(CORDIS) — The first ever pan-African and Asian sleep-problem study has revealed that levels of sleep problems in the developing world are starting to mirror those seen in developed nations. This is thought to be the result of an increase in problems like depression and anxiety.
The study, which was published in the journal Sleep, brought together researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, the INDEPTH Network in Ghana and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Its main finding was that across the developing world, 150 million adults suffer from sleep-related problems.
Some 16.6 % of people in the countries surveyed reported experiencing insomnia and other severe sleep disturbances – not far off the 20 % rate recorded among adults in developed countries like Canada and the United States.
The researchers examined the sleep quality of 50-year-olds from rural populations in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Vietnam, as well as an urban area in Kenya. They sought potential links between sleep problems and social demographics, quality of life, physical health and psychiatric conditions for the 24 434 women and 19 501 men involved in the study.
They found that a strong link exists between sleep problems and psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety, much as it does in the developed world.
However, within the results, the team also noted several contrasts across the countries surveyed: Bangladesh, South Africa and Vietnam had extremely high levels of sleep problems, which in some cases surpassed Western sleeplessness rates.
Bangladesh, the country with the highest prevalence of sleep problems among the countries analysed, had a 43.9 % rate for women, more than twice the rate of developed countries and far higher than the 23.6 % rate for men. Vietnam also had very high rates of sleep problems: 37.6 % for women and 28.5 % for men.
Rates in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana ranged between 8.3 % and 12.7 %. South Africa had double the rate of the other African countries: 31.3 % for women and 27.2 % for men.
Conversely, India and Indonesia reported relatively low levels of severe sleep problems: 6.5 % for Indian women and 4.3 % for Indian men, and 4.6 % for Indonesian women and 3.9 % for Indonesian men.
The results indicate a higher prevalence of sleep problems in women and older age groups, a trend that directly mirrors patterns found in higher income countries.
Lead author, Dr Saverio Stranges from the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, comments: ‘Our research shows the levels of sleep problems in the developing world are far higher than previously thought. 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 unrecognised public health issue among older people, especially women, in low-income settings. Also it seems that sleep problems are not linked to urbanisation, as the people surveyed were mostly living in rural settings. We might expect even higher figures for people living in urban areas.’