The economic crisis exacerbates sleep disorders in the population

First it was a pandemic and then the outbreak of a war whose collateral effects have resulted in an economic crisis that is fully affecting us. Mental health professionals have been warning for months that the statistics have skyrocketed, in part, because of a context that does not help at all. Carme Calafat, psychologist and member of the Col·legi de Psicòlegs de Catalunya, sums it up perfectly: «With the Covid there was a situation of general malaise that seems to continue to hold. We must not forget that the external context always affects and impacts the person.

One of the ways to escape from this discomfort can be seen in problems falling asleep. The Spanish Society of Neurology estimates that between 20% and 48% of the adult population suffers from difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep at some point. Among this high percentage of the population that suffers from some type of sleep disorder, insomnia is the most frequent: between 25% and 35% of the adult population suffers from transient insomnia and between 10% and 15% (about four million people in Spain) suffer from chronic insomnia.

Social determinants

Carme Calafat recalls that «sleeping is a habit of life that when it changes it is because things impact us. We have chained socially annoying situations: Covid, a war, the economic crisis... And, obviously, these social determinants condition our mental health ».

Insomnia is still a symptom that something is happening. For this reason, when psychologists intervene in a problem of this nature, they do so in two areas. “On the one hand, we work so that the person can talk about what worries them, what worries them,” explains this member of the Col legi de Psicòlegs de Catalunya, who acknowledges that “it is difficult to explain what worries our patients the most , because there are many situations. There is an anxiety about the demands of coping with everyday life and relationships. It is difficult for them to manage their day-to-day life and a situation of self-demand arises, both from the environment and from the person himself».

But psychologists, when helping people who come to their consultations with sleep disorders, also “try to advise them so that they can sleep better. For example, see if the person can recover routines of their day to day that they have lost, see if they have a relaxing space at home before going to sleep, or if they reconcile well the schedules in terms of dinners, type of food, etc. .”, adds Carme Calafat.

These sleep disorders have been translated in the last two years into an increase in the consumption of sedative-hypnotics and products to help people fall asleep. The president of the Col·legi de Farmacèutics de Tarragona, Toni Vecina, explains that "we do not have official figures, but we do have the feeling that there is more demand for medicines related to these pathologies".

This feeling that Veciana talks about is perfectly reflected in the last two reports on Alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs in Spain, prepared by the Spanish Observatory of Drugs and Addictions. In the last report, referring to the year 2021 and published last July, it was reflected that hypnosedatives were the third most consumed substance in Spain, only behind alcohol and tobacco. 22.5% of the population aged 15 to 64 have consumed them with or without a prescription at some time, with a daily consumption of 6.4%. In the previous year's report, the daily consumption of sedative-hypnotics reached the same figure, breaking the downward trend it had had since 2015.

Pharmacists, aware of this increase in the consumption of these drugs, are committed to "reinforcing the message that they are medicines subject to medical prescription, that they must be monitored and controlled by the doctor, that they do not become chronic, that there is a risk of a Prolonged consumption that can lead to addiction, etc.," says Veciana, who also recalls that "treatments to address these pathologies that cause sleep disorders are approached from different areas, both the consumption of substances that help to rest better and change of life habits. Regarding the increase in the use of sedative-hypnotics, Carme Calafat warns that "it is an alarm signal, a wake-up call that should make us rethink the importance of being able to count on more mental and social health professionals, so as not to over-medicalize mental illnesses. the society".

More natural products

The sale of natural products to combat insomnia has also increased in the last two years, both in herbalists and specialized stores as well as in pharmacies where parapharmacy products are sold. "We don't have figures either, but the feeling is that we are also selling more," says the president of the Col·legi de Farmacèutics de Tarragona, who points out that "among these would be natural products that provide you with a melatonin supplement, to other extracts of natural plants. However, Veciana recalls that "in addition to selling these products, we recommend that consumers change their lifestyle to sleep better".

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