Doctors have cautioned against apathy to seemingly trivial sleep problems, saying a third of humans exhibit one or the other form of 80 types of disorders, some potentially fatal. But the good news is: Cure is equally at hand.
"How you sleep decides how healthy you are. It's a non-negotiable part of life. Do not take the problem lightly," warned top neurologist Dr. Sanjay Manchanda, chair of Sir Gangaram Hospital's Department of Sleep Medicine in New Delhi.
"Sleep disorder contributes to a host of other issues: Reduced quality of life, loss of memory, nervousness, lethargy, depression, family problem, side effects of reckless use of sleeping pills, diabetes, heart ailments and strokes," Manchanda told IANS.
"In fact, 33 percent of road accidents are caused by lack of sleep," he said, adding: "But there is good news - the majority of the cases of sleep deprivation can actually be fully treated," said the physician, seeking to use "World Sleep Day" March 15 to spread awareness.
According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine, the organisers of the World Sleep Day every year, one of the most common disorders is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that causes the throat muscles to relax too much, cutting off or restricting the airway.
This leads to the flow of oxygen to the body to stop for 10 seconds or longer, after which the brain induces an individual to wake up, just enough to open the throat to begin breathing again, starting the cycle over.
"Most of the time, individuals don't remember these episodes in the morning. But this severely disrupts the restorative effects of sleep. People with moderate or severe sleep apnea may wake up hundreds of times each night without knowing it," Manchanda said.
A recent study in India by Philips and The Nielsen Company threw up some interesting facts, as per which while 93 percent of the people felt sleep-deprived, getting less than eight hours a night, only 2 percent discussed it with a physician.
"The survey amplifies the need for education on obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, which are not taken seriously enough among the individuals suffering from them," said the Philips Sleep Survey.
Dr. Raghupati Narasimhan, senior respiratory physician at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, says people most vulnerable to sleep disorders are those who are particularly obese around the next and the trunk area, as also those who suffer from hypertension.
"These people must go for a sleep study. It is conducted overnight and gives us a lot of vital data and insights for effective treatment - the breathing pattern, heart and pulse rate, blood oxygen levels, leg movement," Narasimhan told IANS.
"Accordingly treatment is recommended. It could be the use of C-Pap machines. Some cases may call for surgery. We may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as reducing weight, and changes in some habits," he said.
Among them, one of the most common treatments is a C-Pap machine, which derives its name from the application of "continuous positive airway pressure" (or forcing air) through a patient's nose, to prevent limp throat muscles from closing off the airway.
What, then, is the cost of treatment?
Manchanda and others IANS spoke to said an overnight sleep study in a lab could cost between Rs.5,000 and Rs.15,000 depending on the facility, while the price of C-Pap machines, which have several variants, can range between Rs.35,000 and Rs.90,000.
Terming sleep deficit an epidemic, the World Association of Sleep Medicine has the theme "Good Sleep, Healthy Ageing" for this World Sleep Day, saying: "Getting a good night's sleep is possible at any age and is vitally important for overall health."