Tag Archives: Sleep Cycle

Insomnia – The Most Prevalent Form of Sleep Disorder

Insomnia, a most common sleep disorder, affects about one third of the American population and is classified two different ways. It can be classified by how long it lasts. Transient insomnia lasts for only a few days, short term lasts for a few weeks and chronic lasts for more then three weeks. The other way insomnia is classified is by its source. The main two classifications of this sleep disorder by source are primary and secondary.

Transient insomnia is experienced by most people at some time throughout their lives. It can be caused by stress such as worrying about the first day school or an illness in the family. Sometimes this sleep disorder occurs due to a disruption of their circadian cycle, which is a persons natural sleep cycle, caused by jet lag or a shift change at work. Transient insomnia goes away one the stress issue has passed. Short term insomnia is often caused by similar stressors as transient insomnia. If the sufferer of this sleep disorder cannot break the cycle of poor sleep, it often develops into chronic insomnia.

Primary insomnia develops without any obvious cause. Sometimes it starts as early as infancy.
Often it is the result of high metabolic rates or an overactive nervous system.

Secondary insomnia is the direct result of another cause. This sleep disorder can come from illness, medication, drugs or alcohol. Addressing the underlying cause of secondary insomnia often gives the sufferer relief. For example, if arthritis pain keeps you from sleeping, then treating the arthritis is the best way to cope with the sleep disorder.

Insomnia is not a single disorder. It is a general symptom and could have many potential causes. In order to qualify as a sleep disorder, insomnia has to meet three specific requirements. First, the person has to experience poor sleep in general, or have a problem falling or staying asleep. Second, if given the proper sleep environment and an adequate opportunity to sleep, the problem still occurs. Third, the result of the poor sleep causes some type of impairment while awake. Examples of an impairment are; fatigue, body aches and pains, inability to concentrate, mood changes, lack of energy, poor concentration, or developing an unnatural amount of worry about sleep.

Often insomnia is treated with medication, such as sleeping pills. These can be prescription medication or bought over the counter.

However, there are several other methods of treatment for this sleep disorder. Behavioral treatments include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, biofeedback, sleep hygiene, cognitive behavioral therapy and reconditioning sleep restriction. These methods are often very successful.

Some sufferers of this sleep disorder choose holistic, or alternative, treatment. This method involves the use of herbal supplements which are not usually FDA approved. Others seek acupuncture as a way to relieve their insomnia. Passive body heating, which is the use of hot baths, is another method used.

Understanding this sleep disorder is the first step to breaking the cycle of insomnia.

Children With the Sleep Disorder of Sleepwalking

The sleep disorder of sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, affects approximately 14% of school-age children between five and twelve years old at least once. Approximately one quarter of the children with this sleep disorder have more frequent episodes. Sleepwalking is more common in boys then it is in girls. Most children that sleepwalk outgrow the symptoms of this sleep disorder by adolescence as their nervous systems develop.

In children this sleep disorder is thought to be the result of the immaturity of the brain’s sleep / wake cycle. Normally the entire brain wakes up at the same time. However, in the case of a sleepwalker, the entire brain does not wake up together. The portion that is responsible for mobility wakes up while the portion responsible for cognition and awareness stays asleep. The child is actually in a deep state of sleep.

With this sleep disorder the brain remains partially asleep but the body is able to move. It is common for the sleepwalker to get out of bed and walk around. Sometimes they get dressed or go outside. Even though the sleepwalker’s eyes are open and they see what they are doing, their expression remains blank. They do not respond to conversation or their name being called. A sleepwalker’s movements usually appear clumsy. It is not uncommon for them to trip over furniture or knock over things as they move around. A sleepwalking episode usually happens one to two hours after the child goes to sleep. Most of these episodes last for fifteen minutes or less, but some can last for an hour or more.

This sleep disorder in children is usually outgrown and treatment is not generally necessary. In most cases, a parent gently guiding the child back to bed is all that is needed. There is not any need to wake the child.

However, there is about 1% of the population that sleepwalk as adults. Adults that have this sleep disorder did not necessarily have it as a child. In adults a sleepwalking episode can be triggered by stress, anxiety, sleep fragmentation, sleep deprivation, or certain medical conditions such as epilepsy.

Treatment for adults with this sleep disorder is often dependent upon the amount of danger they are in during an episode. For example, a sleepwalker who opens doors and goes outside onto a busy city street is in danger. A sleepwalker that gets up and goes into the living room and sits down on a chair most likely is not in danger. Treatments can include behavioral therapies, self hypnosis, or prescription medication.

A sleepwalker, whether adult or child, needs to have a safe area so that they do not get hurt during an episode. Precautions can be taken to eliminate some dangers. Parents should make sure the child’s bedroom does not have any sharp or breakable objects. Doors should be locked at night to keep the sleepwalker from going outside. Sometimes it is necessary to put bells on doors to alert the sleeping parent that their child is sleepwalking. Large glass windows and doors should be covered with heavy drapery to lessen the chance of having the sleepwalker walk through it while it is closed.

A child with the sleep disorder of somnambulism needs to be protected and kept safe during an episode. It is the environment they are in that is the danger more then the sleep disorder itself.