Despite the fact that sleep inducing medication is at the top of the list of prescribed medicines in the civilised world, insomnia is one of the few medical problems doctors treat without objective clinical evidence.
Doctors seldom actually see the problem the patient just tells the doctor that he has trouble sleeping and medication is prescribed on that basis. However, a patient’s word can be very misleading, as was seen when some Russian doctors researched a group of patients who claimed that they did not sleep at all during the night.
Using a polysomnograph a special piece of equipment designed to give an objective picture of the brain’s activity by registering a whole range of physiological parameters during sleep they found that
patients actually slept for 4-5 hours. Their sleeping pattern was different from the sleep of ‘good’ sleepers, but they slept none the less.
In other words, many people who wake up 2-3 times during the night are inclined to believe that they are insomniacs, and rather than ask their doctor if this is the case, they just ask for sleeping pills. And some doctors (not all), in turn, prescribe medication without asking any questions at all.
Some researchers are unhappy with the term ‘insomnia’, believing that the word itself adds psychologically to the burden of being unable to sleep. However, none of the alternative terms used to describe sleeping problems is precise, and none really gives a full picture of what is involved.
Three Sleep Scenarios
– You sleep short hours but feel fully alert and rested all day. If you fit into this category you are not an insomniac no matter how little you sleep. You are simply able to function well on less sleep than most people, which gives you more hours in which to get things done (even if they may not be the most socially acceptable hours)!
– You sleep short hours and feel fine for most of the day, but a little bit drowsy for part of it; your performance, however, is not compromised and while you may want to nod off at some point, you can just as easily keep going. Provided that getting less sleep at night is not affecting your physical or mental output, it is quite acceptable from a physiological point of view and, if daytime sleepiness does become difficult to resist.
– You sleep short hours and find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning; you may have a headache, you feel sleepy and weak throughout the day, and are moody and irritable too.