While obesity remains a growing global concern, insomnia is a close contender. According to the Mental Health Information Centre of Southern Africa about 10 percent of adults suffer from insomnia. This percentage could likely be linked to the quality of life in South Africa.

The current economic environment in South Africa coupled with the flailing rand and unemployment on the rise can cause an already stressful environment for the everyday person to spiral out of control. We find ourselves stressed for most of our day dealing with work, securing an income while attempting to host a relatively balanced family life.

Graham Anderson, CEO and Principal Officer at Profmed says, “Insomnia is an experience of inadequate or poor quality sleep characterised by difficulty of falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early in the morning and non-refreshing sleep which often results in tiredness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and irritability. This is a point of concern as it could lead to an increased level of unproductivity in general.”

According to the South African Society of Sleep Medicine (SASSM) about 30 to 40 percent of adults indicate some level of insomnia within any given year, and about 10 percent to 15 percent indicate that the insomnia is chronic and/or severe. The prevalence of insomnia increases with age and is more common in women.

Anderson says it is crucial to understand that sleep is not a luxury and should take as much importance in your daily routine as eating and bathing. For people who have been diagnosed with insomnia or generally have chronic sleeping problems it is essential to cultivate and maintain a good sleep routine.

Anderson suggests:

  •  Ensure your bed and pillow suits your body and is comfortable and promotes good sleep patterns;
  • Avoid stimulants (e.g. caffeine, nicotine or television in the bedroom) before bedtime and consuming large meals before bedtime as it could leave you feeling bloated and unable to relax and fall asleep. Rather have a glass of hot milk or water to help you get into sleep zone;
  • Avoid daytime naps, since they usually result in difficulty in sleeping at night. It’s important to ensure you have a productive day as gradually increasing levels of physical activity early on in the day may produce benefits at night;
  • For some, a hot bath (20 minutes) or relaxation exercises are helpful in getting a peaceful sleep.

“Alternatively, it may be advantageous to seek professional help. In some cases, early referral to a neurologist, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist may be necessary. The cost will depend on which service provider you make use of, the cause of and type of sleep disorder,” explains Anderson.

“Insomnia and chronic sleeping disorders, if not treated early, can lead to extreme consequences such as significant stress in your day-to-day life, emotional and physical discomfort and depression and/or anxiety. This could affect your relationships and job performance adding to the overall stress experienced. It is crucial to identify whether you suffer from disturbed sleeping patterns and practice the above before visiting a specialist. Early detection is better than cure,” concludes Anderson.

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