Do Not Burn The Midnight Oil: Sleep Well And Stay Healthy

Exclusive on World Sleep Day, 19 March
Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking. It is crucial for our overall health and well being. Research shows that we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping. Good quality and restorative sleep is essential for day-to-day functioning. Studies suggest that sleep quality, as well as quantity, impacts our life. On an average, a normal adult needs 7-8 hours of good sleep. In teenagers this may go up to 9 hours, while the elderly can do with 5-6 hours of it. World Sleep Day is on 19th of March.

According to Dr Manvir Bhatia (click here to listen to exclusive CNS audio podcast), Chairperson Sleep Medicine and Senior Consultant ,Department of Neurology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, "sleep is an essential commodity, which should not be dispensed with, as it cannot be compensated with anything else. It has a strong relationship with health. So we need to look after it well." Read more

Ghalib, the famous poet has said in one of his couplets "maut ka ek din muayyin hai, neend kyu raat bhar nahin aati" (the day of death has been fixed by the Almighty, So why spend sleepless nights).

World Sleep Day 2010 is being held on 19th March, under the slogan "Sleep Well, Stay Healthy". It is an international annual event, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, and social aspects. It is organized by the "World Association of Sleep Medicine", with the aim to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better understanding, prevention and management of sleep conditions by raising awareness through dissemination of information.

Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world's population. There is substantial evidence that sleep plays an important role in metabolic, cognitive, restorative, immune, and endocrine functions. Hence disruption in sleep affects all these.

Most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable, yet less than a third of sufferers seek professional help. Sleep medicine is a recent speciality which deals with various problems related to sleep, ranging from obstructive sleep apnoea - with predominant symptoms of snoring, to insomnia (30-45% adults suffer from it) or reduced and poor quality of sleep. Narcolepsy is another cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. Very often, persons suffering from these complaints are not aware of the health hazards associated with them.

Persons with sleep disorders may suffer from insufficient sleep at night and wake up listless, spending the day poorly, with little concentration and more aches and pains. Or they may have loud snoring and also wake up tired. In both cases there are periods of irresistible tendency to take a nap or doze off during work. This affects day time concentration, and hence productivity. It also increases the chances of having other diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attack etc. Apart from this, hundreds of people lose their lives unnecessarily every year due to sleep-related traffic accidents, including airlines and railways accidents.

Dr Bhatia laments the 'junk sleep syndrome' prevalent in the modern day teenagers. They are prone to using a whole lot of gadgets like I-Pod, internet, video games, television, or simply studying till late in the night, thus pushing their sleep time too late. Obviously they have difficulty in waking up in the morning and concentrating on their studies in school. They reach home tired, take a nap and the pattern repeats itself. It is not very uncommon to find such students having a 'black out' during examination time. These children are likely to develop a poor memory and low scholastic aptitude, and also an impaired immune function, thus inviting a host of diseases.

It must not be forgotten that poor sleep is a symptom of a cause like obstructive sleep apnoea, poor life style, anxiety, depression etc. Very often the sufferer resorts to the use of sleeping pills, which causes more harm than good. This self medication often becomes addictive in the long run, resulting in more problems.

More must be done to completely understand sleep and to understand better the cause of sleep disorders. We need to increase awareness about sleep related disorders particularly in students, and those working in BPO industry, railways, airlines and road transport services.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of these disorders can prevent serious health conditions and improve the quality of life.

SIR GANGARAM HOSPITAL and NEUROLOGY AND SLEEP CENTRE have taken a step in the direction of increasing awareness among general public about sleep disorders by organizing free Sleep Camps, under the guidance of Dr Manvir Bhatia. These camps provide free consultation by sleep specialists, besides offering dietary advice, yoga training, and psychological counselling related to sleep with provision for blood investigations and sleep studies.

A good night's sleep takes care of many of the physiological and metabolic parameters of our life.

So look after your sleep and enjoy a good health. Wake up every day feeling refreshed to face the challenges of life with renewed vigour.



Shobha Shukla(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS), has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)

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