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It’s a slump party: These are the groups in SA who battle to ...


It’s a slump party: These are the groups in SA who battle to sleep

Some of the results of a new survey may surprise you

Senior features writer

Women over 50 years old who are educated, unemployed and single are more likely to toss and turn at night than men, a major ageing study in rural SA has found.
But people with hypertension – 58% of the 5,000 older, black participants in this study – were most at risk for shorter, restless and poor quality sleep as well as interrupted breathing, the research showed.
A third of them reported severe or extreme problems sleeping at night, and nearly a fifth of them said they struggled to function during the day, the first author, Dr Xavier Gomez-Olive, reported.
Just more than half of them were women (54%), who spent the fewest hours in bed. The median age was 61, and generally participants reported sleeping 8.2 hours a night.
Globally, people self-reported sleeping about seven to eight hours a night (5.8 and 7.8 hours), a review of 168 sleep studies has found.
Obesity, which affected nearly a third of the people in this study, and diabetes were associated with insufficient sleep, snoring and gasping.
Unemployment – 16% of people are formally employed in the Agincourt region of Mpumalanga, where the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit conducts research – was another risk factor.
Generally, people went to sleep at about 8.45pm and woke up at 5.31am.
Untreated HIV was associated with more nocturnal awakenings than among people on antiretroviral therapy in the study on sleep habits and how they affect HIV or noncommunicable diseases.
Men who felt “unrested or unrefreshed during the day” had a two times greater risk of increased mortality.
The findings, published in Nature last week, were based on data from the Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study of an INDEPTH Community in SA (HAALSI) done by the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit, the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, US, and the Ghana-based INDEPTH Network.
Short sleep was more common in white than black South Africans older than 50, a nationally representative sample in the Global Study on Ageing showed.
A study of Soweto residents found that more than a quarter (29%) routinely napped during the day and women reported sleeping longer than men, unlike in the latest study.
University of Cape Town sleep scientist Dr Dale Rale, who runs the sleep science lab at the Sports Science Institute of SA in Cape Town, said quality was as important as quantity when it came to sleep.
The most common sleep disorder is sleep apnoea where people get obstructed airways, momentarily stopping their airflow.
“The true test of whether people are sleeping enough is their daytime functioning and sleepiness,” said Rae, noting that everyone’s “sweet spot” was different.
“The key is to be consistent from night to night. This helps your body anticipate sleep,” said Rae, recommending that people try also to sync their biological clocks with the sunlight.

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