Bad sleep adds up over time

Failure to get a good night's sleep can do significant harm over the long term (Getty Images)
Failure to get a good night's sleep can do significant harm over the long term (Getty Images)

With the fast pace of modern life, too often the simplest aspects are overlooked. A good diet, moderate exercise and restful sleep are often hailed as the cornerstones of a healthy life – yet the vast majority of people will feel deficient in one aspect.

Yet while a lack of exercise and a bad diet will often show themselves through weight gain, a lack of sleep can have more insidious effects, as our report yesterday outlined.

A lack of sleep can bring about or exacerbate a range of health issues, ranging from depression and weight gain to heart attacks. It can, as our case study of a Dubai resident called Jonathan highlighted, cause ailments that are then treated with unnecessary drugs. He was prescribed both antidepressants and blood pressure medication before the true cause of sleep apnoea was diagnosed.

It is a shame then that too few doctors appear to recognise the symptoms, or that there are so few sleep clinics across the UAE to which patients can be referred. Lack of sleep can sometimes seem like too simple an explanation – and, indeed, a doctor who suggested a patient simply needed more sleep to cure depression or weight gain would probably be batted away as ignoring a real problem. But the effect of bad sleep, like bad diet, is cumulative. A few nights of bad sleep won’t automatically lead to weight gain or headaches, but many will suffer for months or years with bad sleep, the effects of all of which can add up.

Another aspect hindering treatment is the lack of sympathy exhibited towards sleep deprivation. Just as those who are overweight are often told to simply “eat less”, those who suffer from sleep issues are simply told to get some rest. What is rarely understood is the interaction between daily stress, a lack of exercise, bad sleeping patterns and bad diet. There is a holistic aspect to our well-being that is too often overlooked.

A small step forward, then, is for more doctors to consider sleep apnoea as part of the basket of diagnoses. It may not provide the whole story, but it ought to be considered as a possible general explanation for specific illnesses.

Published: September 17, 2016 04:00 AM