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Psychology revision Part C Disorders of sleep
Sleep disorders explanations for insomnia
[Defined in terms of the number of hours of sleep a person has because there is large individual's
difference in the amount of sleep which is normal for each person. (e.g. age related differences)
Insomnia may be trouble falling asleep (initial insomnia), trouble remaining asleep (middle insomnia)
or waking up too early (terminal insomnia). Can either be transient (short term), intermittent
(occasional) or chronic (lasted one month for more).
Causes of insomnia:
Secondary Insomnia: where a single, underlying medical, psychiatric or environmental cause so the
insomnia is secondary and not the real problem. Can be characteristic of depression for heart disease
and is also typical of people who do shift work or have circadian rhythm disorders such as phase
delay syndrome. Insomnia can also occur due to too much caffeine which is a result of an
Primary Insomnia: cases in which insomnia occurs by itself without an known cause for more than
one month. This becomes the personal primary problem and so may leave the individual feeling
stressed or depressed but psychological states aren't the main problem. This can occur if the
individual has developed bad sleeping habits such as staying awake too late or sleeping in a room
with too much light. Insomnia may continue because of an expectation of sleep difficulty
A02: it is important to distinguish between primary and secondary insomnia because of the
treatment which follows diagnosis. If it is secondary insomnia it is important to treat the other
disorder rather than the insomnia. No point treating the insomnia is the individual is suffering from
Ohayon and Roth (2003): study into weather insomnia is just an effect or weather it is the cause.
15,000 Europeans found insomnia more often proceeded than followed cases of mood disorders.
Therefore it might in some cases be helpful to treat insomnia regardless of weather it has a primary
or secondary diagnosis.
Real world application: a cause of primary insomnia id s person's belief that they are going to have
trouble sleeping and so therefore the expectation becomes self fulfilling because the person
becomes tense. The attribution theory suggests that the insomniac has learned to attribute sleep
difficulties to insomnia. If the individual can be convinced that the source of their difficulty lies
elsewhere this will end the insomnia. Storms and Nisbetter (1970) investigated this by giving
insomnias a pill and one group was told it would stimulate them or that it would act as a sedative.
Those who expected to fall asleep fell asleep faster than those told it was going to stimulate them.
Risk factors influencing insomnia:
Age and Gender: older people and women more likely to be suffer. Increasing physical problems in
the elderly can disrupt sleep and therefore lead to insomnia. And in women this may be due to age
related hormonal changes such as the menopause.
Sleep apnoea: where an individual stops breathing during sleep which can last from seconds to
minutes and can occur 5-30 times an hour which has a majorly disruptive effect on sleep. Other
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This all increases the likelihood
that someone will experience insomnia.
Personality: Kales et al (1976) suggests that insomnias were more likely to internalise psychological
disturbance rather than acting out problems or being aggressive. Internalisation can lead to higher
levels of emotional arousal and increased likelihood of feeling anxious which is a risk factor for
Spielman and Glovinsky (1991) propose a distinction between predisposing (genetic vulnerability),
precipitating and perpetuating (factors which maintain insomnia when the original cause has gone or
been treated) components.…read more
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Narcolepsy: [a disorder where individuals experience sudden and uncontrollable attacks of
sleep at irregular and unexpected times, can last seconds or minutes]
Symptoms: Two main symptoms are feeling sleepy all the time and episodes of cataplexy (loss of
muscular control) during the day. These symptoms are generally aroused by emotional states such as
anger, fear, amusement or stress. Other symptoms include hallucinations and sleep paralysis which
interrupts a usual night's sleep.
1 in 2000: people are suffers, however many people go undiagnosed.…read more
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NREM/SWS and is related to night terrors which are only found in NREM sleep and are also
most common in children.
Real world application: Occasional cases where expert testimony is required in order to be able to
decide whether a person's was actually sleep walking, e.g. cases of murder where the accused has
claimed that the act was committed while sleep walking. Jules Lowe, aged 32, attacked and killed his
82 year old father. He claimed he had no recollection because he was sleeping walking.…read more