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The World He alth Organization (WHO) has recognized insomnia as a civilization disease that needs to be treated. Trouble sleeping worsens well-being, memory and concentration, and also reduces the body's immunity. Insomnia kills the joy of life, undermines strength and how a vampire sucks blood from the brain and heart - this is what the doctor Axel Munthe said in the Book of San Michele.

Insomniaandsleep disordersis a disease of our time. Napoleon Bonaparte slept 4-5 hours a night, and Albert Einstein slept 11-12. How much sleep we need is an individual matter and depends, among other things, on from genetic predisposition, age, season, lifestyle, and even the type of work (less stressful allows you to sleep better and longer). Babies sleep the longest (even 18 hours a day), and seniors the shortest - sometimes only 5-6 hours. Until now, the prevailing view was that the body of a he althy adult requires 7-8 hours of night rest. However, this data is changing. It turns out that we really need 5-6 hours of sleep, and the rest of the time spent in bed is just… pleasure.

Sleep phases

When dusk falls, the body demands rest. It is tiredness from all-day work and bustle, but also nature - when less daylight reaches the eye, the body produces more and more melatonin - a hormone that causes the feeling ofsleepiness . We usually go to the bedroom between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. There are also the so-called night owls, but they too surrender between 1 and 3 am. This is when the body feels the greatest need for regenerative rest. Body temperature drops slightly and blood pressure drops. Sleep, which lasts about eight hours, usually consists of four or five cycles. Each of them lasts from 90 to 100 minutes and is divided into five consecutive phases.

  • The first - is something between waking and sleeping and takes only a few minutes. The production of cortisol - the stress hormone - decreases, and the blood concentration of melatonin - the hormone that helps to sleep - increases. If nothing disturbs you during this time, you fall asleep.
  • The second - it is a shallow, light dream. The muscles are relaxed, the eyes do not move, the breathing slows down and it becomes even. Temperature and blood pressure drop slightly.
  • Third - it is called slow-wave sleep. The brain is still working at a slower pace, howeverconsciousness shuts off more and more. Mind and body regenerate.
  • Fourth - REM (short for "rapid eye movements", which means rapid eye movements) is also called paradoxical sleep, because although the body is asleep, the brain works very intensively. Takes 25 percent. all sleep time. Then dreams come true, but also then we remember what we learned the previous day. At the end of the night, the duration of dreams increases. The closer to dawn, the phases of paradoxical sleep last longer than at dawn of night. Some people explain the fact that we usually find ourselves in the middle of dreams when the alarm clock rings.
  • After the REM phase is over, the body calms down and calms down. He is about to enter the next cycle again.

Learn proven ways to deal with sleep problems

Sleep regenerates our body

Three full cycles are enough to regenerate your strength. Sometimes, however, people do not go through the five consecutive sleep phases, limiting themselves to, for example, just the first two. Such "light" sleep does not bring rest and makes you feel worse during the day. When you sleep, internal organs regenerate, tissues are removed from toxins and waste products of metabolism. In sleep, growth processes intensify (which is why it is so important for children and adolescents to get enough sleep), because at night there is an increased secretion of certain hormones, including growth, but also prolactin, progesterone and testosterone - so important in puberty.

At night, the condition of the skin improves greatly - it happens mainly between 10 p.m. and 4 p.m. During sleep, brain cells also regenerate - but this does not exclude intensive work, when organizing and preserving information from the whole day. Silence at night is essential for the psyche - thanks to it you do not have problems with memory or concentration and you can function efficiently during the day.


The condition that affects us after crossing time zones is calledjet-lag syndrome.We then have trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night, we are tired during the day, our reflexes and concentration are weaker. Scientists have shown that melatonin, a substance naturally produced in the brain by the pineal gland, can prevent jet-lag syndrome. After dark, the pineal gland is signaled to start producing melatonin. We become sleepy and willingly go to bed. When we are awakened by daylight, the secretion of melatonin slows down. In this way, this natural substance regulates the sleep-wake cycle, determines the activity of the body and the time at which it should rest.

Calculates insomnia

Problems with sleeping can begin the moment you go to bed - even several hours pass before you finally get tired of sleep. Sometimes you fall asleep easily, but at night you wake up and find it difficult to fall asleep again. It also happens that you wake up in the morning and you are awake waiting for the alarm clock to ring. All of these problems are known asinsomnia . Everyone has a sleepless night (or several nights). It is an accidental insomnia related, for example, to changing the time zone or emotional tension (e.g. before an exam, a wedding). Short-term insomnia (up to three weeks) may be associated with, for example, illness or tension at work, when you experience a strong promotion, for example. If you have 3-4 "white" nights a week and it lasts for at least a month - this is chronic insomnia, which requires treatment.

Types of insomnia

Scientists studying sleep disorders have attempted to sort the "night problems". They divided them into extrinsic- and intrinsic.

  • Extrinsic insomnia - it is caused by factors related to sleep hygiene, e.g. uncomfortable bed, too warm in the bedroom, noise, neon flickering outside the window. To get enough sleep, just move the bed, hang thicker curtains or change the evening rituals: take a walk before bedtime, listen to relaxing music, etc.
  • Intrinsic insomnia - its causes lie within ourselves and it is more difficult to overcome them. These are psycho-emotional disorders (neurosis, depression), but also diseases (hyperthyroidism, rheumatic diseases, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, sleep apnea).

Insomnia contributes to many diseases

Prolonged sleep problems make you feel worse, reduce your activity, and make it difficult to concentrate. Memory deteriorates and immunity decreases. People who suffer from insomnia are more likely to fall ill and die of heart attacks and strokes, they are more likely to develop cancer and diabetes (apparently, sleep deprivation promotes insulin resistance for a long time). They suffer from depression, neurosis, they also try to commit suicide.

If you have a problem with insomnia, see a doctor

If you have trouble sleeping, you need to find a specialist who will find the cause of the disorder and help eliminate it. Unfortunately, GPs tend to dismiss insomnia and prescribe medications to help you fall asleep but not treat insomnia. In addition, some of them cause a feeling of breakdown and impaired concentration in the morning, addiction when used for a long time, and after stopping them, we often have even more trouble falling asleep.research and professional assistance. It is best to go to the Sleep Disorder Treatment Clinic. Unfortunately, you need a referral and you sometimes have to wait six months for an appointment. Special tests allow to determine whether the troubles are psycho-emotional or somatic in nature. If the latter is the case, routine blood, hormonal, and central nervous system tests are performed (e.g. electroencephalography - EEG, computed tomography). The doctor checks if we have problems with the spine and respiratory system. After the diagnosis, it is often enough, for example, to normalize the level of hormones so that we can start to sleep well.

Research and tests to diagnose insomnia

If the doctor has problems with making a precise diagnosis, he invites you to the clinic for 2-3 days for tests. There is a microphone installed in the hospital room above the bed, and an infrared camera on the wardrobe. Thanks to them, doctors can hear and see us when we sleep. For the first 24 hours, we wear a small camera strapped to the waist belt. The electrodes protruding from it are glued to the head. The camera is taking an EEG. In the evening, before we fall asleep, they take our blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. A diaphragm bandage monitors your breathing rhythm and a finger pulse oximeter sensor will measure oxygen saturation in your blood. The computer records the data, and all the following night the computer records polysomnograms, i.e. EEG, EMG (muscle tension), EEA (eye movements) and EKG (heart rate) records. Polysomnograms give a complete picture of the sleep process, broken down into successive cycles. The next day we go through a lot of tests. They are to show if sleep has been effective. Our perceptiveness, the ability to concentrate and remember are tested. The tests are similarly structured as those in the IQ study. Research data (computer printouts, camera and microphone records) are analyzed by specialists for 3-4 months. Thanks to this work, it is possible to help people exhausted by insomnia. Every tenth patient of the clinic qualifies for a longer, specialized treatment (usually pharmacotherapy with psychotherapy is used). Professional advice is enough for the rest.

Snoring, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, nightmares - enemies of sleep

Snoring and the accompanying sleep apnea are among the most common enemies of sleep. But there is also sleepwalking, nightmares, teeth grinding or… restless legs syndrome. Anyone who has spent even one night in the company of a snorer knows that this is a real nightmare. There are people whose "night concert" brings to an end. On December 3, 1983, the police in Dallas (USA) captured a woman who grabbed a gun during the night and fired 5 times at her snoring spouse. She shot effectively … Although this news is scary, it is difficultsurprise the determination of the lady. As calculated by experts - the intensity of sounds coming from a snoring person's mouth reaches a value of 90 decibels! This can be compared, for example, with a working chainsaw: 75-93 decibels. Probably for this reason the night cutting of trees is prohibited, but what to do with a snorer? Your partner's snoring can prevent us from winking at us. It is not a disease, but a symptom of obstructed airflow through the throat. It happens especially in people with a deviated nasal septum, elongated soft palate, enlarged tonsils, and an overgrown uvula. "Night concerts" are more often offered by obese people, people with hypertension, postmenopausal women and those who go to sleep with a larger dose of alcohol.

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