40 years ago, the only known diseases related to sleep were the excess of sleep (hypersomnia) or lack of sleep (insomnia). Now, the global classification lists more than 80 sleep disorders.
Those who practice sleep medicine are professionals who have covered certain specialities that allow them to be certified by scientific associations of international level. In Mexico, the number of “sleep experts” (somnologists) is less than 200, ten of them with international certification granted by the European Sleep Research Society.
However, in our country, sleep medicine is practically unknown, even among the medical community itself. “The health sector in Mexico, has not been given the due importance to sleeping sicknesses,” says Javier Velázquez Moctezuma, director the Clinic of Sleep Disorders of the Metropolitan Autonomous University, Iztapalapa Campus in Mexico City, who is a specialist in the topic.
“The last National Health Survey includes for the first time data on sleep disorders, which allows us to point out three factors: the restricted sleep population, which sleeps less than seven hours a day, represents about 20 million Mexicans; those who are at risk for respiratory disease due to overweight, are around 24 million, and Mexicans who suffer from insomnia or another disorder are close to 15 million. So, half of the adult population in the country is at risk of serious diseases due to sleep disturbances,” says the professor who holds a masters degree in psychobiology.
Velázquez Moctezuma, who is also a doctor in biology of reproduction, adds that a well-known disorder is insomnia, which has several subtypes. “Those who suffer from insomnia, regularly go to the psychologist, the psychiatrist or the general practitioner and not to a sleep medicine professional expert. With great ease they prescribe drugs that often cause addiction, when that is obviously not the first option to treat these type of problems, ignoring the fact that these patients should seek psychotherapeutic help in the first place” he stresses.
Snoring is not good
Another frequent problem has to do with respiratory disorders, such as apnea linked to snoring. There has been a belief that whoever snores sleeps well, but experts say this is totally false.
Snoring is the noise that originates when the upper airway is closing. This can progress to apnea, which literally means to stop breathing, and this condition causes a drop in blood oxygen levels and therefore the individual wakes up frequently, making his/her sleeping fragmented and insufficient.
According to the expert: “The chronic restriction of sleeping less than seven hours a day, facilitates other health conditions such as overweight, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.”
“Why do we suffer from sleep restriction? Because we choose to or because we have some sleeping sickness, for example, there are those who consider that sleeping is a waste of time and therefore decide to do something else instead of sleeping. Others work in unusual schedules, prolonged hours or inadequate rotating shifts and this damages their sleep and their health “, explained the rector of the UAM-I.
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