Sleep is a period of rest in which our normal consciousness is suspended.

Sleep is important as it helps the body recuperate from the day and it also helps us to store our memories.

Sleep is regulated by the hormone melatonin. When our melatonin level is low, our sleep is decreased.

Our melatonin level is affected by light (sunlight and light from electronic devices), caffeine, sugar, milk, alcohol, certain vegetables and certain vitamins and minerals.

Before I give a brief explanation about the disorders of sleep, it is important to mention that different people need different amounts of sleep to function healthily.

Some persons are short sleepers and will be refreshed with about 6 hours of sleep per night.

Some persons are long sleepers and may need more than 9 hours at night to be refreshed in the morning.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. It is important for you to know what type of sleeper you are. On average, how many hours of nighttime sleep do you need to feel refreshed the next day? In addition to being different as it relates to the number of hours of sleep we need per night, people may also be divided into two groups depending on the time they go to bed at night. By this division you can either be an owl or a lark.

Owls are persons that go to sleep later (usually after 11pm) and wake later (usually at or after 8am). They usually feel the most energetic around 11am.

Larks are persons who go to bed early (usually around 9pm) and wake early. Whether you’re an owl or a lark is due to many factors, the most significant of which are genetic and environmental.

Children usually start out as larks or intermediates, but in adolescence may become owlish. By adulthood, they usually return to their baseline. Some persons, unfortunately, remain as owls; mostly because of their lifestyle and they tend to be at risk for depression, diabetes and hypertension. The number of hours of sleep that you get at night is heavily dependent on whether you’re an owl or a lark.

If you do not get your required number of hours of sleep per night, you can suffer symptoms of sleep deprivation. What are these symptoms? Your body will crave sleep. You will frequently feel sleepy and your body will go to sleep whenever you are not physically active (when you’re at your desk at work, while in school, at church, while driving etc.). You will feel tired and fatigued throughout the day. You will have periods of irritability or mood swings. You may have trouble remembering and concentrating and consequently make mistakes. You may worry about your sleep and you may want to sleep in on days off such as the weekend.

On the other hand, persons can also suffer from having too much sleep. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the old adage which states that “Too much of anything is good for nothing.”

What symptoms will someone experience when they are having more sleep than they need?
Getting more sleep than you need leads to obesity, headaches, backaches, depression, and heart disease. For reasons unknown, too much sleep also puts us at risk for death.

What are the types of sleep disorders?


This is a condition where you either take too long to fall asleep (more than 30 minutes), wake frequently throughout the night and have difficulty drifting back into sleep or wake very early (e.g., 12am, 3am) and do not return to sleep.

Other Sleep Disorders

People can also suffer from sleep disorders where they sleep long hours (more than 10 hours) at night and are still sleepy the next day. These persons are drowsy and have difficulty paying attention during the day. This is called hypersomnia.

Some people may also sleep well at night but have sleep attacks in the day, where they suddenly fall to the ground and fall into sudden deep sleep for short periods. They usually feel refreshed after these periods which are called sleep attacks. This condition is called narcolepsy.

Some persons may snore while they sleep. Snoring is not good. It usually means that there is some obstruction in your breathing. Sometimes along with snoring, persons can stop breathing for brief periods during sleep. This is doubly harmful. This is called sleep apnea. During periods of sleep apnea, enough oxygen does not reach your brain.

In other sleep disorders, persons can walk during their sleep. This is dangerous for them as they can hurt themselves. This is called somnambulism or sleep walking. Other persons may have terrible dreams where they wake screaming and panicked. These are called night terrors.

In one particularly distressing type of sleep disorder, persons can wake but be unable for move for a short period. Your brain wakes but the rest of your body is still in sleep mode. This usually lasts for about 1-2 minutes and during this time the person may feel like someone is in the room or someone is sitting on top of them. It can be quite scary. This is called sleep paralysis.

How are people with insomnia affected?

  • They feel groggy or tired during the day.
  • They feel sleepy or fatigued during the day. They may fall asleep during activities where they are not physically active, e.g., in class, at church, at work etc.
  • They can have mood swings or periods or irritability.
  • They have trouble remembering or concentrating.
  • They are at increased risk for making mistakes.
  • They worry about their sleep.

Myths and facts about sleep

Our bodies get used to having less sleep than it needs.The body usually keeps a track of how much sleep it is owed. This is called a sleep debt. Until that debt is paid, persons will feel sleepy and function poorly. We might grow accustomed to the drowsiness but having persistently less sleep affects daytime performance, harming decision-making, memory, focus, and creativity.
Many adults need 5 or less hours of sleep per night.
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person.
How long you sleep is all that matters.Our quality of sleep is just as important. We need to practice sleep hygiene.
It doesn’t matter when you sleep, as long as you sleep enough hours.It’s better for us to sleep at nights.
A good sleeper does not move at night.Minor movements can occur during normal, healthy sleep.
Your brain shuts down during sleep.Your brain continues to be active during sleep.
Dreaming only happens during certain parts of sleep.Dreaming happens throughout the night, even if you do not remember.
More sleep is always better.Too much of anything is good for nothing.
Snoring isn’t always harmful.Snoring indicates some obstruction. It is often associated with sleep apnea.
Adults sleep more with age.As you age, you tend to sleep less. Health problems that persons are prone to in this age group may also interfere with their quality of sleep.
If you can fall asleep anywhere and anytime, you’re a good sleeper.If this is happening to you then you may be suffering from decreased amount or a decreased quality of sleep at night or it may be a sign of hypersomnia.
Napping makes up for lost sleep at night.Nothing can substitute for quality sleep at night.
Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving.These methods are ineffective. If you’re sleepy, don’t drive. You can hurt someone or yourself.
Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner are effective ways to stay awake when driving.
These methods are ineffective. If you’re sleepy, don’t drive. You can hurt someone or yourself.
If you can’t sleep, it’s best to stay in bed until you fall back asleep.You should get up from your bed if you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes. It is important to associate your bed with sleep.
Alcohol before bed improves sleep.Alcohol interferes with the quality of sleep that you get.
A warmer bedroom is best for sleeping.Find the temperature that is most comfortable for you.
Exercising at night disrupts sleep.Exercise is good. It usually does not interrupt sleep. Some persons might find it harder to relax after vigorous exercise. If this is you, then don’t exercise just before sleep.
Hitting snooze provides meaningful extra rest.Fragmented sleep is not restorative. It does not help you to feel refreshed.
Sleeping with the light on is harmless.Light decreases the level of melatonin. Melatonin is needed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sunlight, light from bulbs and light from computers, tablets and phones are harmful to our sleep because they decrease our levels of melatonin.
The body’s natural melatonin is best.
If you can not sleep, it means you are awake in someone else’s dream.If you can not sleep, it means you are awake in your own bed. Practice sleep hygiene. If this does not help, then get professional help.

Reference: (accessed 22/12/14)