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Insomnia: Health effects, causes, preventive measures

By Hadiza Musa Yusuf

It is never a nice feeling when one turns left, right, expecting to sleep but is left counting the ceilings or tracking the movement of the ceiling fan.

Anyone in good health condition should be able to afford a sound, uninterrupted sleep for 7-9 hours per day.

In countries like Nigeria, where mainly businesses in both public and private sectors are conducted during the day, one has ample time to form a healthy sleeping routine.

But what happens when one finds it difficult to sleep or only gets to sleep in segments?

Such condition is what is commonly referred to as Insomnia.

Various studies have shown that a great number of Nigerians suffer from insomnia in varying degrees and for varying reasons.

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Nura Aliyu, a sleep expert in Sman diagnostic center, he explained that insomnia is an abnormal medical condition that is characterized by continuous irregular, inadequate lack of deep, sound sleep.

He explained that insomnia is a sleeping disorder which is classified into brief, (two to four days), and generic insomnia, which lasts for a longer period of time and sometimes can be a lifetime problem.

Causes of insomnia – Dr. Nura

Dr. Nura Aliyu enumerated that the causes of insomnia vary from individual to individual, as there is no particular cause of insomnia.

These causes include;

“Medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, among others may lead to insomnia”

“Mental Conditions/disorder also cause insomnia, as maniac and psychotic patients usually find it very difficult to sleep”

“Medications- people are prescribed drugs based on their clinical findings, and some drugs have side effects, of which insomnia could be one”, added the expert.

“Pregnancy is a cause of insomnia, either the psychological effect of the pregnancy or the anxiety associated with it could lead to insomnia”

Dr. Nura added that, insomnia could also be caused by “Pain, much pain due to illness like arthritis, fear, past traumatic stress disorder, fear of what happened in the past or to someone close”

“Menopause and contraceptive drugs can also cause insomnia”

Dr. Nura added that environment and weather could cause insomnia as rooms that are either too hot or too cold are generally not conducive for sleeping.

“Anxiety/Loneliness-people who are used to sleeping with people find it very hard to sleep alone”, he further explained.

He added that the lifestyle of one can lead to insomnia as irregular sleeping patterns, improper lighting are a hindrance to a good sleep.

Symptoms of insomnia – Dr. Nura

Difficulty in falling asleep, frequent Interrupted sleep, diffuculty in maintaining deep sleep, difficulty in getting back to sleep after waking up, dizziness, tiredness during the day, feeling sleepy during the day time etc.

Preventive measures:

Dr. Nura Aliyu detailed how Insomniac patients need to identify their cause of the disorder, avoid the causes(s) and apply psychotherapy, as not all insomniacs need drugs.

“Regular medical check up, taking medications prescribed only by medical experts, sleeping in conducive environments are all measures that can prevent insomnia “

“Pregnant women should go for antenatal care early, balanced lifestyles, and treating underlying medical conditions causing the insomnia-example, hypertension, mental conditions and disorders,diabetes, cancer etc”, he added.

He further advised: “Treat the main cause of insomnia, avoid thoughts that cause uneasiness,
Install dark modes on your phones when using at night, television screens need to be switched off an hour before bed. Providing supports for individual who are lonely to enable them sleep is also essential”

“Avoid drugs not prescribed by doctors, painkillers should be prescribed to patients with certain diseases to reduce the pain”.

Dr. Nura Aliyu explained that if insomnia is not treated early it may lead to mental illness, or other more grave medical conditions.