30% of UAE residents experience insomnia for certain period

Insomnia fades away on its own once the person’s stress levels reduce.
Insomnia fades away on its own once the person's stress levels reduce.

The trouble with prolonged sleeping problems is that it is a risk factor for chronic health problems.

By Asma Ali Zain

Published: Sat 23 Jun 2018, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 25 Jun 2018, 9:09 AM

Human beings spend a third of their lives sleeping, or trying to sleep. It is, therefore, important to assess how we can sleep better and make it a healthy habit.
"Light is the most powerful influencer of the body's circadian clock. Bright lights in the evening hours can confuse your brain into thinking it's still daytime," said Dr Hassan Al Hariri, head of sleep medicine at Rashid Hospital.
Sleep hygiene is a term used to include just about anything related to your sleep habits. "Artificial blue light (the type that laptops, tablets and mobile phones emit) is the worst culprit, so get rid of these devices at least two hours before bedtime," he added.
"Consistency is also key for sound and regular sleep. Try sleeping and waking up at the same time on most days including weekends if possible."
Experts estimate almost 30 per cent of the UAE population experiences insomnia for a certain period in their life. While in most cases, insomnia fades away on its own once the person's stress levels reduce, there are cases where medical intervention is needed.
The trouble with prolonged sleeping problems is that it is a risk factor for chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Sleep deprivation should not be taken lightly as it can affect everything from your memory to your immune system, heart and metabolism, said Dr Al Hariri.
"Sleep deprivation due to medical conditions such as obesity and arthritic pain needs immediate medical intervention," he added. "The patient should visit a primary healthcare physician who may recommend specialised treatment.
"If the person is unable to sleep for three weeks in a row and continues, it becomes chronic insomnia and treatment can be very challenging."
A study by the University of Surrey in England revealed that the quality of sleep can even have an impact on a genetic level. It found that getting less than six hours a night affected the activity of more than 700 genes associated with controlling responses to stress, immunity and inflammation.
At Rashid Hospital's sleep clinic, doctors see more than 500 new patients a year.
Given the high obesity rates in the country, about 70 per cent of the patients are affected by obstructive sleep apnea due to obesity. About 20 per cent are cases of sleep deprivation due to stress and other medical-related issues and the remaining 10 per cent are due to insomnia.
These figures do not reflect overall emirate-wide statistics, said Dr Al Hariri. "At Rashid Hospital, we emphasise on obesity-related sleep problems and work with doctors from other departments to ensure obese patients receive early and comprehensive intervention to prevent further complications."
Snoring is one of the first signs of sleep apnea. The problem is usually first noticed by the patient's spouse who is disturbed by the patient's loud snoring.
Dr Al Hariri said that sleep apnea is a disorder in which one's airway becomes obstructed while asleep, causing loud snoring to a complete cessation of breathing, cardiac arrhythmias and low blood oxygen levels at its worst.
"The airway of the obese individual becomes obstructed by large tonsils, enlarged tongue and increased fat in the neck, all pressing on the airway when the throat muscles are relaxed during sleep," he said.
Sleep apnea is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can be dangerous as patients with sleep apnea can fall asleep anywhere, even while driving.
Earlier, people didn't seek medical intervention for sleep problems, but with greater awareness they are realising the importance of early intervention. "It is important to discuss your sleep patterns with your primary healthcare physician," said Dr Al Hariri.

How to maintain Restful sleep for children

>Children need much more sleep than adults; the number of hours depends on the age of the child
>Keep external stimulants such as TV and all tech devices at bay two hours prior to bed time
>Avoid installing a TV in your children's bedroom
>If your child has regular trouble sleeping, keep a sleep chart and jot down your observations, present the details to a doctor if the problem is persistent
>Do not let weekends mess up your child's biological clock. Try to keep the bedtime and wake-up time as close to the weekdays as possible for consistency
>During holidays, ensure that children go back to their regular sleep schedule at least one week prior to the school commencing date
>Exercise, particularly in the day helps induce sleep
>Provide the right nutrition support: No sugar four to six hours before bedtime is ideal
>A warm bath before bedtime relaxes the muscles and helps provide a restful sleep
>Do not give chocolate/sugars to children who have restless leg syndrome, especially few hours prior to bedtime
>If your child sleepwalks, put your child back in his bed.

Ways to get a restful sleep

>Maintain a regular sleep and wake-up schedule, and try to stick to it even on weekends
>Keep the room dark, opt for heavy or blackout curtains and wear an eye mask if needed.
>Do not bring papers or a laptop to bed, keep your phones away and avoid watching TV. Screen time disrupts your sleep routine.
>Avoid smoking before going to bed because it has a stimulant effect. Avoid large meals at dinner time.
>Avoid sleeping more than eight hours a day
>Do not take afternoon naps. If you need a nap, it should be early afternoon and not more than 30 minutes.
>Avoid caffeine-containing beverages and foods such as teas, sodas and chocolate six to eight hours before bedtime
Source: Rashid Hospital sleep clinic


Sleep for health
If you are sleep deprived, you may be falling sick more often. What you need to ask yourself is whether smart devices are keeping you awake and upsetting your sleep patterns. If they do, keep them aside for some shut eye of eight hours. Rest. Feel refreshed. It could save you healthcare costs and improve your productivity. Why be in a bad mood for work and relationships that matter to you?   

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