Sleep Your Way To Health

World Sleep Day is held every year on March 18th, with a view to raise awareness about the merits of sleeping well for a healthy life. The theme for this year (2011) is promoting healthy sleep for all ages. Sleep is a basic human need—a crucial component of healthy living, much like breathing, eating and remaining physically fit. Unfortunately, in today’s world it is often compromised by the habits of a whirl wind lifestyle. Very often our waking hours tread with impunity upon the territory of our dreams. Sleep disorders constitute a global epidemic, affecting up to 45% of the world's population. Insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), restless legs syndrome (RLS), and sleep deprivation significantly impact physical, mental and emotional health, in addition to affecting work performance and personal relationships.

Sleep problems are not limited to adults. Poor sleep also affects about 25% of the world’s children. Lack of quality sleep can lead to accidental injuries, hyper/hypo activity, obesity, emotional problems (irritability, aggressiveness), impaired memory and/or decreased attention span. Sleep disorders also make it more difficult to control diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder is highly co- morbid with psychiatric disorders, and may lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide. It has been demonstrated in various studies that it is associated with a high risk of hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. Short sleep duration also impacts mortality. A study published in the journal Sleep  found an elevated risk of death in men with a complaint of chronic insomnia and objectively measured short sleep duration. Compared to men without insomnia who slept for six hours or more, men with chronic insomnia who slept for less than six hours were four times more likely to die during the 14-year follow-up period.
The results suggest that public health policy should emphasize the diagnosis and appropriate treatment of chronic insomnia.

Obstructive sleep apnea
  is another sleep malaise which refers to snoring and choking in sleep. This happens due to the collapse of air passages during sleep, resulting in reduced oxygen and various cardiac rhythm abnormalities  Recent studies have demonstrated increased risk of sudden death in patients with untreated OSA—especially during the midnight to 6 am period. During this period sudden death from cardiac causes occurred in 46 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea, as compared with 21 percent of people without it.  OSA is also associated with increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome etc.
Children with sleep disordered breathing (SDB)
, if not diagnosed and treated early, may develop complications which will impact their future. SDB may result in behavioural changes such as irritability and aggression, changes in intelligence, memory, attention/ concentration, with a decrease in scholastic performance. Early treatment may reverse the deficits. Thus it is imperative that children with SDB should be diagnosed and treated early to avoid permanent damage.

In a recent interview, given exclusively to CNS, Dr Manvir Bhatia, Senior Consultant, Neurologist and Sleep Specialist at Medanta - the Medicity Hospital, cautioned against students burning the proverbial midnight oil, depriving themselves of sleep, especially during examination time.

She said, "Whatever one learns during the day has to be cemented or stored, and this happens during sleep.  Thus, if one does not sleep, the memory is not stored and one can suddenly go blank during the exams. Also there is activation of the sympathetic system in short sleepers, which produces changes in their metabolic system, like increased chances of getting high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, poor immunity etc. This also applies to the people working in call centres. Their sleep is reduced which has a similar negative impact on health. It is advisable to have minimum light while sleeping, as light interferes with sleep and causes awakening."

According to Dr Bhatia , "Through various activities like free consultation and subsidized investigations on   World Sleep Day  from 16th March – 24th March 2011,  we hope to increase people's understanding of the seriousness of sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which, if not properly managed, can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being."

So safeguard your dream land vehemently from your mundane worldly pursuits and let wakefulness and sleep complement each other as God intended it to be. That would be the real awakening.

Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI).She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email:, website: 

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