Online Encyclopedia

INSOMNIA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 644 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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INSOMNIA, or deprivation of sleep (Lat. somnus), a common and troublesome feature of most illnesses, both acute and chronic. It may be due to pain, fever or cerebral excitement, as in delirium tremens, or to organic changes in the brain. The treatment, when failure to sleep occurs in connexion with a definite illness, is part of the treatment of that illness. But there is a form of sleeplessness not occurring during illness to which the term " insomnia " is commonly and conveniently applied. It must not be confounded with occasional wakefulness caused by some minor discomfort, such as indigestion, nor with the " bad nights " of the valetudinarian. Real insomnia consists in the prolonged inability to obtain sleep sufficient in quantity and quality for the maintenance of health. It is a condition of modern urban life, and may be regarded as a malady in itself. It is a potent factor in causing those nervous breakdowns ascribed to " overwork." It may occur as a sequel to some exhausting illness, notably influenza, which affects the nervous system long after convalescence. But it very often occurs without any such cause. Professional and business men are the most frequent sufferers. Insomnia is comparatively rare among the poor, who do little or no brain work. It may be brought on by some exceptional strain, by long-continued worry, or by sheer overwork. The broad pathology is simple enough. It has been demonstrated by exact observations that in sleep the blood leaves the brain automatically. The function is rhythmical, like all the vital functions, and the mechanism by which it is
End of Article: INSOMNIA
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