In a city that doesn’t sleep, many are running mental

The Yoruba had always believed in the syndrome of were also (madness hidden by appearance facade). TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE tried digging into why the next person to you may be one.


DO you know that if you lack sleep for two consecutive weeks, you are already a mental case? Mr Emmanuel Owoyemi should know. He has been in the business of mental health long enough as the Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Foundation, Yaba, Lagos, to be an authority and speak as one.

The widely-accepted coinage of ten-second madness in every man, when a hitherto cool person behaves wildly, is traceable to a display of sudden and uncontrollable anger, but there is a more subtle madness trigger which is now putting many residents of Lagos State at the risk of unintended mental illness. That trigger is lack of enough sleep.

Mr Bode Agbeleye is a former chairman of Ijero Local Government Area of Ekiti State. He lived in Lagos State for more than a decade after graduating from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in 1994. Now, he prays nothing would force him to pass more than a night in the bubbly city which was once his abode before he relocated to his hometown, Ekiti.

“I can’t live in Lagos again. Never. And it’s not for anything other than the chaotic situation, especially the notorious gridlock that will keep one on the roads for many hours and deny one good sleep almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Comparing his current sleeping pattern in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, where he has lived for the past 12 years with his family to that of Lagos then, Mr Agbeleye likened both to two parallel lines that can never meet.

According to him, “when I was in Lagos, I lived at the Alakuko area, near Sango Toll Gate and I used to get home late from work and sleep around 12.00 a.m.  Yet, I must wake up as early as 4.30 a.m. to enable me get to Ijora Seven Up, where I was working, before the 8 o’clock resumption time. If I didn’t do that, I would be held up in traffic and get to work late.”

But now, Agbeleye a businessman cum politician, who also pointed out that all kinds of noise in Lagos, especially from generators, public address systems of religious organisations and musical players, are another big factor that denies people of Lagos of good sleep, said he also had such experiences back in Lagos then. But now, he enjoys his sleep almost year round in Ekiti.

In Lagos, even foodstuff markets don’t sleep. PHOTO: INTERNET

“Here, you can cover the whole of Ado-Ekiti in less than one hour and by 10.00 pm., almost everybody is already in their beds sleeping. And everywhere will be quiet, though at times religious activities also do take place at nights. So, the only thing that keeps somebody like me awake at night is when I have a written project to do and that is occasionally,” he added.

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Busy and bursting

As home to limitless economic, financial, commercial, trading and business opportunities, Lagos, without doubt, earns its sobriquet: “the city that doesn’t sleep.” To further push the reality, the current administration had boasted at onset in 2015 that it was marching towards building a mega-city that would run for 24 hours non-stop. Expectedly, residents like Owoyemi and Agbeleye are expected to keep the state awake, as they say, 24/7. But while one has chickened out, the other is helping in managing the mental consequences of a city that is literally on steroid.

While the duo may have found a way to beat the city of insomnia to its game, James Uzor, another resident, may not be that lucky.

Similar to Agbeleye’s sleeping pattern while in Lagos is that of Uzor, a banker who lives in the Ikotun-Egbeda axis while his office is in Victoria Island, a distance of over 20 kilometers.

Uzor, who did not want his company’s name in print, gets home around 11.00 p.m. exhausted and sleeps within an hour thereafter and still wakes up at 4.00 a.m. in that routine day in, day out in order to beat traffic on the roads just as Agbeleye used to do over 15 years ago. In all, Uzor usually has a four-hour night sleep.

“But then, I manage to sleep on my way to office inside the bus, either commercial or official bus, as some other colleagues also do in transit while those with private cars normally leave home much earlier for them to sleep inside their cars at the office parking lot before resumption time. But honestly, this kind of sleep, which many other co-passengers equally do, is not a deep one because many things get one distracted here and there,” he noted.

To make the sleeping condition worse is the pressure of work for Uzor just as for other bankers, all day in the office, while things get aggravated by month end. It is the busiest time for every banker, according to Uzor, because books must be balanced, audit reports must be prepared, and monthly performance report sheets must also be delivered for assessment.

“Even when doing overtime, your computer system is built towards meeting intense deadlines and targets. Weekends are not excluded, if it means losing sleep and working over the weekend to meet up, you just have to do it,” Uzor explained.


Danger signals

Owoyemi, however, has news for Uzor and his kind. If nature is denied for two weeks running, mental illness has already set in and the mental health specialist went on, in a chat with Saturday Tribune, to list the symptoms to look out for.

He highlighted social symptoms as lack of concentration, low memory levels and lack of functionality, adding that depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders are also inevitable.

For those with these symptoms, he advised them not to live in denial like his friend who could not sleep for months and talked to himself at night but to seek immediate professional help.

Owoyemi, in an earlier interview, said he turned fully to mental health issues when his close pal went mental without knowing it, although he could see through his travails and had to be crushing his pills and dissolving them into his drinking water and food without his knowledge when he would not take them, in order not to be seen as mentally-challenged.

The sleeping pattern of many respondents to Saturday Tribune’s enquiry showed that like Owoyemi’s friend, they may already be down with mental illness without knowing or wanting to acknowledge it.

It is no longer news that Lagos residents are perhaps the most aggressive and overactive set of people in the country for so many reasons. It is generally believed that to live in Lagos successfully, you must be very active with your eyes wide open and not a slacker.

No wonder, most people living in the city are always on the move from one part to another in search of daily bread. Due to the nature of the city where there is no particular time for observing night rest, many residents, including the working class and business individuals, after closing from work, don’t get home earlier than 11.00 p.m. as their trips are usually compounded by serious traffic and bad roads.

Getting home at almost midnight and setting out before dawn appears to be a lifestyle nearly everyone involved is coping with, including women who are nursing mothers with eight-five jobs.

It appears the condition for the working nursing mothers who are bankers are worse. Apart from the normal work pressure for all bankers, their responsibilities to families and infants also rob them of good sleep.

For example, Mrs Odebukola Ojo, a middle-level officer in one of the new generation banks, shared her experience with Saturday Tribune: “It takes a tough-hearted woman banker who is still bearing children to cope in Lagos with lack of adequate sleep on a regular basis.”

How does she manage herself? Here is her response: “I do take permission from my boss during pregnancies and also after I resume from maternity leave. It could be for an antenatal appointment or to take my children to hospital for immunization or creche and all that. All these are serious work and stressful on their own and yet, you must have to meet up with office demands otherwise you will be appraised down.

“So, I don’t sleep more than four or five hours most nights except when on maternity leave, when I do sleep well,” Mrs Odebukola pointed out.

However, this condition is common to the average Lagosian who is economically active and particularly has his or her workplace far from home.  The nature of job for people such as medical personnel and security officers on night shifts makes things even worse.

Mrs Atinuke (surname withheld), a staff nurse with one of the general hospitals in the metropolis, for example, explained the difference, saying her average sleeping hours per day is four and a half hours when she is on night shift. Two hours at work and the rest at home, according to her.

“The two hours at work is even based on arrangement with other colleagues on duty. Because we have shortage of staff, which is a general thing in any government hospital in the state, it is either we have two or three nurses on duty per night to serve both in-patients and those on emergency. So, each of us takes turn to sleep for two hours. And when I get home, I will only add two or three hours of sleep as I still have some assignments waiting for me,” she explained.

So, either as a banker, market man or woman, trader, media professional, commercial bus or taxi driver or motorcyclist, or even motor park tout or beggar, the experience is similar.

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Even the homeless

Students and the homeless who sleep in the open, under bridges, at bus stops, in front of shops and other obscene places here and there in the state are no exemption. Those in the latter category, most times, will have to wait until most of the business people have closed for the day for them to get spaces to sleep. People like that abound at the Moshalashi Alhaja and Agege Railway Station areas of Agege and also at Ijora Badia, another slum community, among others, for example.


Sodiq from Ikire, in Osun State, is one of the street boys in the Agege area. The 23-year-old junior secondary school dropout shared his experience with Saturday Tribune, saying that sometimes they sleep around 2.00 a.m. or 3.00 a.m., depending on the spaces are available.

“So, in the end, we may sleep for just three or four hours. And whenever it rains heavily with strong wind, we won’t be able to sleep at all. All that we do at such instances is to find a small space to squeeze ourselves into like sardines,” Sodiq said.

Apart from people sleeping under the bridges, it is reported that the economic hardship in the country has forced many workers, including civil servants, to sleep in their offices in order to save cost.

These office sleepers must also have to wait till late night, just like street boys and girls, to settle down to some hours of sleep.

Certainly, the majority of Lagosians just don’t have enough hours, according to Saturday Tribune’s findings, to sleep, much less sleep well.


Why Lagosians don’t have enough sleep

This is so mostly because those who are not affected by traffic and work pressure, according to investigations, will have noise from generator, public address systems from religious organisations that are doing night programmes and music players to contend with.  That is not all.

The children and young adults, especially students, who naturally require more hours of sleep will rather be preoccupied with phones and social media at night than go to bed early so as to wake up early the next day. And that is why many doze off at work and in transit on the roads. The recent road accident involving the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Kehinde Bamgbetan, and his driver, was attributed to lack of good sleep at home. The former was said to be taking a nap at the back seat while the driver dozed off behind the wheels.


What is good sleep?

According to Wikipedia dictionary, sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterised by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.

Scientists say there are four stages generally in sleep and this can be grouped into two, the rapid and non-rapid eye movement sleep.

According to them, rapid eye movement, which covers the first two stages, is when our eye balls roll and that actually is the time that we dream and remember our dreams.

The rapid eye movement stage, which is the last stage, they added, is when we have deeper sleep and that all the stages are important for quality sleep.


Why we must sleep

Dr Babatunde Suleiman, a consultant psychiatrist at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, told Saturdaty Tribune that when we have a good sleep, it means we sleep well and deeply, wake up feeling refreshed and alert for the day’s activities. This is quite different from when we are in bed even for a whole night with our mind hovering around because of worries.

So, as an expert, Suleiman noted, good sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person. He said while most healthy adults need between six and eight hours of sleep per night on a regular basis to function at their best, children and teens need even more, like eight to 10 hours of sleep.

“Even though our sleep needs decrease as we grow older, older people also need at least seven hours of sleep daily,” he added.

He however, listed functions of sleep to include brain growth for the children, body build and repairs, energy conservation, helps with emotion regulation (through dreams) and also builds the immune system, among others.

“So, sleep is very important. Unfortunately, we just take it for granted. It is necessary and golden. Try those who don’t sleep and you will understand that being able to sleep is golden. As you sleep, you forget your worries for a little while. You put a little full stop to all the hustle and bustle of life. The energy you use during the day, you regain it when you sleep and likewise new cells.

“Therefore, with poor (or irregular good) sleep as applicable to many Lagosians, brain functions, especially memory and cognition, may be affected. As that condition will negatively affect one’s attention and concentration just as one may also be vulnerable to infections and get emotionally unstable,” Suleiman pointed out.


Losing sleep?

The effects of not sleeping are not limited to the above; it can lead to low productivity at work. Unfortunately, good sleep deprivation, especially when built up for up to 20 hours consistently, may not be fully reversed, according to sleep researchers.

They call that scenario long-term sleep deprivation and it can lead to certain health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. It can also lead to fatigue, mood disturbance, low economic productivity and a reduced quality of life.

Suleiman, however, pointed out that all these effects are applicable if the person involved is healthy. When it involves either a physically or mentally sick person, the condition will certainly get worse.


Lagosians must sleep or…

Then if one finds oneself, as so many Lagosians do, in this sleeping deprivation condition, what can be done to salvage the situation?

Experts say people just have to find enough time to sleep, especially at night. They say although there is much to do to eke a living, especially in Lagos with high cost of living, nothing can replace a good sleep.

Apart from that, Dr Suleiman advocated what he called sleep hygiene for people to adopt. According to him, the components of sleep hygiene are multifarious and dimensional.

One should, by all means, prevent exposure to all kinds of environmental noise, especially at sleep time, which he said it is night, naturally.

The bedroom must be comfortable with appropriate mattress and wall colour that is soothing to the mind and no mosquitoes. One should have regular time going to bed and time to get up too and that the bedroom should be only for sleep or mutual activities and not an office.

Slow and soft music, he added, can also help to induce sleep better than loud music or action movies. “All these are to do with the time one is going to bed,” he said.

Before then, one will need to avoid heavy meals at least two hours before sleep and also anything that is emotionally upsetting and drinks such as caffeine. If the person can’t change his or her accommodation probably for lack of money to hire one, there should be ways to reduce the noise.

He also cavassed for regular exercise, saying such practice also helps good sleep and can be carried out early morning or early evening. “Other things like hot bath and drinking a glass of warm milk can also help,” he added.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that the natural time for sleep is night and to have a good one will do the body good for economic and other purposes.


Touts, not drivers, sleep at parks –FRSC

With the fear that drivers who do long-distance driving don’t always sleep well coupled with the established fact that one may be driven by a mentally-challenged driver out of sleeplessness, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in the state gave the assurance that drivers actually go home to sleep and only touts pass the night at parks, chatting and drinking.

The agency denied that drivers chat the night away at their various parks only to jump behind the wheels the next morning for trips outside of the state.

The state sector commander, Hyginus Omeje, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, said: “Drivers sleeping in motor parks and not going to their house? I am just hearing that for the first time. It cannot be true.” He added: “Just because you go to motor parks and see union members drinking and playing in the night does not mean that they are drivers. Drivers go home at the end of the day’s job to sleep.”

He was, however, quick to add that “there is no way to detect drivers who sleep in their homes and those who sleep in motor park. If a vehicle is involved in a crash because the driver dozed off, that does not mean that he slept in the motor park.”

In the recent crash involving the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Bamigbetan, he and his driver reportedly dozed off before crashing into a bullion van. They were said to have been deprived of sleep.


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