A major cause of sleep disorders in the general population is sleep deprivation. Research now shows that lack of sleep leads to over stimulated inflammation, a major factor in the process of disease development. Those who are lacking sleep are at greater risk of becoming depressed, while those who are not suffering from sleep loss tend to have less inflammatory diseases than those who are sleep deprived. Other studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to higher incidences of cancer, obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and other life threatening illnesses.
In some cases, lack of sleep duration or reduced sleep duration is caused by environmental factors, such as noise, excessive heat or cold, unpleasant smells, and sleep apnea (which is breathing difficulty during sleep). In others, it is a matter of genetic predisposition and circadian rhythms. Often, lack of sleep is accompanied by symptoms such as poor memory, drowsiness, increased anxiety, irritability, headaches, urinary frequency or decreased urination (especially after eating), sore throat, sinus problems, and fatigue. However, many of these symptoms can be remedied by appropriate changes in lifestyle. A good example is by making sure that allergens, such as pollen and dust, are kept out of the home and that pets are kept under control.
There are other types of sleep loss, however, that is truly distressing. One such condition is sleep hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating. Sleep hyperhidrosis is characterized by excessive sweating during the day as well as at night. While it may not be considered a sleep disorder, sleep loss due to this condition may be an indication of a serious medical condition. Those suffering from sleep loss due to this condition have to face social alienation.
Another type of sleep loss is sleep apnea, which is caused by an obstruction in the airway. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway is blocked due to some physical barrier, like the tongue, jaw, or nose. People who suffer from sleep apnea have to wake up several times each night and fall asleep again within seconds. This condition leaves them exhausted and they are likely to fall asleep quickly after they wake up.
Sleep duration is also important because it greatly influences the strength and functioning of the immune system. People who get enough sleep have higher strength and a higher tolerance for infection. Moreover, those who get adequate sleep are able to think and concentrate better. They feel less drowsy after taking in a sufficient amount of sleep.
Those who do not sleep enough are more prone to sickness and are at a greater risk for illnesses like the common cold or influenza. Not getting enough sleep weakens our immune system and makes us at risk for heart attack or cancer. The weak immune system will weaken the body’s ability to fight these diseases. Therefore, adequate sleep is very important for optimal immune function.