As a sleep disorder that has been misinterpreted multiple times in media, insomnia has gained notoriety as a health issue that is quite difficult to address due to the rapid onset and the unwillingness of patients to address health services. Being often romanticized and having several myths intertwined with its commonly known definition, insomnia as a sleep disorder needs a more detailed analysis to promote patient literacy and limit the threat of it becoming a public health issue.
The phenomenon of insomnia has several interpretations, yet the common agreement seems to lie in terming insomnia as a type of sleep disorder. Currently, the DSM-V guide offers several definitions of insomnia depending on the extent of the disorder’s severity and the prominence of its symptoms. However, the pattern to which insomnia is subscribed in DSM-V is the “sleep-wake disorders” (American Sleep Association, 2020, para. 2). Therefore, insomnia can be considered a disruption in the patterns of sleep.
To date, the exact causes of insomnia and the accurate number of these factors have not been defined. However, among the most notable ones, one should list the most common mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and the development of stress (American Sleep Association, 2020). The increase in the intensity of the specified disorders causes the range of complications that one may have when developing insomnia. Specifically, the National Sleep Foundation (2020) points out the following signs and symptoms of insomnia as the factors that may cause one to reconsider one’s sleep patterns: “difficulty falling asleep, waking up a lot during the night, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep, or waking up feeling un-refreshed” (National Sleep Foundation, 2020, para. 2).
When considering the specified statement, one would be correct to claim that at least one of these symptoms is descriptive of one of the attendees’ behaviors and feelings, which would not be a false implication as well (National Sleep Foundation, 2020).
The experiences linked to sleep deprivation are quite common in people, especially in today’s young people who tend to break their sleeping patterns due to the necessity to stay overnight on their computer devices (National Sleep Foundation, 2020). In turn, the Sleep Association explains that the problems in redeveloping healthy sleeping patterns are rooted in the inability of the human body to continue to build adenosine in people’s bodies while they are awake so that healthy sleeping could ensue (American Sleep Association, 2020).
Therefore, the symptoms of insomnia are quite common and very well-known, yet the factors that drive the development of the said well-known symptoms have remained largely undisclosed up until recently. The veil of mystery around the problem of insomnia and the mechanisms of its development has surely not helped in managing it or promoting awareness among the audiences that demanded their idols to be on stage every hour of the day.
Penetrating the nature of the problem even deeper, one will realize that the development of insomnia hinges on the emergence of a problem in one of the four stages of sleep. Therefore, the phases of sleep have to be examined to get to the bottom of the factors that make insomnia patients’ needs so difficult to address. The first phase of sleep, during which one experiences drowsiness and starts to dose off, is typically characterized by rather an easy awakening and the ability to remember every experience and dream precisely. The second phase involves the deceleration of the functions within one’s body, with the breathing becoming more even and muscles relaxing. The development of sleep spindles is characteristic of the described phase.
The third stage of sleep is typically combined with the fourth when describing the subtle changes occurring to the brain of a patient. Namely, the waves known as delta waves appear in one’s brain, creating a unique pattern with the usually observed waves (“How much sleep do you need for muscle growth & fat loss?” 2018). Therefore, during the process of sleeping, the human brain typically becomes even more active than it can be during the daytime, which is why the existing strategies for managing insomnia should be based on the described fact.
The problem development mentioned above raises the question of how the problem of insomnia can even be approached. While the traditional treatment seems to be mostly useless and the consumption of appropriate sleeping pills may lead to adverse results, it is important to address the root cause of one’s inability to sleep first. Namely, the deconstruction of the sleep stages and the analysis of the events occurring during each is strongly needed. After the comparison of the observed changes in the dynamics of the brain and especially in the release of hormones such as cortisol, and the related factors is important to examine the nature of insomnia and provide an effective solution for it.
In addition, the fact that insomnia is likely to lead to a drop in the extent of one’s creativity requires a mentioning of the means of understanding the scale of the problem and the urgency of developing its solution. In his TED Talk, Foster (2013) shares the following discovery with his audiences:
Sleeping at night enhances our creativity. And what seems to be going on is that, in the brain, those neural connections that are important, those synaptic connections that are important, are linked and strengthened, while those that are less important tend to fade away. (Foster, 2013)
The observation above informs the strategies that can be used to address the problem of insomnia in patients. Specifically, the realignment of one’s priorities and the reassessment of one’s physical needs will have to take place to recognize the importance of sleep. Thus, one will be capable of an important change in the schedule and the use of fewer hours for sleep.
The issue concerning the drop in creativity levels as an immediate change that follows severe insomnia is also a very troubling narrative since it is expected to affect not only an individual’s professional performance but also their personal life on multiple levels. Namely, the loss of creativity is expected to cause severe distress and deep dissatisfaction, reducing the quality of life extensively (He, Sun, Wang, & Zou, 2019).
However, the specified outcome is quite expected to take place given the fact that sleep deprivation is linked directly to brain function. Since the phases of sleep are managed within a particular part of the brain, the disruption in these stages or the absence thereof is bound to lead to massive consequences. Likewise, the failure to provide the brain with an opportunity to compartmentalize different experiences during nighttime is quite predictably bound to lead to memory loss and similar brain dysfunctions.
Therefore, it would be the next logical step to suggest that sleeping enough is the most effective solution to the problem described above. However, given the differences in people’s bodies and the uniqueness of each, the correct identification of the right number of sleeping hours seems to be nearly impossible. However, Foster mentions that the problem can be resolved by listening to one’s body and its needs closer. The described approach can be viewed as a feasible strategy granted that the process of assessing one’s physiological needs, including the need to sleep, and recording the changes in one’s physical and mental state occur daily (Khusid & Vythilingam, 2016). Thus, the patterns in sleep and the effects that sleeping for a specific amount of hours produces on an individual will become possible.
The idea of introducing a self-managed approach toward handling sleep deprivation issues is not new, yet it is expected to assist those having challenges falling asleep. The problem addressed by Foster is far more common than it might seem, and the lack of education on the matter of insomnia leads to the aggravation of its effects, including not only memory loss and disrupted sleep but also basic cognitive functions. Therefore, it is imperative to convince patients to build awareness of their bodies and what happens to them when a specific amount of hours is used for sleeping.
While the proposed strategy does not mean in any capacity that patients should engage in dangerous experiments with sleep, it does suggest that the responses to specific scenarios and especially the presence of negative reactions toward certain situations need to be carefully analyzed. In turn, the results of this analysis will inform the strategies that one can apply to the management of insomnia or similar mental health concern. Thus, the problem of insomnia will become less common and will have an impact of a lesser extent on the cognitive functions of patients, leading to fewer instances of mental health aggravation and a general increase in the levels of public health.
American Sleep Association. (2020). What is sleep and why is it important? Web.
Foster, R. (2013). Why do we sleep? Web.
He, Y., Sun, N., Wang, Z., & Zou, W. (2019). Effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for insomnia: a protocol for a systematic review. BMJ Open, 9(7), 1-5. Web.
Khusid, M. A., & Vythilingam, M. (2016). The emerging role of mindfulness meditation as effective self-management strategy, part 2: Clinical implications for chronic pain, substance misuse, and insomnia. Military Medicine, 181(9), 969-975. Web.
National Sleep Foundation. (2020). Insomnia. Web.