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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Consequences of Sleeplessness (Insomnia)

Written by: Muoka Chibuzor G

Everyone is conversant with how our lives revolve around sophisticated, and simple lever machines. Machines, the slave of an industrious man, are devices made up of different compartments which help to make work easier and achievable within a very short duration of time. In as much as, we use these machines, to some extent we also switch them off according to the manufacturer’s instruction. This is to prevent them from spoiling as a result of long periods of continuous use. Everything has an expiry date, but switching them off can help elongate their longevity before a new one is procured.

Man is a multifaceted biological machine that self-operates with the help of external fuels of diverse origins; gaseous (oxygen), liquid((water) and solid (food), and built within are various organs (liver, kidney etc.) that carry out crucial life-sustaining metabolic processes, that are often within control- voluntary (eye blinking, breathing etc.), and beyond control- involuntary (aging, heartbeat etc.). Wired with nerves and blood vessels, installed within is the auto-blood pumper (the heart), blood pipes (arteries, veins), and other invaluable subunits, all of which are coordinated by the central processing unit (the brain) located and encased in the cranium box (the skull).

Man as a Biological Machine

Every day is a workday for an efficient biological machine. As the biological clock ticks, man has been programmed according to the circadian rhythm to often sleep at night, and seldom sleep during the daytime. After strenuous and hectic activities, the need to rest and sleep becomes undeniable and if one tries to break the circadian rhythm by ignoring sleep for a number of days, psychological disorders begin to arise. According to the Stedman’s Medical dictionary, Sleep is a physiologic state of relative unconsciousness and inaction of the voluntary muscles, the need for which recurs periodically.

Sleep can be classified in various ways but it is predominantly divided into two self-explanatory terms; light sleep and deep sleep. From the ever existence of man, sleep has proven to be of great importance for the survival of man. Imagine a day without sleep, perhaps it would be an unbearable day. It is important we make sleep a priority in your life again, just as we give our machines rest to prevent overheating and mechanical breakdown. Dr. Armon B. Neel stated that older people are more likely to have sleeplessness (insomnia). They wake up more frequently at night, wake up earlier and are more likely to report feeling unrested on awakening. About 40% of adults suffer from insomnia.

For various special and specific reasons, different individuals with divergent opinions can comfortably give reasons why they have decided to have insufficient sleep or found themselves in a state of sleeplessness. Maybe due to lifestyle/addictive hobbies (gaming, movies), belief/religion, tight work schedules, sickness, hunger, public unrest/breakdown of rule and order in the society etc. Many reasons abound, but they can never justify any act of continuous wide-awakeness, people who suffer from insomnia should seek medical help from a physician because a lot of factors contribute to it. Just like machines breakdown without rest, Humans can as well breakdown without sleep.

Mathew Walker a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley warns over the unfolding public health disaster of sleep deprivation. He describes multiple studies in humans and lab animals, showing how insufficient sleep harms the brain, demolishes the immune system, disrupts the body’s blood sugar balance, damages coronary arteries, affect weight gain, cause hypertension, and high blood pressure. Long-term consequences include elevated risks of suffering from Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, memory loss, heart disease and stroke. The immediate impacts of a sleepless night range from crashing while driving to forgetting key facts in an exam. He, however, emphasized that sleep can enhance human longevity. Sleep is nature’s call to rest so that the body can regain full strength and fortitude to continue with the daily activities and challenges of life.

Disastrously, advancement in digital technology has proven to be instrumental in the deprivation of sleep. Laptops, smartphones, televisions etc. has given rise to movie, game and internet addicts. Some books have been written in ways that propels the reader to procrastinate sleep for as much as possible. In most African schools, most students indulge in consuming kolanut (cola) which contains a stimulant known as caffeine to keep awake during exam periods. Several mobile networks create midnight plans (midnight calls, night browsing) that prevent most teens and young adults from sleeping at night. Religious vigils have left men craving for sleep during work hours, thereby affecting their work performance.  Drug abuse cannot be swept under the carpet as it has enormously contributed to the prevalent rate of insomnia. Whereby, individuals who take drugs in the absence of a physician may not know that the drug has the potency of inhibiting the sleep activating hormone known as melatonin.

Sleep as the synonym of Laziness. Some schools of thought believe that sleeping is laziness. This notion is aimed at placing sleep at the backbench of human’s biological activities, and it is absolutely NOT true. If sleep is laziness, then what has sleep got to do with us in the first place? Sleeping is different from being lazy. A lazy person is someone who is unwilling to work or use energy. Sleeping comes as a result of having exhausted the energy present in the body for an energy consuming activity. Therefore, whoever sleeps, has done work and exhausted energy, and hard work justifies a sound sleep and prevents a sedentary lifestyle, as it helps to revive the body to normality and keep every part of the body active. Unfortunately, lazy people see sleep as a tool to wallow in inactiveness, thereby creating erroneous misconceptions about sleep.

People do ask, “How much sleep does one need according to one’s age?”  This question is of great importance, because not getting enough sleep is the ticket for visiting the hospital soonest. The center for disease control has called our lack of sleep a public health epidemic. 

According to the National sleep foundation;
- Newborn (0 to 3 months) should sleep for about 14 – 17 hours a day

- Infant (4 to 11 months) should sleep for about 12 – 15 hours a day

- Toddler (1 to 2 years) should sleep for about 11 – 14 hours a day

- Preschool (3 to 5 years) should sleep for about 10 – 13 hours a day

- School Age (6 to 13 years) should sleep for about 10 – 13 hours a day

- Teenagers (14 to 17 years) should sleep for about 8 – 10 hours a day

- Young Adults (18 to 25 years) should sleep for about 7 – 9 hours a day

- Adults (26 to 64 years) should sleep for about 7 – 9 hours a day

- Older Adults (65+ years) should sleep for about 7 – 8 hours a day

Sleep is very important, do not try to elude it from whatever lifestyle you chose to live, you are still human and not an inanimate object.


1. Clive Cookson (2017, October 4) Why we sleep by Mathew Walker. Retrieved from www.ft.com/content/eadc72b2-a535-77e7-9e4f-7f5e6a7c98a2

2. Dr. Armon B. Neel (2013, April) 10 types of Meds that can Cause Insomnia. Retrieved from www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-04-2013/medications-that-can-cause-insomnia.html

3. Amount of Sleep by Age Video by Sleep Perfect.

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