The interactions between an individual and the world are made possible by the existence of a complex and highly specialized network that is known as the nervous system. The nervous system’s functions are to organize, explain and direct the activities of a human being by controlling the human senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, taste and sensation. Moreover, the system controls both the voluntary and involuntary activities of an individual, such as sleep, movement balance, and coordination. In situations whereby an individual is faced with a problem such as continued difficulty to fall asleep or stay asleep, it is an indication that a person has a problem in the nervous system, which may require an intervention. This essay discusses a sleep disorder that is commonly known as insomnia, the behaviors of the individuals with the disorder, the primary neural systems associated with the disorder, as well as the current treatment options and future research recommendations.
Insomnia includes a wider range of sleep disorders that vary from the lack of quality sleep to less quantity of sleep and is characterized by difficulties in falling asleep, frequent wake ups during the night with the inability to fall back asleep, as well as the feelings of not being rested upon waking up. The disorder commonly leads to daytime sleepiness, tiredness, and a general ill feeling, felt both mentally and physically, which, in return, affects the work performance or schoolwork of the affected person.
Further, the sleep disorder can also lead to obesity, depression, anxiety, irritability and concentration problems, memory problems, as well as a weak immune system. Individuals who are suffering from this disorder are discouraged from driving, since their concentration levels, and judgments are impaired, a factor that may lead to increased accidents.
Also, Insomnia is a common disorder among the travelers, shift workers, the elderly people, drug users, pregnant women, menopausal women and individuals suffering from mental disorders.
Insomnia is divided into three different types, i.e. transient, acute and chronic insomnia with transient insomnia, occurring when the symptoms last for a few days. Further, acute insomnia lasts past three weeks with the chronic stage lasting for months or even years. Concerning the acute insomnia, it is commonly secondary, meaning that it occurs as a side effect or symptom of some other problem or disease. In addition, people experiencing sleep disorder should seek the medical attention, since the majority of the sleep disorders are associated with depression. Where the two are related, the affected exhibits difficulties in their relationships, as a result of the frequent changes in their moods which, in severe cases, lead to hopelessness and guilt. The individual is also likely to feel disengaged from family and friends, as well as he/she might lose interest in routine related activities because of increased isolation. More so, it is evident that sleep is a fundamental building block to a healthy lifestyle, irrespective of the busy schedules that characterize the modern world to the extent that sleep is viewed as a luxury, rather than a necessity.
Further, the need to discover the treatment for insomnia has led to many researchers carrying out the studies related to the primary neural systems in the disorder. A majority of them have found out that insomnia mainly occurs because of the malfunctioning of two mutually independent neural circuits that have the function to control the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. A small number of cells in the brain contribute to maintaining the stable condition of sleep and being awake, whereby a majority of people remain awake for approximately sixteen hours and sleep for eight hours. This is made possible by the neurons that promote wakefulness, inhibiting those that promote sleep and vice versa, leading to the smooth and stable interaction between being awake and sleep. In a healthy individual, several areas in the brainstem and hypothalamus send signals to the cerebral cortex, which is the largest part of the brain that is promoting wakefulness.
On the one hand, the signals are being sent in the form of chemicals that are commonly known as neurotransmitters that maintain the cortex in the active state that inhibits sleep. On the other hand, the hypothalamus is also responsible for shutting down the active cortex cells of the brain, thus, facilitating the transition to sleep. This is made possible by neurons in the hypothalamus that are known as the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, inhibiting the arousal centers of the cortex and promoting sleep.
In insomnia-related cases, the arousal and shutting down signals fail to work in a harmony with each other with the hypothalamus producing less of the neurons that facilitate the inhibiting of the arousal signals. This results in difficulties in falling asleep, which also leads to high fatigue during the day. Alternatively, the hypothalamus may continuously send the excessive arousal signals in the brain cortex, which may not be easily shut off by the inhibiting factors, also resulting in the sleep difficulties.
Concerning the treatment of insomnia, professionals highly encourage the use of non-medication, which positively contributes to breaking down the insomnia pattern. Examples of such techniques include the adoption of proper sleep hygiene, which is related to maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule and sleeping in a favorable environment with reduced light and minimal noises. Further, the use of relaxation techniques, such as exercising facilitates the reduction of stressful thoughts and makes the body active, hence, in a position to positively respond to sleep. Such non-medicinal methods have no side effects, in comparison to the medicinal methods that have many negative impacts on one’s body.
Among the adverse effects of medicinal methods is increased hung over in the morning and other serious side effects, such as sleepwalking, sleep driving and sleep eating, which not only endanger the life of the affected person, but also the lives of other people around him/her.
For example, sleep driving may result in fatal accidents, hence, the professionals discourage the use of medicines in the treatment of insomnia. Further, a majority of the medicines, such as suvorexant contain anti-histamines, which facilitate sleep by causing drowsiness that, in return, leads to increased fatigue and low productivity during the day.
However, with the increased cases of insomnia, a majority of people use the hormonal supplements of melatonin, which is a sleep inducing chemical and other antidepressants, such as fluvoxamine.. In addition, there is great caution on the use of such medicines, since they are habit forming with minimal evidence of curing insomnia.
Besides, future researchers should put more emphasis on coming up with simple elaborative models that can be used in sensitizing and educating people on how the brain is mainly involved in the control of waking up and sleeping. This would result in increased awareness among the people that would lead to improved lifestyles, sleep hygiene, and proper stress management techniques. Further, with the improved knowledge, the affected would adopt the use of non-medicinal techniques, while, as those not affected, would respond appropriately to keep themselves safe from the disorder.
In addition, since chronic insomnia is secondary in nature, whereby it is a symptom of a more severe illness, the researchers should work towards coming up with medicinal treatment that has very minimal side effects. Moreover, for patients suffering from chronic diseases, such as cancer and stroke, the use of medicinal treatment for insomnia is inevitable to facilitate the quick recovery. However, for the transient and acute insomnia, rehabilitation centers should be created, whereby patients are taken through stress reducing strategies and therapies to facilitate complete cure of insomnia, as well as serve like evidence of the treatment of insomnia by using non-medicinal techniques.