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I have written many stories, over time, about life in Lagos. It is a land of opportunities, Nigeria’s Big Apple, but it is also a place that consumes some its residents in silence. Some fall in the hole of life and go from there, but most others are afflicted by the lack of opportunities to sleep well. The effects of sleep deprivation are indeed scary: It causes accidents, dumbness, serious heart problems, depression, forgetfulness, weight gain, depression, accidents, and kills sex drive. As you may have noticed, many people in Lagos streets are temperamental. Some more sleep next will  do us all a lot of good. We have to look for the opportunity to sleep well.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Sleep Walkers

Sleep deficiency is the denominator of many busty incidents in Lagos.  They involve people who barely sleep, and can rightly be called sleep walkers. Acutely sleep deficient people.

Their case is not insomnia. They can sleep when the opportunity is available, but they don’t seem to find time to do sleep, so they end up being afflicted with the effects of sleeplessness. The bodily harm, which is far more serious, is less visible than the chaotic scenes in the streets – fighting, trading of abuses, shouting matches and accidents.

Many accidents are caused by impatience and sleeping at the wheels. People leave home very early in the morning to beat the peak hour gridlock traffic to the office; they work until between 7 and 8 p.m.; wait behind a little longer for the snail-paced traffic from the Lagos Island through the Third Mainland bridge to the Mainland to pick up to some speed; and do not get home until about midnight. Dinner, a good bath and chat with what is left of the family take an hour or two more. But they have to be up again between 4-5 a.m. to hit the road again.

For reasons that include accommodation problems, many workers on the Island and other business hubs come all the way from places like Ikorodu, Sango-Ota, Badagry and Epe. When I worked on Kofo Abayomi Street, I lived in Ajao Estate and I had a horrific life on the Third Mainland, right from Oworonshoki anytime I disobeyed my alarm clock. My return home from work was equally stressful on the bridge and at Oshodi.

With so much sleep deficiency, it is little wonder that so many people in Lagos are either cranky or that they look like they have been run over by trucks. Experts say, “People that are sleep deprived often feel cranky because that would make the amygdala, the part of the brain that process emotional events, to go into overdrive and the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates reasoning, to become deactivated and this would make a person feel less stable than usual.

Effects of Sleep Deficiency

Sleep deprivation makes the brain unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce rational responses.”

That is indeed frightening, and I wonder if employers of such people have observed the declining performance curve after noon. Lack of sleep impairs short-term memory, concentration and alertness.

Worse still, sleep deprivation each night can lead to obesity, heart disease, and illnesses. Research has proven that people who get less than seven hours of sleep each night are 30 percent more likely to be obese and women who get less than five hours of sleep each night are more likely to develop hypertension, which is a leading cause of heart disease. When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, their body produces more stress hormones and other substances that would increase inflammation, which increases the risks of heart disease and stroke.

People that get less than five hours of sleep each night also have two and a half times the risk of getting diabetes when compared to people that sleep for seven or eight hours each night. Not getting enough of deep sleep slows the body’s ability to fight disease and repair tissue.

Sleep deprivation increases the chance of being in an accident. LASMA, FRSC take note!

Also, sleep deprivation is effective in breaking the body down. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) uses it and President Obama is not happy about it. CIA operatives used severe sleep deprivation tactics against a terror detainee in late 2007, keeping him awake for six straight days. Sleep deprivation beyond 48 hours is known to produce hallucinations. It can reduce resistance to pain, and it makes people suggestible.

The stress from sleep deficiency in Lagos, gets additional weight from the general lack of basic social amenities like electricity, water, and widespread poverty.

But the rich also cry in this case. Their lifestyle and work ethics deprive them of sleep. Although they are better able to manage the effects, they are no less victims of sleep deficiency. Politicians, top executives, writers and some major achievers work long hours, and they seem to have created an association between short sleep hours and success in a manner that is becoming a fad.

It seems as though 24/7 not only means the ability to access anything, anytime, anywhere, it also means that if you are going to be seen as worthwhile, you too will run 24/7.

Society is becoming so sick that something as simple and natural as sleep can be seen as a sign of weakness or lack of commitment. Closing early has become a sign of weakness and disloyalty in many offices these days.

Many people seem to ignore connection between sleep issues and stress and vice-versa. Society is ignoring a time bomb. Sleep experts warn: “Every night without adequate rest is like adding to a sleep debt—eventually it will have to be repaid.”

True. At least the common sight of top government officials and top executives sleeping at public events has become the emblem of a society that doesn’t sleep.

There is a far greater cost. Researchers have demonstrated that if you sleep too much or not enough, your risk of death increases significantly.

Sleep and longevity

In one study, researchers followed over 21,000 twins for more than 22 years. They asked questions about the twins’ sleep habits and looked at their longevity. Twins make great research subjects because most of them grew up in the same environment and they have the same (or similar) genetic make-ups. The participants were asked questions at the beginning of the study and 22 years later. The questions concerned sleep duration, use of sleep medications, and quality of sleep. Researchers were also able to collect data on each participant about their longevity.

The researchers found that if people slept less than 7 hours a night or more than 8 hours a night, they had an increased risk of death. For short sleep women, that increase was 21 per cent (men: 26 per cent) and for long sleeping women, the increase was 17 per cent (men: 24 per cent). If the participants reported using sleep medications, their risk for death also increased. Women using them had a 39 per cent increase in risk while men had a 31 per cent increase.

Over the course of the study, 30 per cent of the participants changed their sleep habits. The most common change was to shift from stable sleep to short or long sleep. These shifts were also linked to increased risk of mortality.

Some of the famous lovers of sleep include Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

Winston Churchill was said to sleep 5 hours a night on average, but he did at least advocate a substantial daily nap on top of that modest allowance. He would wake at 8, spend the morning in bed reading papers, dictating letters, etc., take a long nap at tea time, and work till as late as 3 am. He averaged 5-6 hours of sleep per day. His naps were 1.5 to 2 hours long, for a total of about 8 hours a day! Winston Churchill had twin beds and when he couldn’t fall asleep in one he changed to the other one. He was reported as saying, “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one – well, at least one and a half.”

Albert Einstein liked to sleep 10 hours a night – unless he was working very hard on an idea; then it was 11. He claimed that his dreams helped him to invent. Also he felt that naps “refreshed the mind” and that they helped him to be more creative. He lived 76 years.