Lack of sleep could be fatal20th January 2012
A UK sleep expert has warned that insomnia is being neglected by doctors, the NHS and government.
Dr Neil Stanley’s alert comes as new research suggests lack of sleep can lead to premature death in long-term insomniacs, but is rarely treated.
At least 86 medical sleep disorders have been identified which, if left untreated, raise the risk of developing illnesses such as depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The review in Online First in the Lancet said doctors should routinely ask patients about their sleeping habits as they may be at the root of other disorders.
However, Dr Neil, who is also ex-chairman of the British Sleep Society, said: “Government policymakers always have something to say about diet and exercise, why don’t they get into the bedroom and tell people about the value of sleep.
“We’ve all forgotten the importance of sleep – something our grannies took for granted. But Britain is the worst country in Europe for sleep medical provision.”
While Germany has 350 to 400 specialist sleep centres, in Britain there are fewer than five which puts in on a level with Estonia and Croatia.
“We urgently need to pay more attention to sleep with clear advice to children in schools, parents and throughout adult life,” he added.
Figures show that in the UK, a third of people sleep for five hours or less when the average is seven hours.
The review authors, from the Université Laval, Québec City, Canada and the University of Wisconsin, USA, said insomnia has substantial long-term effects on people’s physical and psychological health.
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