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Alex Hansen's picture

Alex Hansen

Paul Grobstein

Neurobiology and Behavior

May 17, 2007


- The Need for Sleep -



Without sleep, human existence would fail to survive. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sleep – along with food, water, air, etc. – lies within the first basic level of the pyramid known as physiological. Thus, with an absence of sleep, achievement of the four upper levels – safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization – becomes impossible.[1] Medical professionals state that the optimal desired amount of sleep includes anywhere from seven to ten hours of sleep each persisting night. Those who fail to achieve the proper amount of sleep, fail to transcend the physiological level, are often labeled as insomniacs. The US Department of Health and Human services concludes that yearly, approximately sixty million Americans suffer from this inability to sleep, insomnia. The three types of insomnia which individuals endure are known as transient insomnia, acute insomnia, and chronic insomnia. Statistics illustrate that one’s susceptibility to insomnia increases with age and that women are at a higher risk than men, as approximately forty percent of women are affected while only thirty percent of men suffer.[2] Such figures and information often lead to inquisitions regarding the cause of this insomnia. Although studies demonstrate the medical aspects of the ‘disorder,’ complete identification as a medical disease appears implausible. The role of the mind in the inability to sleep needs to be considered as an essential cause. With such, the amount of control one possesses with regards to sleep can be indicative of the causes of insomnia and the power of our minds rather than apparent medical rationale.

The use of drugs is key in interpreting this sleep disorder. Often, drugs play the role of initiating insomnia while additionally often act to aid in recovery. The drugs that serve as a cause of the lack of sleep are stimulants. Such stimulants include caffeine, alcohol, food, nicotine and amphetamines. Consumption of caffeine prior to bed often interferes with the act of falling asleep, along with the individual’s sleep throughout the night. Such sleep interruptions are also related to alcohol consumption.[3] Thus, although these stimulants appear to chemically interfere with sleep, the actual utilization of the stimulants is the individual’s conscience choice. The individual consciously knows that the drugs will interfere with sleep, yet such knowledge does not prohibit its use. Therefore, overall, it is the I-function, the conscious mind, that controls the lack of sleep among individual.

In comparison, the other forms of drugs associated with insomnia are medications which include amitriptyline, diazepam, lorazepam, zolpidem, zaleplon, benzodiazepines, etc.[4] Thus, the physical and medical components of the condition can be explained through such, however other evidence suggests otherwise. While these antidepressants and benzodiazepines have proven to assist those diagnosed with insomnia, other studies have concluded that “they sabotage their sleep by believing they can't fall asleep.” As psychological acceptance regarding sleep becomes nearly impossible, the dependence on these sedative drugs becomes a dangerous consequence. [5] The belief that the individual is incapable of falling asleep without the use of a particular drug overpowers the actual medical treatment of that drug. These conclusions indicate that the mind possesses much power, the I-function possesses much power, in controlling the amount of sleep one individual attains. Thoughts and emotions arise as the cause of the inability to sleep and the inability to resolve the disorder rather than a physical or medical problem. As a result, the proficiency of medical interventions in curing insomnia becomes questionable while other means of assistance become increasingly supported and available.

One curative method is known as cognitive behavioral therapy. Through simple interpretation of the name, the relationship between the mind and insomnia is ascertained. The aim of such therapy is to “change thought patterns and remove faulty beliefs about sleep” for sometimes, “if a person has experienced bouts of insomnia in the recent past, he or she cannot fall asleep because they become anxious about suffering from insomnia.”[6] Often, these concerned thoughts are escalated, for the individual proceeds to not sleep, leading to the establishment of more nervous and worried thoughts, leading to an increased lack of sleep. Ironically, a night-time routine can even cause increased anxiety as well due to the increased arousal levels of performing these supposed therapeutic tasks.[7] However, the anxiety from which the person suffers is an emotion created in the mind, and thus, comparatively, controlled by the mind, controlled by the person’s I-function. Thus, through cognitive behavioral therapy, which Oxford has deemed as the most effective manor in controlling insomnia,[8] the individual is trained to successfully deal with the stress and anxiety interfering with his or her sleep and establish healthy sleep habits. The therapy works to orient the person into a new mindset, illustrating the power of the psyche over the body regarding insomnia.

Another form of effective therapy in resolving insomnia is meditation. Such is defined as “the state of concentrated attention on some object of thought or awareness, usually involving turning the attention inward to the mind itself.” Thus, meditation is the control over the mind. Through performing varied meditation techniques, relaxation and a calming effect are usually achieved, which in turn act to lower these emotional causes of insomnia, working to ultimately produce effective sleep patterns.[9] Specifically, meditation is stated to make the individual objective in emotionally difficult situations, and thus, insomnia can be concluded to be an emotionally difficult situation rather than medical. One such technique seen among Buddhists is called Metta – the mediation practice of generating feelings of love, kindness and goodwill which work to sooth the mind and nullify negative thoughts. Within the Metta Sutta – Buddha’s words on kindness – Buddha tells of the benefits of Metta meditation including “easeful sleep.”[10] Thus, cleansing the mind of negative thoughts and establishing positive emotions aids in the curing of insomnia.

In accordance with the negative thoughts of anxiety and stress, fear acts to inhibit sleep among individuals. Especially among young children, night terrors are a large source of such intrusive fear. Therefore, ridding the individual of his or her nightmares in turn evaporates the fears, allowing for a long awaited night of restful sleep. To control an individual’s level of fear is to control the individual’s insomnia. Such is achieved through the individual’s mind remaining in control. Other advantageous methods to evade instilment of fear include avoiding punishing a child by sending him or her to bed, and avoiding horror movies before the hours of sleep.[11] Otherwise, therapeutic counseling is advised as a means to deal with one’s fear, just as cognitive behavioral therapy is suggested for those with high levels of interfering stress and anxiety. Therefore, such provides further evidence supporting the notion of insomnia as a mental disorder.

The solution for insomnia simply appears to revolve around the issue of control. As control is determined by the mind, insomnia is better defined as a condition of the mind rather than a medical disease of the body to be solved with drugs. Control over one’s emotions, control over one’s stimulant intake, control over one’s sleep patterns, etc. has the ability to determine the capacity for one to sleep. Particularly, there exists an example of a woman whose emotions inhibited her from falling asleep. Through therapy, the woman gained control over her negative thoughts and regained a healthy sleep system by awaking herself at the same time, regardless of the time she went to sleep, for approximately three consecutive weeks. This woman is a prime example of insomnia as a mental disorder involving one’s I-function. Furthermore, Thai Ngoc serves as proof as well. For thirty-three years, this Vietnamese man consciously rejected sleep and yet suffers from no medical complications and remains completely mentally sane.[12] Thus, for insomnia to truly be a physical complication of the body, Thai Ngoc would have suffered from medical effects. In conclusion, insomnia – the inability to sleep – can be cured by focusing on the individual’s I-function and using such to develop healthier mental thoughts and sleep patterns. Thus, if such is true for this disorder, this disease, questions regarding other diseases begin to arise. How many of the other diseases from which individuals suffer are overly diagnosed as physical rather than mental? How many disorders could simply be cured through examining and reflecting upon the individual’s I-function?

[1] Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Http://

[2] Insomnia. Http://

[3] Ohayon, Roth T. Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine. What are the contributing factors for insomnia in the general population? ?cmd=Retrieve &db =Pub Med&listuids=11750297&dopt=Citation. December 2001

[4] Ripu D. Jindal. Maintenance Treatment of Insomnia: What Can We Learn From the Depression Literature? Http:// January 2004

[5] Health Pyschology and Rehabilitation. Better Than Sleeping Pills? Http://www. April 2007

[6] Health Pyschology and Rehabilitation. Better Than Sleeping Pills? Http://www. April 2007

[7] Adam Health Care System. Sleeping Difficulty. encyclopedia/Sleeping-difficulty.htm. March 2007

[8] Causes of Insomnia. Http:// psychological.

[9] Insomnia. Http://

[10] Meditation. Http://

[11] Health Pyshcological Associates. Getting to Sleep A Self-Management Program For Overcoming Insomnia. 2005

[12] Sleep. Http://


insomnia's picture


well,zolpidem and eszopiclone are coparatively safe and having very less addiction liability.