Do you experience loud and chronic snoring, suffer from frequent urination at night, have morning headaches, always feel irritable, depressed, have mood swings and are unable to concentrate on the job you are doing. If yes, it’s time you visit your physician.
These are the symptoms of the now-recognised Sleep Apnea, the most prevalent form of sleep disorder. Yes, Sleep Apnea is only one of the sleep disorders. The others being insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep), parasomnias (abnormal behaviours, emotions, perceptions and dreams that occur during sleep) and sleep deprivation (not having enough sleep).
The stressful times that we are living in is giving sleepless nights to many. In a study done across Asian and African nations sometime back, it was found that at least 5% Indians, above 50 years of age, suffer from various kinds of sleep disorders. Indian women (6.5%) outnumber men (4.3%), when it comes to disturbed sleep. And, majority of them suffer from psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety.
Worse is this problem is not limited to any specific age group, gender or profession. Health experts say they get patients across all age groups and walks of life, although most of our insomnia and sleep deprivation individuals are high performing members of the work force. And obese individuals and the ones with stressful jobs with erratic work hours are more prone to sleep disorders.
While there are many who sleep for just 3-4 hours a day, there is no denying the fact both lack of sleep and disordered sleep impact the quality of life in a profound manner.
The Good news is people are recognizing the problem. Doctors say awareness about sleep disorders is increasing and patients are either self- referred or come through their general physicians. People have finally understood that sleep is an essential part of living.
“Sleep is as essential as diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep can result in fatigue, depression, concentration problems, illness and injury. Poor sleep increases the levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) and other substances that cause inflammation which in turn causes high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Poor sleep can cause of impaired immunity and memory,” says Dr Preeti Devnani, Clinical Director, Comprehensive Sleep Disorder Clinic, Mumbai.
“At our centre we get the entire spectrum of sleep disorders in pediatrics and adults. Insomnia, Sleep apnea, Restless leg syndrome, abnormal movements in sleep and circadian rhythm problems. Men, particularly obese men are more prone to sleep apnea,” she adds.
Different people need different hours of sleep. The requirement of sleep reduces with age. The young need to more sleep than the old.
Infants require about 14-15 hours a day.
Teenagers need about 8.5-9.5 hours on average.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. An average requirement of sleep for a working class individual is 7 and 1/2hr of sleep.
Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual
If you feel fresh and alive after getting up in the morning it means you have had the required amount of sleep. Feeling fresh on awakening is the best marker that you have attained adequate sleep.
Sleep Apnea, (difficulty in breathing at night), is one of the major sleep disorders; others are insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep), parasomnias (abnormal behaviours, emotions, perceptions and dreams that occur during sleep) and sleep deprivation (not having enough sleep). In adolescents and young adults, sleep deprivation is basically due to factors such as work stress, peer pressure, social commitments and poor sleep hygiene
The sad part is that all of these sleep disorders are highly prevalent but often go undiagnosed and untreated leading to a poor quality of life in people affected with these.
The fallout is uncomfortable nocturnal cramps or leg pain as seen in Restless Leg Syndrome, snoring, abnormal arousal or movements while in sleep.
“Disorders related to poor sleep qualities are a significant problem. Caffeine intake and alcohol ingestion affects sleep and a high level of daytime sleepiness is experienced by those who don’t have a good night’s sleep,” says Dr Devnani.
“The urban population has a higher incidence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea as it is linked to sedentary lifestyle and obesity. In India, North eastern population is more at risk of Sleep Apnea linked to craniofacial features,” she adds.
“In India, sleep should be recognized as important to public health. Because sleep insufficiency is often linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors,” opines Dr Devnani.
Sleep difficulties result in irritability and affected lifestyle and interpersonal relationships. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness all may contribute to these hazardous outcomes.
Due to sleep insufficiency, many individuals even the younger folks are likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.
The good thing is sleep disorders are treatable. Sleep disorder treatment needs a more holistic approach, and as in other diseases the treatment depends on the severity of the patient’s condition.
Patients are generally asked to make changes in their lifestyle, eating habits along with adopting simple techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, pacing and yoga techniques. “These simple techniques help relax the body leading to better sleep,” says Dr Devnani. Drugs are also advised, but in chronic cases and as and when required.