08/03/2012 08:21 am ET

Sleep Problems Affect People In Asia And Africa, Too: Study

Sleep troubles are a global issue -- literally.

A new SLEEP study shows that sleep problems like insomnia affect 16.6 percent of adults in Africa and Asia. That rate is nearly as high as the 20 percent experienced in the United States and Canada, researchers found.

"This new study suggests sleep disturbances might also represent a significant and unrecognized public health issue among older people, especially women, in low-income settings," study researcher Dr. Saverio Stranges, of the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

"Also it seems that sleep problems are not linked to urbanisation as the people surveyed were mostly living in rural settings," Stranges added.

The study included 24,434 women and 19,501 who lived in an urban area in Kenya and rural areas in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. The study participants were all age 50 or older.

Similar to research conducted in the United States, the study authors found a link between depression and trouble sleeping, as well as sleep problems being more common among women and older people.

The researchers also found that some countries experienced more sleeplessness than others. For example, people in Vietnam, South Africa and Bangladesh reported high rates of problems.

Specifically, Bangladesh saw the highest rates of sleep problems for women -- with 43.9 percent reporting some sort of sleep problem (meanwhile, 23.6 percent of men there reported sleep problems).

Meanwhile, people in Indonesia and India reported low rates of sleep problems (6.5 percent of Indian women reported sleep problems, compared with 4.3 percent of Indian men; 4.6 percent of Indonesian women reported sleep problems, compared with 3.9 percent of Indonesian men).

Insomnia and other sleep problems have been linked with a number of health risks, including depression, diabetes and high blood pressure, HuffPost's Catherine Pearson previously reported. As many as 10 percent of Americans have diagnosable insomnia, while as many as 25 percent of Americans have some kind of problem with sleep.