Lack of sleep is common in India, and many people don’t even realise they're sleep deprived. A survey last year said that as many as a third of working people had to sacrifice sleep to meet various commitments in life.
“Most of the people suffering from sleep deprivation don’t realise it,” says Dr. Manvir Bhatia, the Director of Neurology and Sleep Centre, and Chairperson of the Department of Sleep Medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. She says many of her patients seek medical advice when symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as high blood pressure or heart problems, develop.
The most common case is partners and spouses getting disturbed sleep at night, which might lead to people realising something is wrong. Here are the five most common causes of sleep deprivation in India:
Hyperactivity: Some people are just hyperactive and get anxious at the thought of sleeping, notes Dr Bhatia. This condition is referred to as "hyper arousal system," and anything from thoughts to normal events can trigger it, resulting in insomnia. For example, thinking of pending work might make you slightly worried, but the hyperactive person might not sleep through the night. The treatment for this involves psychological interventions to help the patient calm down, and also alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation.
Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea involves loud snoring and pauses in breathing. This can cause increases in blood pressure, weight gain and heart problems. Often the symptoms are also the cause. For instance, obesity leads to apnea. Usually the patient is unaware of it unless their bed partner tells them about it. Many patients continue to ignore it, as they believe snoring is normal. “They maintain that everyone in their family snores, so there is nothing wrong,” says Dr. Bhatia. Around 120 million Indians have this condition, and Dr Bhatia reckons that 80% of them are unaware of it. The cure includes lifestyle changes, such as weight-loss exercises.
Use of Mobile Devices: Use of devices such as iPads and smartphones affects sleep, especially for those who are already sleep deprived. Backlight from LCD screens, including from television and laptops, can adversely affect sleep for everyone. Reading a paperback book at bedtime works far better than reading an e-book on your iPad.
Sleeping Too Much: In older people, the requirement of sleep might naturally be reduced. But some people can’t accept that, and take sleeping pills to make their sleep longer. That results in a hangover-like feeling the next day, and forgetfulness. Also, a person might not feel sleepy when they normally should, and that in turn leads to sleep deprivation. Dr Bhatia recommends not using pills at all, unless expressly recommended by a sleep expert.
Low Awareness Levels: Many people who come to Dr Bhatia for advice say that they thought snoring was normal, even if their breathing was interrupted, or it was disturbing their bed partners and other people in the house, so they didn't feel the need to ask for medical advice. Others sought advice from general physicians who agreed with them that nothing was amiss. Also, sleep therapies are not covered by insurance, making the treatment more expensive, particularly in cases of sleep apnea where the person needs to use a mask.
Most importantly, it is necessary to act before sleep deprivation leads to more serious conditions, such as heart issues or obesity. Sleep well!