Wide awake-2 Essay

Wide Awake

Diana Martin Mendoza

Western Carolina University

Wide awake

It is a well known fact that for humans to be well rested there needs to be minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. However, that is not the case for everyone. While some people may get a sufficient amount of sleep others may not. Sleep disorders can contribute to how much sleep people get. Having problems with the sleep cycle can lead to problems such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

The one thing that is essential to us is the thing we can’t always get.

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There’s more that goes into sleeping than just closing your eyes and dozing off. A person’s sleep habits or routine will change with their age. Consistency is key in order to make it possible to not be affected by lack of sleep. Sometimes things are easier said than done. How much sleep you need will depend on many things such as age.

For example newborn babies sleep about 16 hours. By the time they reach nine and 18 months the number changes to 11 to 12 hours. An average night’s sleep is about seven to seven and a half hours for adults. During our lifetime our sleep to being awake ratio is equal to one hour of sleep for every two hours spent awake (Psychology Fourth Edition). Not getting enough sleep can have fatal consequences if there’s extreme sleep deprivation. After reaching a certain point of being sleep deprivation body functions start to fail. This can include a reduction in mental acuity and reaction time, an increase in irritability and depression as well as a increase in risks of accidents and injury occurring (Psychology Fourth Edition). While some of these factors may be self induced due to not getting a sufficient amount of sleep there are other problems that occur with sleep that people don’t have a say in such as sleep complications.

One of the most common sleep complications is insomnia. Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep, this affects about 30% of people (Psychology Fourth Edition). Within those people the age range is 60 and older (NIA). There’s no telling how long insomnia could last. It could last days,weeks, months or even years (NIA). Insomnia comes in the forms of taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up multiple times during the night, waking up tired and waking up early without being able to fall back asleep (NIA). There are different forms of insomnia. The lifestyle choices people make can also affect insomnia. Self-induced insomnia can be the result of working night shifts (NIA). Depression and anxiety can cause secondary insomnia (NIA). Treatment for insomnia has progressed from where it first started. Substances such as chloral hydrate, a sedating medicine used to induced sleep was greatly used in the mid-19th century (NIA). In the 1960s benzodiazepine medications were introduced as the first treatment for insomnia (NIA). These treatments varied on the their purpose. Now days medications such as sleeping pills are used as a last resort. A common mistake people make is that they try very hard to sleep, but giving up on trying to sleep is the best choice compared to the alternative which would be sleeping pills. People can become addicted to sleeping pills and over time may have to increase their intake to get the desired result.

Another known sleep disorder is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause breathing interruptions or shallow breathing during sleep (NIA). These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and as many as five to 30 or more can occur in an hour (NIA). The people who are more at risk for sleep apnea are people who are males, overweight, or have small airways (NIA). Some indicators that people have sleep apnea are snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea takes place when the muscles in the back of the throat relax (NIA). Those muscles provide support to the soft palate, when those muscles are relaxed it causes the airway to narrow or close as breaths are taken, that doesn’t allow enough oxygen to be inhaled and lowers oxygen level in blood (NIA). This leads the brain to signal that there is not enough oxygen intake leading to a quick awakening to reopen the airway (NIA). Central sleep apnea is the least common type. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to send signals to the breathing muscles (NIA). People can be awaken being short of breath or have trouble staying asleep. People who have sleep apnea have a higher risk of being involved in car crashes, having work-related accidents and other medical problems such as high blood pressure and heart problems (NIA). Lifestyle choices also contribute to this disorder, changes, mouthpieces, surgery and breathing devices can all be used as treatment for sleep apnea (NIA).

Finally a sleep disorder that is less common. Narcolepsy also known as “sleep attacks” as its name says these are sleep attacks that take place during daytime (Psychology Fourth Edition). Narcolepsy makes the person fall into the dream state. These “attacks” can last anywhere from a mere 30 seconds to 30 minutes (Psychology Fourth Edition). The cause behind narcolepsy is the lack of the chemical hypocretin (NHLBI). This chemical is what helps the brain ”wake” up.This is a hereditary sleep disorder. There is a hereditary gene that affects hypocretin levels. 10% of people who have narcolepsy also have a relative who also suffers from it (NHLBI). In order for narcolepsy to occur there are other factors that have to occur such as brain injuries or exposure to toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides and weed killers and second hand smoke (NHLBI).Some of the most common symptoms include extreme daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (muscle weakness), hallucinations and sleep paralysis (NHLBI). Narcolepsy can be treated with medication. Treatments may vary depending on the severity of the case. Some medications include stimulants to ease sleepiness during the day and medication to help the low levels of hypocretin (NHLBI). Lifestyle changes are also important to help with narcolepsy. Following a regular sleep schedule that includes waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco product, alcoholic drinks, chocolate and caffeine hours before bed, large meals before bed and bright lights (NHLBI) these simple tasks can help make a difference.

To conclude, there are many thing that have yet to be discovered about the brain and unconscious mind. There are also things that can’t be controlled. Sleep is one of those things. While some people may have no trouble falling asleep or may even look forward to bedtime others may dread even thinking about having to go to sleep. Everyone is different. No two people will ever be the same. Some people have sleep disorders while others may not. The one crucial thing we need is the thing that not everyone can obtain.


D. Schacter, D. Gilbert, M. Nock, D. Wegner, Psychology Fourth Edition, 2017

“Sleep Disorders.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Nov. 2018, medlineplus.gov/sleepdisorders.html.

National Institute on Aging;U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Articles from Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are provided here courtesy of American Academy of Sleep Medicine, (NIA)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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