x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sleep disorders affect more than a third of population

The most common problem is obstructive sleep apnoea - pauses or shallow breathing during sleep.

Mohammed Al Khalawi’s obesity and sleep apnoea, he says, have cost him dearly in terms of time and his career.
Mohammed Al Khalawi’s obesity and sleep apnoea, he says, have cost him dearly in terms of time and his career.

DUBAI // More than a third of the country's population suffer from a sleeping disorder, often leading to fatigue and weight gain, new figures from a local hospital show.

Statistics from Rashid Hospital show between 35 and 40 per cent of residents experience sleeping problems, more than the US and the UK where a quarter is typical.

The most common problem is obstructive sleep apnoea - pauses or shallow breathing during sleep.

Early figures suggest it affects nearly 10 per cent of the population.

The study, the first in the UAE to assess the prevalence of the disorder, began in September and should be completed by March.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is usually a byproduct of obesity, as it is caused by fat tissue in the neck that relaxes during sleep, causing a narrowing of the upper airway passages.

In a country where nearly two in five women and more than a quarter of men are obese, it is a major problem.

The usual treatment is a device that monitors breathing while patients are asleep. If not enough air is flowing, the device pumps more in. It is used until the patient loses weight and begins to breathe normally.

The biggest dangers are the sleep deprivation and weight gain, says Dr Amro Al Astal, a critical-care and sleep consultant at the American Hospital Dubai.

"The disorder can result in hormonal changes, making it easier to put on weight," Dr Al Astal said. "It can also cause surges of adrenaline at night, putting people at risk of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes."

And there are financial implications. "Many insurance companies do not recognise sleep apnoea as a disease," said Dr Hassan Al Hariri, a consultant in pulmonary and sleep medicine at Rashid Hospital. "They don't realise there are much higher healthcare costs, millions of dollars more, to spend on hypertension, heart failure and diabetes, all because sleep disorders are not treated."

Chronic insomnia is the second-most commonly diagnosed sleeping disorder behind transient insomnia, which lasts less than a week.

"We all go through this at some point in our lives when we face psychological stress, whether it's studying for an exam or making a life-changing decision," said Dr Al Astal.

"What is more worrying is chronic insomnia, which lasts for periods more than three to six months."

A culture of staying up late also promotes negative sleeping habits.

"Some people call you at midnight just to talk about the weather; others make late-evening visits," Dr Al Astal said. "In the US no one will call you after 10pm. This is changing here, but very slowly."

People should not force themselves to fall asleep, Dr Al Hariri said.

"You should spend no more than 20 minutes in bed trying to fall asleep," he said. "If you can not fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, find another relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again."

In addition to developing good habits, such as sleeping at consistent times every night and avoiding naps, several treatment options, including cognitive therapy, are available.

Sleep deprivation can also alter the personality, trigger depression, and lower productivity.

"The problem here is that most people assume that sleeping problems are normal when they are not," said Dr Al Astal.

"It is important that people seek help early."

mismail@thenational.ae

 

‘Every time I feel like I can’t breathe, I wake up’

DUBAI // At 225 kilograms, Mohammed Al Khalawi has trouble sleeping. His obesity causes excess weight on his chest, narrowing the airway in his throat and repeatedly stopping his breathing during sleep – a condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea.

“I have breathing interruptions every seven minutes,” he said. “And every time I feel like I can’t breathe, I wake up.” Now Mr Al Khalawi sleeps with an airway pressure device that monitors his breathing and releases mild air pressure to keep the airways open. The device requires him to strap a mask over his nose and mouth, through which air is pumped.

“I can’t sleep without this machine,” he said. “If I don’t use it, I’ll be OK the first night, but immediately afterwards I start having breathing interruptions again.”

When Mr Al Khalawi, 28, was first admitted into Rashid Hospital, he weighed 253kg. His obesity and sleep apnoea, he says, have cost him dearly in terms of time and his career.

He wants to have stomach surgery  so he can lose weight, but doctors told him he needed to lose 50kg before surgery would be safe. So for now he is on a strict food and exercise regimen, receiving meals from the hospital and using its gym.

Mr Al Khalawi is already 28kg down and he remains optimistic. “I haven’t seen the outside world in the last month except through the windows of this hospital,” he said.

“My family is sceptical that I’ll be able to lose the weight and keep it off.

“But I told them to wait and see. I’m going to come back from the hospital a changed man.”

mismail@thenational.ae