On Sunday 29, September 2019, immediately I stepped out of the Church premises and switched on my phone, the first call was an angry regular reader of my column from Zonkwa in Kaduna State. “Doc Sir” she bellowed, “you promised, to discuss sleep disorders, this week, but you wrote about anti malaria.” I apologised profusely, that it was due to popular demand. Then I promised to oblige her this week. She also commended my new look “Doctor Sun” logo, adding that she has been reading my column since 2003. I remarked that she deserves an award.
Yes, I promised to discuss sleep disorders last week, but a plethora of demands from readers made me discuss anti-malaria for the umpteenth time.
To understand sleep disorders, we must know sleep requirements. Now let us begin.
Most of the unborn child’s day is spent sleeping.
After birth, the amount of sleep needed gradually declines with growth.
A new born sleeps on average 16 hours a day, though he may be deceptively quiet at other times.
A 6-year-old sleeps for 10 hours.
A 12-year-old sleeps for 9 hours.
An adult sleeps for 7 hours 20 minutes, on average give or take one hour.
But there are wide variations around these figures, some babies sleep for 10 hours 30 minutes, others 23 hours.
Some adults sleep 14 hours, others only 2 to 3 hours.
The need for sleep is highly personal, and it is not known why. It does not match ones sex, or one’s intelligence, or the amount of exercise one gets.
However, it is thought that when many people try to get too much sleep they have insomnia, necessitating the use of sleeping tablets, because they fail to realise that their need for sleep is relatively low.
Whether adult needs for sleep declines with advancing age is uncertain. The tradition is that those over 65 need on average 5 hours 30 minutes at night.
But recent evidence has suggested that needs are constant from 30 years on.
Somnabulism –Sleep walking.
This is sleep in which the parts of the brain that control the muscles have stayed awake. The person may speak, sit-up, and even get out of bed and walk about.
The senses are partly awake, for objects are avoided, but the experience is not remembered on waking.
This is the opposite of Somnabulism. The person wakes intellectually, but for a time cannot move. The experience is frightening, but harmless.
Insomnia – Sleeplessness.
This may be occasional or chronic. Sometimes it is not really sleeplessness at all: the person has slept, but not realised it, because it was so restless and un refreshing.
Causes of occasional insomnia include:
Feeling cold or using too tight bed clothing.
Causes of regular insomnia include:
Difficulty in breathing, when lying down as in lung or heart disorder.
Bad food habits – especially eating or drinking tea or coffee, too late in the evening
A need to urinate during the night.
A noisy, airless, or overheated bedroom
Lack of exercise during the day.
Trying to sleep more than you need
Psychological factors – overwork and worry about work
But the main cause of any insomnia, whether occasional or regular, is simply the fear that one is not going to sleep.
Treatment of sleeplessness.
Sufferers from insomnia should remove any external causes.
Cultivate a relaxed attitude to sleep.
Take a warm bath prior to sleeping.
Take a warm drink – beverage.
Quiet reading, talking, singing or humming some soft lullaby could drift you into sleep.
Remember , I mentioned last week an incontrovertible medical fact – “nobody has been able to predict when he will sleep off QED.”
A gentle routine of preparing for bed, can be useful in re-educating the mind to the idea of a good night sleep.
NB – sleeping pills are best used, only when there are serious and fairly, temporary outside emotional disturbances eg acute grief or death.
Always be medically guided.
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