Dreaming of goalposts!

PROFESSIONAL soccer players are more likely to suffer a sleepless night after a big game than before, a study on sleep patterns among professional soccer players has found.

PROFESSIONAL soccer players are more likely to suffer a sleepless night after a big game than before, a study on sleep patterns among professional soccer players has found.

Alison Bentley, a world expert on sleep disorders and a key figure at the Inaugural Congress of the South African Society for Sleep Medicine in Stellenbosch next month, said there was "no doubt" that sleep was a major factor in the way the game was played.

"Most players are healthy young men in their 20s and though it might have been expected that their sleep patterns would be worse before the game, just the opposite was the case," Bentley said.

"Most slept worse the night after."

The research, which studied the sleep habits of players in 16 different matches, will be discussed at the conference which will run from February 19 to 21.

Full details of the study will be published before the World Cup in June.

Bentley said local physicians familiar with sleep disorders will present current data on syndromes such as obstructive sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, parasomnias, insomnia, nocturnal epilepsy and sleep disorders in children at the conference.

Although little research has been done in South Africa, insomnia is a widespread problem in Western Europe, the United States and certain Asian countries, where it has been found that some 30 to 40percent of the population have difficulty sleeping.

About 10percent had chronic insomnia, often caused by emotional or physical discomfort including significant life stress, acute illness or environmental disturbances such as noise, light or jet lag.

"A person in the throes of a divorce may, for instance, become anxious and suffer from insomnia but even after the issues have been resolved many afterwards continue to remain sleepless in a kind of self-fulfilling expectation."

Bentley said a person suffering from insomnia could try breaking the habit by reading for 45 minutes to an hour if not asleep within 15 minutes of bedtime, rather than tossing and turning in bed. - Sapa

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