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Bacopa for Insomnia

Bacopa for Insomnia

Insomnia, as we ordinarily understand, is characterized by a person’s inability to sleep. It may be either psychological disorder in origin or triggered by some other chronic health issues. Unlike other diseases which are often characterized by marked and accurate symptoms, insomnia is a loosely defined term in medical literature.  Both traditional and medical understanding of insomnia seems to converge at its definition as one’s inability to sleep. In any psychological survey specifically designed to measure insomniac symptoms in a person, it can be marked by one’s affirmative response to the question “whether you find difficulty to sleep”. Psychologist Roth (Phd), in his medical polysomnographic literature, defines insomnia as any evidence of disturbance to sleep, further widening scope of definition of insomnia. Thus, all forms of disturbances to the sleep varying from  frequent awakenings, long periods of wakefulness to even frequent  temporary periods of awakening late night  has been regarded as insomnia.

Therefore, insomnia, like most other psychosomatic diseases, remains a vaguely defined term crippling the ability of even psychiatrists and medical professionals crystallize a diagnostic definition of insomnia. Thus, they are left only with the option to apply hit and trial method to measure and treat insomnia with its varying severities. Further afflicting their ability to prescribe any perfect treatment regimen to the insomniacs is the absence of any medical tests for psychological disorders. The benchmark to measure this disease is thus the questions that are often asked in psychological survey to the patient. Consequently, prevalence and severity of this disease varies according to the questions in the diagnostic survey asked.

Broadly, there is agreement based on various surveys, medical or otherwise, that at least 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. However, addition of an extra criteria correlating insomnia with day time stress or impairment during diurnal activities usually drops the prevalence estimates of sleep disorder to about 10 %.  Applying further rigorous requirements to definition of insomnia such as presence of additional psychiatric disease and persistence of symptoms for at least 30 days further curtails population suffering from insomnia to 6%. Furthermore, gender and age do also factor in while estimating prevalent population that suffers from sleeping problems as women and senior citizens are more likely to be suffering from this disorder. Moreover, among women insomnia is more frequent during their menopause or menstrual cycle. Presence of a chronic disease is a evidentiary  risk factor among people suffering from insomnia as about 75-90% of the people who report sleeping problems have co-occurrence of another chronic illness such as neurodegenerative disease, dyspnea and reflux disease. However, most common co-morbidity present with insomnia is a psychiatric disease. About 40% of the patients who display symptoms of insomnia also have some psychiatric problem ranging from anxiety, mild depression to more severe disorders such a bipolarity and severe maniac disorder. Although insomnia itself is a sleep disorder but it can also be the result of many other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and circadian rhythm disturbances.

Oxidative Stress and Insomnia

Researchers have demonstrated inverse relationship between oxidative stress and primary insomnia. While, the researchers have confirmed, deep sleep mitigates oxidative stress, presence of insomnia increases oxidative stress considerably. This bidirectional relationship between sleep and oxidative stress was studied in a research and it was proved that the lack of sleep may be a serious oxidative challenge to brain. The scientists established that inducing sleep in wild flies increases their survival chances even after oxidative stress. Moreover, decreasing oxidative stress reduces sleep. Thus, this study has established that key function of the sleep is to defend against oxidative stress. Sleep acts as anti oxidant for both brain and body.

Consequences of Insomnia

 Insomniacs have been reporting decreased quality of life in most surveys that assessed effects of insomnia on person’s lifestyle.  Insomnia tends to adversely affect daytime physical functioning, social functioning and vitality of the person; however, more pronounced impairment that is related to insomnia is Heart Failure. Redekar, Jeon, Campbell and other scientists (2010) have, in their research paper, quoted that whopping 73% of the people suffering from Heart Failure have had sleeping problems at one time.

Ayurvedic understanding of Insomnia

Causal understanding of any disease or disorder in Ayurveda is that imbalances in three humors viz. Vata, Pitta and Kapha in body cause disorder or disease. According to Ayurvedic texts, sleep is caused by Kapha while any disturbance in insomnia is caused when Pitta and/or Vata humors are in imbalance. Increased arousals at night usually are attributed in people with Vata (Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana, chapter 20).  People with Pitta dosha dominance may have sleep which is disturbed by thoughts and dreams. Pitta symbolizes heat and its domination may usually mean increased heat in the natural system of the body.  Kapha dosha is associated with heaviness, moisture and lubrication. It brings calmness and causes sleep.

Ayurvedic Acharya Chakrapani defines sleep as withdrawal of mind from its sense-objects. Sushurta, another great Acharya of Ayurveda, compares sleep to Maya to Vishnu. Vishnu here means human consciousness that expands further from body-mind complex of human being. He, while stressing its physiological importance, opines that sleep is the most important rejuvenator.

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