Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. New research shows that the levels of sleep-related problems in the developing world are approaching those seen in developed nations, linked to an increase in depression and anxiety.
According to an analysis of sleep problems in African and Asian countries by researchers at the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, an estimated 150 million adults are suffering from sleep-related problems across the developing world.
Researchers said 16.6 percent of the population report insomnia and other severe sleep disturbances in the countries surveyed, which is quite close to the 20 percent found in Canada and the U.S.
The researchers looked at the sleep quality of 24,434 women and 19,501 men aged 50 years and over in eight rural areas in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia, as well as an urban area in Kenya.
They examined potential links between sleep problems and social demographics, quality of life, physical health, and psychiatric conditions.
The strongest link was found between psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and sleep problems, mirroring trends seen in the developed world, the researchers note.
The researchers also point out that there was a “striking variation” across the countries surveyed. For example, Bangladesh had the highest prevalence of sleep problems, with a 43.9 percent rate for women — more than twice the rate of developed countries and far higher than the 23.6 percent seen in men. Bangladesh also saw very high patterns of anxiety and depression, according to the researchers.
In Vietnam, 37.6 percent of the women and 28.5 percent of the men reported sleep problems. Meanwhile, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana saw rates of between 8.3 percent and 12.7 percent.
The researchers also pointed out that South Africa had double the rate of other African countries — 31.3 percent for women and 27.2 percent for men.
People in India and Indonesia had very little sleep issues — 6.5 percent for Indian women and 4.3 percent for Indian men, while Indonesian men reported rates of sleep problems of 3.9 percent and women had rates of 4.6 percent.
The research also found a higher prevalence of sleep problems in women and older age groups, consistent with patterns found in higher-income countries.
“Our research shows the levels of sleep problems in the developing world are far higher than previously thought,” said Dr. Saverio Stranges, who was the lead author of the study, published in the journal Sleep.
“This is particularly concerning as many low-income countries are facing a double burden of disease with pressure on scarce financial resources coming from infectious diseases like HIV, but also from a growing rate of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancer. This new study suggests sleep disturbances might also represent a significant and unrecognized public health issue among older people, especially women, in low-income settings.”
The research also found that sleep problems are not linked to living in big cities, as most of the people surveyed lived in rural settings, he said, noting, “We might expect even higher figures for people living in urban areas.”
Source: The University of Warwick