While it is common for most adults to experience acute or short-term insomnia, some others tend to suffer from chronic insomnia that lasts for weeks and even months. Sufferers of chronic insomnia are usually older adults whose sleeping periods have become less restful due to changes in sleep patterns as results of changes in activity and existing environmental and health conditions.
In most cases of insomnia in older adults, sleeping patterns are affected by the medications being taken as treatments for age-related disorders. Some examples include arthritis, prostate or bladder problems, back pains, sleep apnea and restless-leg syndrome that tend to disrupt sleep cycle.
Understand that sleep occurs in two major phases: the REM or rapid eye movement sleep, and the non-rapid or non REM sleep. People who are regarded as good sleepers are those who are able to leave the REM phases quickly, in a matter of 15 minutes. However, there are some instances when a person is stressed about something or excited about an event, which can prolong a person’s REM sleep phase. It could take hours before they transition into non-REM sleep and reach the deep sleep stage that makes for a relaxing sleep experience.
To better understand how the causes of insomnia affect a person’s sleep cycle, it would be best to have a clear picture of what is REM sleep, to fully grasp the significance of the Non-REM phase and Deep Sleep stage.
What is REM Sleep?
Rapid eye movement sleep or REMS is a unique condition in which a person who goes to sleep still has to pass through a phase characterized by the occurrence of random rapid eye movements even as the eyelids are closed. During this phase, low brain and muscle activities still occur throughout a person’s body, which normally ends in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes.
However, if something like stress, anxiety, excitement or feelings of depression is running through the brain, the related neurotransmitters will continue to send strong signals that prolong brain and muscle activities. As a result, it will take an hour or more for the sleeper to transition to the Non-REMs phase of the sleep cycle.
What is Non-REM Sleep?
Entering a Non-REM Sleep phase means the sleeper has moved on to a light sleep stage because there are now fewer low muscle activities and less brain waves being transmitted. Moreover, the reduced activities will also slow down blood circulation and heart rate while blood pressure falls. As breathing becomes steadiers and slower muscles relax, the non- rapid eye movement phase will transition into a light sleep stage.
As the Non-REM phases progresses into a stage that prepares a person for deep sleep, any disruption can still jolt a sleeping body into moments of wakefulness. That is why people with insomnia suffer from sleeplessness as they are routinely prevented from reaching the deep sleep state.
What is the Deep Sleep State
The deep sleep stage of a NON-REMS is a condition in which muscle activities, pulse rate and breathing has slowed down to a point of in which the body is released for deep relaxation. The brain activity are now receiving short wave signals sent by other body parts, in relation to carrying out their important functions.
Deep sleep is critical in a person’s sleep because it is that stage that produces the healthful effects. The brain can now focus on the restorative processes that will allow cells to repair, regenerate and rejuvenate.
Experts give advice that this stage is important because in a matter of two hours or more, the body will be able to recover from the usual environmental factors that caused cell damages during the day. Otherwise, a poorly addressed cell repair and restorative process can affect other key body processes like metabolism and auto-immune responses.
Insomnia today does not have to occur as a chronic disorder because its causes can be remedied by a simple change in lifestyle. While there are now modern medications that can be taken to help the body overcome insomnia, they should be taken under proper medical advice.