Sleeping Disorders - Dyssomnia

JAN 30, 2021

The advent of the pandemic has brought into the forefront problems associated with sleeping. While we’ve discussed normal irregularities in sleeping in an earlier post, this one discusses disorders related to sleeping that have a psychological origin, i.e., psychogenic or nonorganic sleeping disorders.

Nonorganic sleeping disorders can be of two types: Dyssomnias and Parasomnias. Dyssomnia refers to sleeping disorders that manifest as an impairment in the amount, quality or timing of sleep, due to emotional causes. These include insomnia, hypersomnia and disorder of sleep - wake schedule. Parasomnias, on the other hand, refer to irregularities that occur during sleep, such as sleepwalking (somnambulism), sleep terrors and nightmares. We shall be discussing each of the Dyssomnias below.

Insomnia involves a difficulty falling asleep, or maintaining sleep - which often leads to waking earlier than one would like. Sometimes it simply manifests as poor quality of sleep. Due to this, people with insomnia often find themselves thinking about their sleeplessness day in and day out, and the anxiety surrounding poor sleep can in turn intensify one’s sleeplessness. When such sleeplessness begins to impair everyday functioning and causes distress, it is time to visit a qualified mental health professional, so as to uncover the underlying emotional causes and to learn to manage the, better.

In some ways, hypersomnia presents a problem that is opposite to insomnia. It involves an excessive amount of daytime sleepiness even one when has had a good night of sleep. Hypersomnia can sometimes mimic another sleep disorder that has physiological origins - Narcolepsy. However, what differentiates the two is that Hypersomnia does not exhibit other symptoms of Narcolepsy, such as sleep paralysis (an inability to move at all while feeling consciously awake, during sleep), sleep apnea (short periods of interruptions in breathing while sleeping), and the like. Note that while Hypersomnia has underlying psychological causes, narcolepsy requires medical assistance from a doctor due to its physiological origin.

Disorder of the Sleep-Wake Schedule
This is a dyssomnia wherein one’s sleep schedule is out of sync from what is considered normal according to one’s context. It manifests as insomnia during the hours that are normally ascribed to sleeping, and Hypersomnia during the time that is normally ascribed as the waking period. Usually, this means that people with this disorder have trouble, both, sleeping at night and staying awake in the morning.

More often than not, sleeping disorders have an underlying psychological or physical cause, no matter how independent they may appear. Identifying and managing the underlying causes is usually successful in managing sleep disorders. Most people hesitate seeking help for sleeping disorders out of an aversion to sleeping pills. However, sleeping pills are not the only cure. If you or anyone you know is suffering from any form of sleep irregularities, speaking to a Counsellor or a Psychologist, to identify and manage underlying causes, can be of great help.