Listen to part of a lecture in a health and nutrition class.
Professor: There are a number of sleeping disorders, and. while the large majority of them stem from psychological causes, a couple of them are actually physiological disorders, usually originating in the brain. One of the most common sleep issues people face every day is what is called hypersomnia, which I’m sure most of you have heard of and perhaps some of you have, unfortunately, experienced .
Student A: Uh, don’t you mean insomnia. Professor Jenkins?
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Professor: Well, no, to be honest. I’m sure many of you were expecting me to say insomnia, but I’m going to save that for the next segment of our lecture this morning. First, I’d like to talk about what is known as hypersomnia. Contrary to popular belief, many studies have shown that hypersomnia could actually be even more common than its nocturnal cousin, insomnia. Now, the prefix hyper obviously suggests excessive or beyond the limits, which tells us that a person suffering from hypersomnia gets too much sleep or has the inability to keep awake. This is the complete opposite of insomnia. It is the need to sleep during the daytime, even after one has had a full night or more of quality sleeping time. Is everyone following me out there? Everyone awake? Sorry, poor joke, very poor joke. Anyway, who knows what the name is of the condition of an extreme form of hypersomnia? Anybody?
Student B: Sorry, Professor Jenkins. I pulled an all-nighter last night. Um. that would be narcolepsy, sir. The, um, answer to your question.
Professor Very good. And thank you for making it in to class this morning. She’s right, too. class. Narcolepsy is an extreme form of hypersomnia. In the case of narcolepsy, the individual has no ability whatsoever to control when he falls asleep. It only occurs during the daytime. For example, if a friend of yours is stricken by narcolepsy, you could be having a lively conversation with him, and, suddenly, he’s out. Narcoleptics can suddenly fall into a deep sleep. Depending on the episode, the individual could be asleep for five minutes or even longer than an hour. There is really no warning as to its onset either. Occasionally, the episode may be preceded by some visible drowsiness, but it usually just hits out of nowhere. Scientists believe that narcolepsy is a genetic disorder passed down through generations, and it is a condition where the brain is unable properly to regulate when sleep should occur. Still, there is no known cure for it. It is not directly life-threatening but you can imagine what would happen if a narcoleptic were driving a car or piloting a plane when an episode suddenly materializes Student
Professor. Exactly. So now you know why it’s important to diagnose this condition early before something terrible happens. Sometimes a change in diet, as in more veggies and less meat, can help reduce the symptoms, and occasionally doctors will provide stimulants, but these can cause addiction and are usually avoided except in the most extreme cases.
Now, the second disorder, which we’ve already determined is insomnia, is a condition where the individual has trouble falling asleep or wakes up repeatedly during the night. Its causes are usually psychological in the form of stress, depression, and too much worrying, but other external causes, such as caffeinated drinks and smoking, are often culprits as well because they are stimulants. Also, if you take too many naps during the day… How wonderful that would be… Your body might become too well-rested, if that’s possible, and cause the onset of sleeplessness. Now the obvious affects of insomnia are fatigue and lack of energy during the day. That is to be expected; yet another underlying problem comes in the form of a weakened immune system. When you don’t sleep enough at night, your body loses the opportunity to repair itself, to rejuvenate, you know, and usually the immune system suffers the most, resulting in numerous problems.
There are a few tactics you can use to ensure a good night’s sleep, class. One is to keep a regular schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time, which will program your circadian rhythm, your internal clock, and help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Of course, avoiding coffee, soft drinks, and even alcohol in the evenings is another step. For individuals who still suffer from insomnia, some people swear by hypnosis techniques. Further, a popular natural remedy that is also used for jet lag is melatonin, which helps restore the body’s natural rhythms and timings. Of course, doctors can also prescribe sleeping aid medications, but still these can have terrible side effects, and the individual always runs the risk of becoming psychologically dependent on them. Never a good thing at all, class.