The best cure for insomnia is to get lots of sleep!’ — W C Fields. The inability to sleep and disturbance in sleep patterns of an animal is known as a sleep disorder.
Unhealthy lifestyle, any pathological condition or disturbance in the circadian rhythms of the body (cycles of the body) and many other stressful conditions experienced by an individual on a daily basis could result in a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders can be broadly classified into hypersomnia (excessive sleep) or insomnia (lack of sleep or disturbed sleep). English poet and playwright Shakespeare, American president Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton were insomniacs.
Some common instances such as night time terrors, grinding of teeth in sleep, sleepwalking, somniphobia (fear of sleeping) are classified as sleep disorders. Nocturia is a state characterised by the urge to use the loo frequently at night, which eventually results in disturbed sleep. Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are other examples commonly observed in the sleeping pattern of several individuals. The former involves restless movements of one’s legs in sleep whereas victims of the latter tend to move their hands or feet or more commonly kick in sleep.
Sleep apnea which means abnormal pauses in breathing, or breathing at a very low rate when asleep, is a disorder often seen among middle aged men, obese people. This is mainly due to physical obstruction or blockage of passage of air through the respiratory tract (obstructive) or lack of control by the brain over respiratory process in sleep (central) which interferes with a smooth breathing pattern. Snoring is one of the symptoms of apnea, although every person who snores in sleep does not necessarily suffer from sleep apnea! This condition arises when a person gasps in sleep for air due to restricted air flow and interrupted breathing pattern. Pauses between snores is actually when the apnea or pause in breathing occurs. Suffering individuals tend to feel sleepy and fatigued in daytime.
However, just counting sheep jumping over a fence will not cure your sleep disorder.
Polysomnography, which is a procedure of studying the sleep pattern of an individual in detail can be useful in order to understand the actual causes leading to the development of a sleep disorder in a individual, and when coupled with appropriate medication or behavioural/psychotherapy can be used to understand and overcome the condition and enable one to enjoy a good night’s sleep.