According to statistics available at Walter reed Army Institute, every stage of human development requires good sleep for a healthy mind and body. Sleep offers a human body the vital relief necessary in ensuring rest and rejuvenation (National Academies 255). This energizes an individual both physically and mentally which is why for a healthy life, an individual should spend roughly a third of his/her life sleeping. Sleep deprivation makes a person feel delusional, confused, and irritated. Should this happen to soldiers deployed to combat zones; it would result in a shift of balance of the war. The biological requirement of sleep is important in ensuring the general health of a person. It is also a determinant for human behavior in the short and long-run. Inadequate sleep leads to complicated health problems that require frequent hospitalization. This is because reducing the duration that one spends while sleeping impairs the functioning of his/her immune system. It has also been established that disturbances in sleep are the root causes of a majority of mood disorders including the bipolar disorder, anxiety related disorders, and major depression. Whenever circadian rhythms are interrupted, an individual becomes genetically vulnerable and this bears correlation to his behavior (Kirkwood 688-9). However, individuals who meet their sleeping requirements are saved of these troubles, a fact that is emphasized by the Waltern Reed Army Institute of Research.
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation and disorders such as insomnia are major health concerns among the members of the public and the enlisted soldiers as well. It is estimated that over forty million people suffer from intermittent sleep disorders or chronic insomnia in America. Many of them remain undiagnosed which implies that they go untreated. This scenario leads to reduced productivity, increased likelihood of getting involved in an accident, lower cognitive performance, lowered quality of life, and morbidity. Consequences of sleep deprivation are dire in instances where the sufferer is a soldier as this would result into loss of human life and equipments.
Among the adult sufferers, studies indicate that women suffer from insomnia at a higher rate as compared to the men. The rate of absence of conducive sleeping has been noted to increase as the age of a person increases. The socioeconomic status of a person has been observed to have great impact on his/her sleeping pattern. In this regard, it has been discovered that insomnia commonly affects individuals in the lower income groups. Other triggers that accelerate the rate of developing insomnia include chronic alcoholism and stress (National Academies 255). Patients of mental health have also been noted to suffer more frequently. Acute and sometimes short-term insomnia may result after an extended duration of stress. Medical practitioners’ advice to the sufferers is that they need to address the short-term insomnia before it has developed into the acute phase. Some surveys conducted on samples of Americans indicates that 30 to 35 percent of them have difficulty in falling asleep while 10 percent of those sampled reported that they suffered from long standing effects of insomnia. An association between insomnia, anxiety, and depression has been noted. Although the definite association between the three is not known, persons who suffer from anxiety or depression are seen to have a significant likelihood of developing insomnia (Morin 483-485).
Health professionals have always shown a lot of interest in sleeping patterns. People like Freud made remarkable attempts to specialize in dream analysis. However, not much had been accomplished in the studies regarding sleeping pattern until about two decades ago. Presently, extra research which emphasizes on the understanding of how sleep correlates to human’s general health and behavior continues. However, judging on the enormous scope of this issue, and the way it affects all ages, genders, and class; the vigorous research efforts are yet to exhaust the subject. This notwithstanding, research psychologists have been very important among all health professionals. Since majority of the medical schools do not offer sleep courses, a suspecting sufferer of circadian rhythms may find it challenging to get medical attention.
Community resources to address these issues are lacking, and this mostly affects individuals who live in the rural areas. This is thought to be among the reasons that these rural people commit suicides and murder at a higher rate. Although the correlation between sleep cycles and high suicide rates has not been fully researched on, most health professionals make a logical conclusion that a connection exists. This is why some countries like the United States maintain national organizations like the National Sleep Foundation, and delegate them the responsibility of informing people on issues regarding sleeping disorders. They do so through various means which include developing websites. These organisations offer a wide variety of information aimed at assisting lay people who labor in seeking knowledge of the likelihood of developing sleeping disorders.
Many health professionals encourage sleep tests to be offered with the aim of determining the likelihood of sleep disorders. These tests are in most cases provided in certain sleep laboratories that specializes in these syndromes. Although this information is made available to all people, professional care-givers must rely more on the technical information. Researchers are required to expect a certain level of vagueness on specific issues that touches on human sleep cycles and behavior. These researchers are required to have the ability to synthesize this knowledge with the aim of extracting the required material to facilitate intervention.
Biological Aspects Related to Sleep Deprivation
There exists the need to understand the biological aspects of various conditions relating to sleep deprivation. Among the conditions of interest is the circadian rhythm sleep disorder. This condition may cause a person to feel sleepy during day time, and this makes him have the difficulty in falling asleep during the night. Bodies of people with this condition cannot adjust their “biological clocks” to rhyme the timing of the day. Their bodies need for sleep does not correspond with the conventional sleeping time. It is the struggle between the body need for sleep and the conventional sleeping time which results into rhythm sleep disorder. However, human bodies have mechanisms that continually attempt to maintain homeostasis. The biological clock of a human being is the suprachiasmatic nucleus which is located in the hypothalamus. The resetting of this clock is affected by the moment when the retina of the human eye detects lighting. Light detection affects the melatonin hormone production in the pineal gland. The gland rate of production of melatonin is greater during the night. The production slows by daybreak and it is the lowest at midday.
On detecting light, the retina conveys signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus through the nerve fibers. The suprachiasmatic nucleus then transfers certain information to the hypothalamus. The signal is then relied to the pineal gland through the spinal cord. It is this gland that produces more melatonin in absence of the light signal. On reaching the receptors in the hypo-thalamus, melatonin makes the body interpret the situation as dark. This means that the main setter of the human’s biological clock is the light.
The sensitivity to light is thought to have evolved with the development of human being. Present day researchers argue that melatonin is the main influence of the time center in human beings. There has been great interest in the research involving melatonin because it is believed that this can help uncover the mechanism of sleeping in human body. It is hoped that the results of this research will help the human service and medical professionals in treating many of the sleep related problems that people experience. For example, the blind people who are clueless about the light from the sun have their biological clocks running out of phase. The circadian rhythms in the bodies of these people are reset through the artificial administering of melatonin. This melatonin informs their brains that it is dark and that they need to sleep. This melatonin helps them determine the time of the day even when their eyes do not see.
Seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) is believed to occur due to the melatonin over production. This disorder mostly affects people living in the northern latitudes, and it makes them tend to sleep excessively. Melatonin is produced whenever it is dark, and therefore its rate of production increases during winter when the sunlight that falls on the retina is less. The increased rate of melatonin production has been noted to trigger depression in some people. Some clinical methods used to alleviate this ailment include exposure to bright light. This is because excessive light tends to slow the production of melatonin, and this may help treat people with seasonal affective disorder.
It has also been noted that light exposure during the early hours of the morning have superior effects of the production of melatonin than the exposure to the late evening light. This is because the morning light produces phase advances in the melatonin rhythms. This means that it is important to return the circadian rhythms to their normal routine, and this will help the sufferers of SAD a lot. This may also be effective when treating non seasonal depression. Therefore, it is easily noticeable that even slight interruptions on the sleep rhythms that might be caused by the seasonal and time changes can potentially influence the behavior of humans (Lyman 95). These factors can possibly merge with cognitive, genetic, and psychological stressors to lead to dramatic behavioral change, and this may result in either chronic or acute progression.
Viable Solutions to the Sleep Deprivation Challenge
Anyone suffering from insomnia should seek a medical practitioner’s attention if his condition has persisted for duration longer than 3 to 4 weeks. However, if it is seen to interfere with the sufferer’s ability to function, especially with daytime activities, then the individual don’t have to wait for 4 weeks to elapse (King 17). This is because insomnia has been recognized as a symptom manifesting an underlying state of affair which may be another psychological and medical problem. This problem needs attention first before the insomnia symptoms can go away.
In most cases, a person suffering from insomnia is not hospitalized. Nevertheless, there are accidents that may result due to poor attention and coordination lapse that is manifested when a person is deprived of sleep. Some conditions such as difficulty in breathing as well as worsening pain may be some strong indications that a sufferer needs to consider seeking medical attention.
The medical practitioners treating a sufferer might begin to evaluate insomnia with consideration of a complete health history of a person. As in any health evaluation, a full medical history and physical evaluation are vital aspects during the assessment and handling of insomnia. The medical practitioner will mostly attempt to identify any psychological or medical illness that might have been leading to the sufferer’s insomnia.
A thorough health history coupled with examination which includes screening for drug use, psychiatric disorders, and alcohol consumption is important during the evaluation of patients suffering from sleeping problems. Mostly, physical examination focuses on the lung and heart as well as measuring the neck size. Also involved in physical examination is the visualization of nasal and oral air passages.
Insomnia suffers are asked about their recent weigh gain and chronic snoring. Such an investigation may be directed towards the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea. In such instances, medical practitioners may suggest that the sufferer take a night-long sleep test. Sleep tests are mostly undertaken in sleep laboratories, and are administered by practitioners who are specialized in the field of sleep medicine (Dillon 7-8). These practitioners could be assisted by pulmonary specialists. The practitioners need the sleep history of a person to help in evaluating a sufferer of insomnia. Knowledge of, for example, sleep and bedroom habits, sleep schedule, insomnia duration, and daytime symptoms can assist with provision of vital clues which can help in assessing patients with insomnia. The doctor may also need to know about the sufferer’s drug and alcohol use, routine medications, stressful occupational and social situations, work schedules, and sleeping habits of a partner. The doctors mostly use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to assess sleepiness during the day. This scale has proved to be very useful in assessing insomnia. To assess the sleep-wake patterns over duration of time, doctors use a technique called actigraphy (King 17). Actigraphs are wrist-worn devices which are small in size and are used in measuring movement. They contain an on-board memory and a microprocessor which are used to provide objective information about a person’s daytime activity.
For a period of two weeks, a sleep diary may require to be filled on dairy basis. Patients are requested to note down moments when they go to bed, awake from sleep and fall asleep. They may also used to record daily exercise, medication, and caffeine and alcohol intake. Sometimes, the diary includes the personal assessment of the patient’s alertness at different times. This personal assessment need to be done on at least two consecutive days.
Normally, transient insomnia is resolved whenever the underlying condition is corrected or removed. Most sufferers seek medical help whenever they realize that their insomnia has become chronic (Montplaisir 389). The primary focus when treating insomnia should be on finding its cause. Once the cause has been identified, the underlying problem will then need to be controlled and managed. The sufferer may find this alone eliminating insomnia completely. The success rate of treating insomnia when the underlying cause has not been addressed is rare. Mostly, chronic insomnia is cured when its psychiatric and medical causes have been evaluated properly and treated.
Generally, insomnia treatment entails both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic aspects. The treatment should be tailored based on the likely cause. Typically, studies have shown that the combination of non-medical and medical treatments yields more success that when either is used alone.
A sufferer need to follow-up a medical practitioner’s recommendations for he is the one who is adequately qualified to tackle the psychological and medical conditions. Mostly, the patient is asked to forward the feedback to the doctor after following a certain treatment plan. Often the sufferers are presented with several medication options which are aimed at helping them overcome the insomnia syndrome (Tsoi 270). Sufferers are encouraged not to give-up if their first medication is not fruitful or if they experience concerns like side effects. They are encouraged to report back to their doctors for advice.
There has been a steady increase in the research about sleep and sleeping disorders since the turn of the millennium. This research shows relevance to clinical challenges, and, therefore, many medical practitioners are embracing their results. However, despite the growth in sleeping research, researchers have not yet uncovered the neurobiological factors that affect wakefulness and sleep. Furthermore, several other clinical manifestations of sleep deprivation have not been fully understood (Tsoi 270). Nevertheless these researches have helped discover that while sleeping, the human brain usually undergoes a complex variety of active behavioral and physiological processes. This discovery is contrary to the earlier believing that during this time, the brain is inactive. Improved understanding on the underlying nature of sleeping, the effects of sleep on neural function, as well as how sleeping modifies the central nervous system will help medical practitioners begin providing the primary prevention and treatment of sleep disorders. This will reduce the social and economic impact that the sleep/wake disturbances leads to. Therefore, the quality of life in general and the life expectancy of individuals will improve bringing more benefits to the society and at a lesser cost.