in order to overcome it. Such strategies include sticking to a regular sleep timetable and avoiding daytime naps. We must always strive to avoid insomnia or cure it in its early stages because as Wylie puts it, “sleep is as necessary to physical and mental health as air and water” (pp. 213).
Wylie, Mary Sykes. Sleepless in America: Making it Through the Night in a Wired World, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2008. Print.