Depression and anxiety are other major causes of insomnia, says expert

Even while moving past yet another World Sleep Day on Friday (March 15), not many of us spared a thought for the significance this day holds for us. Lack of quality sleep is a very real problem today for people all around the world and it can make one feel like the worst thing in the world. Sleep is a vital component of overall wellbeing, affecting the mental, physical and emotional health of adults and children alike.

This day is designed to raise awareness on sleep, a privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life and by sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea. “Good Sleep, Healthy Aging” is this year’s theme.

But are we doing enough for a good, healthy sleep of seven-eight hours everyday? Not many of us are guilt-free on this count. “Sleep disturbances are on the rise, one of the most common causes being the current lifestyle. Unlike in the past when people would finish dinner by 9 p.m. and be off to bed in time, we have many distractions today. We watch TV till late hours introducing adverse sleep cycle over a period of time,” says city-based psychiatrist Vishal Indla. Depression and anxiety, he says, are other major causes of insomnia, which is affecting almost 15 per cent of the population.

“This often results in lack of interest in activities, feeling low and dull and being pessimistic about future. A WHO survey shows that by 2010, after cardiac illnesses, depression will be the second leading cause of morbidity,” he says. Citing instances of patients coming to him with symptoms of severe anxiety disorder, he says excess worrying disallows the mind to be in a relaxed frame. “The mind is unable to shut down due to its pre-occupation,” he says.

Drug abuse, also on the rise, is yet another contributing factor to insomnia. “Once a person is addicted to alcohol or nicotine, he doesn’t get sleep unless he consumes it,” he says. Psychological interruptions such as Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation, a systematic way of relaxing the muscles, and proper sleep hygiene are the remedies he offers.

Disorders like obstructive sleep apnea haunt many. “If left unattended, it can lead to serious problems. Obesity being the main culprit, we usually ask patients to reduce weight,” says E&T specialist Singari Prabhakar. “It causes one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. But normal breathing starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound,” he says. The best way to keep sleep disorders at bay, says Mr. Vishal, is to follow a few simple steps. Switch off the light at least an hour before going to sleep, have a light meal at night, establish a regular bedtime and waking time and reserve your bed for sleep only, avoiding its use for any other work.

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