As a nation, we are evidently creating new world records — of the notorious kind. We have now made it as the second most sleep-deprived country in the world (after Japan) with an average night sleep of 7 hours and 1 minute.
The findings, according to a survey by activity trackers and wearables maker Fitbit, reveal that Indians get just 77 minutes of rapid eye movement (REM) which is the lowest in the world. And it gets worse... Indians are also the least active and log in only 6,533 steps a day, which is 3,600 steps less than the average of the most active country, Hong Kong. Surprised? Well, not really...
Our ‘Kuch nahin hoga re’ attitude — as
Dr Azad M. Irani, Consultant, Department of Neurology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre puts it — is clearly doing us unimaginable damage but we apparently couldn’t care less. “Unfortunately, India is staring at a health crisis,” Dr Azad maintains.
“Indians are unknowingly adopting the more sedentary lifestyle leading to greater numbers of chronic diseases. Data clearly indicate that high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia and obesity have all increased three-four times in the past two decades.
These numbers are alarming and continue to rise and it has been predicted that if this trend continues 1 in 3 Indians will be suffering from one or more of these chronic diseases by 2050.”
Dr S Guruprasad, Consultant Interventional cardiologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital also believes that the burden of non infectious diseases is going up and younger population are succumbing to the same. “Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the major causes of mortality,” he points out.
However, it’s not all that simple to convince a population, many of whom have their noses tucked into their devices into the wee hours, that sleep deprivation can be deadly. “This is because sleep deprivation has many short and long term adverse effects on health.
The short term consequences include somatic pain, increased response to stress, emotional distress and mood disorders, memory, cognitive and performance deficits.
The long term consequences include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases,” explains Dr Madhusudhan BK, Senior Consultant, Neurologist and Epileptologist, stroke specialist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital.
In fact, sleep deprivation alters performance and cognition in many domains, including executive function, attention/vigilance, memory consolidation, emotional reactivity, risk-taking behaviour, decision-making and judgement. “Studies prove that disrupted sleep is a major etiologic factor in the development of depression,” adds Dr Madhusudhan.
Dr Azad avers that lack of sleep and exercise are probably the most important causes of weight gain and obesity. “Weight gain in turn leads to all of the above mentioned chronic diseases. Not only is the physical health affected but obese people are twice more at risk of developing low mood, depression, lack of motivation. Exercise can be a great anti-depressant as it is known to elevate mood by releasing endorphins and hence must be encouraged in every individual whether they are obese or not.”
So, what makes us, as a nation, so lackadaisical and careless about that most precious commodity — good health?
Dr Azad believes that we run away from taking responsibility for our own health. “Today’s fast life, where one has no time to spend on meditation or exercise, happens to be a major cause. Cruel working hours, long commutes take away most of the day.
Also instead of finding leisure in sports or physical activities we now find peace in our mobile phone. The ‘smart phone’ as we call it has addicted us all to it and we find comfort in playing games or some social media app or watching programs on that little device.”
Also playing its part is the wrong belief that today’s health care is so forward that doctors can cure us if we throw some money. “This is very wrong; a body once diseased remains diseased - a doctor can only treat the problem, not cure it,” he points out.
Many are careless but for the majority it’s a compulsion, avers Dr Madhusudhan. “For example, new mothers or students are prone to sleep scarcity for various reasons. Differences in nightly routines can cause sleep disturbance.
Alcohol and caffeine, that are becoming a part of the lifestyle, are common causes of sleep deprivation. The other important group is the shift workers and practising physicians who wish to but cannot have adequate sleep due to the nature of work.”
Mickey Mehta, holistic health, well-being, wellness, and fitness guru, declares, “We need to sort this mess out ourselves. We need to put our lives in order, where our choice of and time to eat food, and our choice of and time to exercise should be prioritised.
We have to start pre-poning our waking up and sleep time to get better organised. Pranayam like Shitali and Shitkari, where you breathe in through your mouth to cool down your body and left-nostril breathing in the night, would also help.
So does Chamomile tea with nutmeg, meditation and chanting, dimming the lights of your space, disconnecting from smart devices in the last hour, and early dinners.
Even if you are working, find a way to eat your dinner by 6.30-7.00 pm. Practising of Yog Nidra, guided meditation, learning to relax and calm your body with self-induced intentions of tranquillising, will also help immensely,” he vouches.
Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes or less, regular exercise, avoiding stimulants such as nicotine or caffeine during bedtime, establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine, and maintaining a pleasant sleep environment is what Dr Madhusudhan recommends.
This can prevent a majority of short and long term mental and physical adverse effects,” he says. “Our present lifestyles are like ticking time-bombs. We need to wake up soon,” cautions Dr Azad. Aww, must we??