Dubai: Do you sleep enough?
It’s time to take a closer look at the culture of working late hours, sleep debts, erratic sleep routines and more
Lately, studies focussing on sleep patterns and sleep disorders have gained increased focus in the region. Based on a recent study in UAE, 63.2% of participants had a prevalence of sleep problems according to Pittsburgh global score for sleep problems. (Khader AA, Koolippulakkal S, Sharbatti S (2022) Sleep Disorder among Adolescents in Ajman, UAE. J Sleep Disord Ther. S2: 003.) The simple fact is that no matter what the reason behind poor sleeping habits is, it’s important to ensure that one gets the right amount of sleep to remain healthy, happy, and productive. “Our bodies require a sleep routine and most of us don’t give our sleeping habits the attention it requires. Moreover, the climate and weather conditions in Dubai can be particularly grinding on our sleep, especially during the summer. Furthermore, restlessness and anxiety continue to spill over from the pandemic; residents who had Covid-19 frequently complain of sleeplessness and depression,” said Mansi Khandelwal, founder, The Sleep Chapter, a brand that offers weighted blankets, a therapeutic tool used by sleep specialists and medical professionals to help patients, with chronic pain, stress-related insomnia, and acute anxiety combat restless sleep.
All of us fall prey to stress, and it can have a very destabilising effect on our mental, emotional, and physical health. Stress isn’t always work-related; it can be caused by something as minor as a traffic jam. When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, causing a spike in hormones that are meant to help you perform better during challenging times but are harmful in the long run. And one of the symptoms of long-term stress is an irregular sleep habit.
Mishana Khot, brand strategist, RocketLinen
Top three reasons why Dubai residents toss and turn
“Foremost, unhealthy routine. Many of us work long hours and spend most of our time indoors. These habits mean that the quality of basic functions like digestion, elimination, and sleep is affected. Inadequate diet, dehydration, too much time online, and sedentary lifestyle – each of these issues can mean irregular sleep habits,” said Mishana Khot, brand strategist, RocketLinen that offers a bedlinen collection with features like sateen weave so that one can enjoy the luxurious feeling of hotel-like sheets, with the breathability of pure, natural cotton and soothing whites. Mishana added how temperature is a cause too and just outdoors, “How many of us go to sleep at night with the air-conditioning set to a comfortable temperature, only to wake up feeling chilly/overheated?” Mansi added, “The air quality is simply not very good, yielding a very high AQI (Air Quality Index) rating, which can dramatically affect our nasal passageways at night, drying out our throats and directly interrupting our sleep pattern.” She further pointed out an important, relatable factor, “Lastly, we all know that Dubai has a notorious abundance of food options, which is incredible, however, coupled with hectic work schedules and delivery solutions available at fingertips it leads to an imbalanced diet (poor gut health, always transfers over into heartburn, GERD and overall irritability) that again cause you to toss and turn at night.”
How damaging is lack of sleep?
An occasional lack of sleep may not seem like a big deal, but its impact can be intense and its effects can linger. Not sleeping enough can have severe consequences on your health. “Chronic poor sleep puts us at increased risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. During sleep, the body secretes hormones that help control appetite, metabolism, and glucose processing. Poor sleep can lead to an increase in the body’s production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. In addition, skimping on sleep seems to throw other hormones out of whack. Less insulin is released after you eat, and that, along with the increased cortisol, may lead to too much glucose in the bloodstream and thus an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” advised Mansi. You should never go for too many days without getting a full night’s sleep.
Building good sleep habits can go a long way to helping us wake up the next morning well-rested and recharged to take on the day. Research has shown that good sleep hygiene leads to better sleeping and may even provide long-term solutions to chronic issues like insomnia. Several factors contribute to sleep quality, and those details are sometimes minuscule enough to slip under the radar.
Mansi Khandelwal, founder, The Sleep Chapter
What is sleep debt? In Dubai, many of us stay awake longer nights and sleep longer during the days on the weekends, which as Mishana points out is one of the most harmful habits, “Trying to make up for your ‘sleep debt’ by sleeping in on the weekend is a terrible idea. Sleeping later in the morning doesn’t help you make up for lost sleep, and can make it harder to wake up on Monday morning.” Added Mansi, “Sleeping an extra hour or two on the weekends cannot make up for the lost sleep you may have experienced over a busy week. It could also throw off your internal body clock and possibly lead to insomnia on Sunday night. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is the best way to regulate the body’s clock.”
We should emphasise the fact that sleep is a behaviour. It can be learnt, unlearnt and relearned. Poor sleep behaviour has several negative effects on our bodies and minds. Sleeping late regularly or having an erratic sleep onset time can have several deleterious effects on our bodies.
Dr Arif Khan, a British Board certified consultant paediatric neurologist and founder NEUROPEDIA
How do I fix my sleep cycle?
Put away the devices and go to bed earlier every night, but wake up at the same time in the morning, “This makes it easier for you to follow an exercise routine, eat a healthy breakfast, and stick to a routine that benefits your overall health,” advised Mishana. "One can work towards improving their sleep behaviour and lifestyle to improve their quality of sleep," said Dr Arif Khan, a British Board certified consultant paediatric neurologist and founder NEUROPEDIA, a comprehensive children's neuroscience centre in the region. His recommendations include, foremost, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routines as a good starting point, "Watch your diet at night. Eat early, avoid heavy meals, and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Also, exercise daily for at least 30 minutes, ideally in the evening. This will help with bringing out physical exhaustion which can then be followed up with a short period of guided meditation before sleep."
What happens to the body when you miss out on shut-eye?
At 24 hours of no sleep – impaired coordination, memory and judgement
At 36 hours of no sleep – physical health starts to be negatively impacted
At 48 hours of no sleep – microsleep and disorientation
At 72 hours of no sleep – major cognitive deficits and hallucinations
(As told by Mansi Khandelwal, founder, The Sleep Chapter)
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.