Thursday, March 29, 2007


Recent media reports say that a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 27% of the people suffer from sleep disorders or insomnia. That is one person in four. Another estimate claims that over 100 million people in the United States have this problem.

What is insomnia? Dr. Manvir Bhatia, senior neurologist of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital defines it as, “difficulty to initiate or maintain sleep, or both” (Deccan Chronicle, March 26, 2007). Insomnia causes irritability, low mood, reduced energy and efficiency, loss of memory and alertness, and inability to focus, among other things.

The DC report goes on to say, “Studies reveal that those with insomnia have 3.5 to 4.5 times more accidents in general with 1.5 times more work-related accidents and 2.5 times with motor vehicle accidents.” There is more bad news. There could be a link between insomnia and diabetes. A study by Boston University School of Medicine has reportedly found that compared to people who sleep 7-8 hours a day, the incidence of diabetes is more among those who sleep either less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours.

Doctors admit that insomnia is a major public health problem. What causes it? The reasons of insomnia are usually any one or a combination of stress resulting from personal tragedies, emotional tension or physical ailment, sense of insecurity, external factors like excessive noise or light or temperature, and changes in sleep schedules. In some cases it may be due to a disease. It is said that iron deficiency may cause insomnia in some women.

How do people tackle it? Many go on self- treatment. Most commonly used methods are swallowing pills without medical advice, drinking heavily to induce sleep, and in some cases, turning to drugs. Such avenues may have damaging side effects and are costly as well. The sensible thing to do is to visit your doctor. He would check whether any disease factor is involved, and suggest an effective therapy for insomnia.

There are self-help methods that are found to be effective for many persons who have insomnia. Some of them are mentioned here. Regular exercise well before bed time is essential. Avoid daytime naps, heavy drinking, intake of caffeine, and smoking. Have dinner a couple of hours before retiring. A warm bath and a glass of warm milk before going to bed, and reading in bed or listening to relaxing music could help. Follow a regular sleep schedule.

Always remember that not only the muscles but also the mind have to relax for proper sleep.

And, never worry about getting enough sleep. That would be counter-productive.


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