Sleep problems a growing health hazard

There has been much talk about obesity as a global health problem in recent years. But another health hazard causing problems for a growing number of people is sleep.

An estimated one third of people in Europe suffer from sleep problems, especially insomnia.

But only 20 percent get medical treatment.

And it gets worse with age. Half the population aged over 65 has trouble finding sleep or sleeping through the night.

To better understand this phenomenon, euronews went to the psychiatric hospital Le Vinatier in Lyon to speak to a sleep specialist. We met doctor Alain Nicolas, a psychiatrist specialising in sleep problems.

Claudio Rocco, euronews:
“Has there been an increase in sleep problems in recent decades, or have we simply become more aware of them?”

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“Progress in sleep medicine over the past 30 to 40 years has made us more aware of these problems, especially in Europe. But on top of that, a growing number of people are complaining about sleep problems in general, and about insomnia in particular, because there is much more social pressure about the issue of sleep.”

“What is the impact of new technologies on this problem?”

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“When it comes to new technologies, the most important is the advent of LED screens, which give off blue light, that has a major impact on the biological clock. This will delay the time you go to bed and therefore the time you get up. This has an impact on the population as a whole, but especially on young people, on teenagers who go to bed later and later.”

“In rural societies, people used to follow the rhythm of the sun. Today all this has changed. What impact does this have on sleep patterns?”

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“Humans have adapted to alternating between day and night, and to the difference between seasons. That was the least detrimental to their health. We often say that it was Edison who really messed up sleep patterns, because by inventing electric light, he suppressed night time, which means you can work or even enjoy leisure activities 24 hours a day. And that is detrimental to your sleep.”

In order to study sleep problems, doctors apply electrodes onto patients’ heads to analyse their brain activity during sleep. The electrodes also record eye movement and muscle activity in the face. Some insomniacs wake up several times a night, and suffer from light, fragmented sleep. The tests also highlight problems of sleep apnea, which is when the patient stops breathing for a short while.

But, according to Doctor Nicolas, there are a few simple tricks to improve your sleep:

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“You have to find a quiet place where you feel safe, where you can relax and focus on sleeping. Secondly, you have to forget about the alarm clock, and concentrate on your need to sleep, be confident that sleep will come.”

“If someone wakes up in the middle of the night, what should they do?”

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“The best thing is to get up, but few people do that. They are afraid of “reactivating” their system. But in fact, it’s a good idea to get up, go to a quiet place with soft lighting, and read to take your mind off sleep. You read five pages, you finish your article, and then you go back to bed and go back to sleep.”

“Is it advisable to have a TV in your bedroom?”

Doctor Alain Nicolas:
“It’s important not to have a TV in your bedroom and think, ‘OK, it’s eight o’clock, I am going to go to bed and watch TV for three hours and at eleven I will turn out the light and go to sleep.’ That never works. You have been lying down for three hours, your body simply doesn’t understand why you have prevented it from sleeping for three hours and why now, you are saying ‘Go to sleep’ after seriously reducing the drive to sleep. Also, by lying there, you’ll have made the temperature rise in your bed, and the higher the temperature, the longer it takes to go to sleep. So: no TV in bed.”

According to Doctor Nicolas, there are five basic rules to improve sleep: darkness, silence, a stable and pleasant temperature, a comfortable room dedicated exclusively to sleep, and trying to get to bed and to get up at regular hours – advice that can be hard to follow considering one person in five in Europe works irregular hours or at night.


By: Euronews (52578.30)

Tags: Euronews

Location: United States

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