By Helen Ovbiagele

The United Nations Organization, apart from its role of ensuring peace and harmony between nations,  is having a closer relationship with the individual, as it directs focus on all the different problems which assail the human life.  Every day of the year marks something in the human welfare; in addition to the usual Children’s day, Labour day, Food day, Water day, days for Women, Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, the Physically challenged, we now have special days for Sight, Hearing, etc.

Recently, the third edition of the World Sleep Day was marked in Lagos with the theme, ‘Good Sleep, Healthy Ageing’, packaged by Mouka Ltd,  and the talk delivered by a neurologist, Prof. Njideka Okubadejo of LUTH.

Even though I was not present at the talk, I was curious about what the experts  have to say about sleep, which is a very important aspect of.  I also wanted to know how this disorder can be combatted in a nation like Nigeria, where stress level is so high.

With the sort of life we are living here, it’s amazing that there are citizens who can still perform well at business or work, and  be focused enough to rise to great heights in their endeavours.  With so many elements working against a sound sleep in our country, I don’t know how such people can achieve this feat. Sleep disorder is so common that many people resort to taking tranquilizers, sleeping tablets, herbal tea, yoga, meditation and acupuncture, in order to have the semblance of a good night’s rest.

Consider the life of the average Nigerian. Security of your life and property is not guaranteed anywhere/any time so, most people cannot sleep with both eyes shut. You jump at the least noise, your heart racing wildly.  Very unsettling.  The dismal performance of  PHCN is another sleep killer, as you can’t always power your fan or air conditioner, and you have to toss and turn on your bed in the sweltering heat, not to mention pitch darkness.

If you’re brave enough to go sit outside your house for cool air, mosquitoes would have your blood for dinner; and you could be arrested for ‘wandering’ by some very zealous law-enforcement people.   You can’t leave the generating set on throughout the night, because of  high cost of fuel and diesel, overheating and likely fire incident.

With a bad night, you’re grouchy in the morning, and the bad roads, poor transportation, unreasonable road users, filthy environment help to plunge you into more gloom, which could lead to sleep disorder and a health condition

High unemployment rate and the worsening economic situation which make businesses  retrench or fold up, escalating food prices and house rent, are a nightmare to citizens in a country without social security benefits, good and affordable healthcare system and housing.  There’s no buffer of any sort from the government to make life bearable.  In short, you’re on your own.

Why won’t there be a high rate of sleep problems?  We’ve murdered sleep, so to say.  Until we have caring leaders who focus on the welfare of our citizens, the problem will persist with the  attendant consequences.

’63 million Nigerians have sleep problems, says an expert’, screamed a headline in one of our dailies.

“That’s an awfully high figure,” remarked a colleague.  “Are the experts saying that almost half the population have sleeping disorders?  Where did they get those figures from?  Where did they carry out their research?  Madam, where you aware of such a research?”

“No, but the professor couldn’t have made it up.  Maybe it’s the number of people who consulted physicians on the problem.  You think the figure is high? ”

“Madam, I think it is.  Don’t you?”

“No, I don’t it’s high enough to reflect the true situation of  living in Nigeria.   How many people in this country would actually go consult a doctor about their inability to sleep?”

“Only the elite, I think, and at private hospitals.  For the masses, though, they may mention the condition while consulting on other health problems.  The figure is probably lower than 63 million.”

“I think it should be much higher.  If we walk down three streets around us here, and we ask  passersby if they sleep regularly well at night, I’m sure most  of them will tell us that they don’t, and they would give a long list of things that rob them of  a much-desired sleep.  I’ll like to meet people who actually sleep well at night.  Would you say that you do?”

“Certainly not! . There are so many problems to cause one sleepless nights, particularly in the cities.  What with having to get up at four-thirty in the morning in order to be able to leave home at five.  I usually get back quite late, and it would be close to midnight before I settle down to sleep.  One has to use some help most times to induce sleep.  Even at that, one’s lucky to have a full four hour nightly sleep.  That isn’t a sleeping disorder, is it?  It sounds a nasty condition to have. ”

“Don’t worry.  So long as you don’t fall apart or break down, the regular insufficient sleep may not do you much damage.”

“Ah, madam, in this article, the professor recommends daily sleep of 14 to 15 hours for infants, 12 to 14 hours for  toddlers, 10 to 11 hours for children, and 7 to 9 hours for adults.”

That drew laughter from other colleagues around.  “Where on earth would an able-bodied adult who’s not ill,  find the time to sleep for seven hours at night?” asked one.

“Apart from the stress of commuting in a big city, sleep disorder can arise from almost every aspect of our life. Hear the expert, ‘According to Prof Okubadejo, the dictates of the modern world has drastically reduced the  number of hours that people sleep because of the demand of their lifestyle or nature of their work.

She noted that sleep is a natural process controlled by the brain, which restores body functions, and that the consequences of lack of proper sleep include poor memory recall, decreased academic performance, decreased work productivity, reduced attention, alertness and concentration.’  ”

“‘Others, she added, are irritable mood and poor social interaction, increase risk hypertension, increase risk diabetes, mood disorders, reduced immunity, memory deficit, increased vulnerability to accident and errors and reduced lifespan.’”

With the stressful life that governance enforces on our citizens, I wonder how soundly our rulers sleep at night.  Are they exposed to the problems which cause us sleep disorders?


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