Nearly half the population of Singapore suffers from insomnia. A survey released by the European pharmaceutical company Sanofil-Synthelabo shows that among 430 Singaporeans polled, 46 percent were categorized as suffering from insomnia.

Only 27 percent of them were aware of their condition and a high level of the respondents were unclear about the symptoms of the disorder. Forty-nine percent thought insomnia only meant the inability to sleep.

But according to the drug company, it also means the inability to fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying in bed, difficulty in going back to sleep again after being woken up, sleeping less than six hours a night and a general dissatisfaction with the quality of sleep.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they were not sleeping well, 55 percent were not falling asleep after 30 minutes of going to bed, 51 percent slept less than six hours and 43 percent said they found it difficult to return to sleep after being disturbed.

Ten percent said they did not seek medical help and 72 percent resorted to non-medical remedies to help them sleep such as writing in their diaries, watching television or reading books. Others alternatives included drinking alcohol, exercising, drinking milk and counting sheep.

Nellie Tang, general manager of the Mount Elizabeth Hospital which helped organize the program, says that 17 million prescriptions for sleeping drugs were written in Singapore in 1998.

Data from the World Health Organization shows that 30 percent of the world?s population suffers from insomnia.

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Scientists have found out why teenagers lie in bed so late during the weekend. They say teen sleep patterns are different from those of adults or children and they don?t get as much rest during weeknights.

Some experts are now suggesting there should be a later start to the school day because teenagers just can?t cope with early mornings. A study in Denver, Colorado suggests teenagers need more sleep than they may be getting. Sleeping late on weekends may be a result of sleep deprivation during the week.

Dr Kathryn Reid and her colleagues studied 729 young people ages 12 to 17. Nearly half of them reported significant daytime sleepiness. Reid says, ?We found that teenagers sleep, on average, 8.5 hours during the week and more than 9.5 hours on weekends.?

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Drinking coffee late in the afternoon can ruin your chance of a getting a good night?s sleep, according to Lotan Shilo and a team at the Sapir Medical Center at Tel Aviv University.

Coffee is not just a stimulant, it also interrupts the flow of melatonin, the brain hormone that sends people to sleep. Melatonin levels start to rise about two hours before bedtime and peak between 2 and 4 am.

However, the researchers found that caffeine cuts the body?s level of melatonin in half. Six volunteers slept less well after a cup of caffeinated coffee than after drinking the same amount of decaf.

On average, subjects slept 336 minutes per night after drinking caffeinated coffee, compared to 415 minutes after drinking decaffeinated coffee. They took half an hour to drop off to sleep, which is twice as long as usual, and also moved around in bed twice as much.

The researchers woke the volunteers every three hours and asked them to give a urine sample. Shilo measured the concentrations of 6-sulphoxymelatonin, a byproduct of the breakdown of melatonin. The results suggest that melatonin concentrations in caffeine drinkers were half of those found in decaffeinated drinkers.

Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment Advisory Service in London, says he tells the insomniacs who come to his clinic to stop drinking coffee at noon.

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If you have the kind of sleep disorder that causes you to act out violent nightmares by thrashing around, chocolate can make it worse.

Approximately 1 in every 200 people are affected by rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), in which muscles that are normally paralyzed during sleep allow people to ?act out? their dreams. Most of the sufferers are men.

Researchers at the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia discovered the link between chocolate and RBD after studying a patient who thrashed around during a recurring nightmare in which he tried to defend his home against intruders. These episodes occurred whenever he had been eating chocolate, chocolate ice cream or chocolate syrup.

The patient?s sleep problems began after he sustained head injuries from a car accident. The researchers found that eating chocolate before going to bed made his symptoms worse. Dr. Robert Vorona says that the caffeine in chocolate disrupts a natural process called atonia that prevents movement during sleep.

However, sleep expert Dr. Maurice Ohayon, of the Sleep Disorders Center at Stanford University believes there is no evidence of a link between chocolate and violent sleep behavior in the general population. He says, ?There?s no cause for panic or to stop eating good chocolate.?

A good meditation before bedtime can help you sleep. Learn how by reading ?MindScience? by Charles Tart,click here.

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