Every human being must sleep. Sleep is critical for the maintenance of our mental and physical health. When we are asleep, the body then has time to repair and refresh. In many ways sleep is beneficial for the human body. Although as simple as it might seem, receiving a good night’s rest may be difficult for several individuals. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. (Rowland and Wells, 2009). During this essay I will describe sleep, its disorders, and how they can be treated.
The sleep cycle involves two distinct phases that alternate from light sleep to deep, deeper, and then to the deepest stage of sleep. The two main phases of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Sleep begins in the phase known as NREM sleep. The first stage of NREM sleep begins with the feeling of “drifting off”. Stage two of NREM sleep involves a change in brain wave patterns. The third and fourth stages of NREM sleep are the deepest levels of sleep. Sleep terrors, sleep walking, and bedwetting episodes generally occur within stage four of NREM sleep (Hanrahan, 2006). Typically it takes about 90 minutes to cycle through the four stages of NREM sleep, then someone begins the second phase of sleep, which is know as REM sleep. Rapid eye movement sleep is much different from NREM sleep. During REM sleep, extensive central nervous system activity occurs, and there is an increase in our brains’ metabolism (Hanrahan, 2006). We typically dream the most in REM sleep, although it is possible to dream in earlier stages of sleep. During REM sleep the body is put into a nearly paralyzed condition, which is called “atomic” (Hanrahan, 2006). The reason for becoming atomic, is because it inhibits the dreamer from acting out the physical movement that is occurring during their dream. Sleep requirements vary from person to person, there is no specific amount of time spent sleeping that can be used as a cutoff point to determine whether an individual received there good night’s rest. For example, newborns will require more sleep during their first year of infancy, than during any other time of their life. A newborn’s total sleep requirement is from 16 to 18 hours per every 24-hours. Toddlers on the other hand are far more physically active than infants, and on an average require 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day (Hanrahan, 2006). During the age of preschool, typically around the ages of three and four, is when the earliest sleep disorders first begin to develop. For instance, children in this age group tend to have some fear of the dark and are more troubled by nightmares and night terrors.
School age children require on average from eight to ten hours of sleep per day. Adequate sleep is especially important as school children’s lives become busier. Adolescents require at least ten hours of sleep per night (Hanrahan, 2006). This is usually a very busy time in a teen’s life. Generally they are very preoccupied with school, sports, and friends. That being the case, the majority of adolescents do not receive a sufficient amount of sleep.
The quality of sleep someone receives has an enormous impact on their life. Poor disordered sleep can effect someone’s work ethic, concentration, and ability to work with others. Researchers have identified many sleep disorders can cause people to act less alert. Which could affect personal health and endanger the public (“Nature”, 1994). Sleep deprivation impairs performance as much as alcohol intoxication does (Sheikh, 2005). A sleep disorder can be defined as some disturbance while sleeping, or some behavior or physiological condition associated with sleep. According to the second edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, there are 81 different sleep disorders (Cataldo et al, 2012). The most common sleep disorders however are insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea.