Annals of Thoracic Medicine Official publication of the Saudi Thoracic Society, affiliated to King Saud University
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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 247-251

Sleep disturbances and memory impairment among pregnant women consuming khat: An under-recognized problem

1 Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Mizan-Tepi University, (Mizan Campus), Mizan Teferi, Ethiopia
2 Department of Pharmacy, College of Health Sciences, Mizan-Tepi University, (Mizan Campus), Mizan Teferi, Ethiopia
3 University Sleep Disorders Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh; National Plan for Science and Technology, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4 Sleep and Fatigue Institute, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Ahmed S Bahammam
University Sleep Disorders Center, King Saud University, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/atm.ATM_24_17

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Khat (Catha edulis) is a evergreen flowering shrub that is cultivated at high altitudes, especially in East Africa and the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula. The plant contains alkaloids, of which cathinone and cathine have structural similarity and pharmacological action similar to amphetamines. The leaves are, therefore, consumed in some regions as a psychoactive stimulant due to cultural beliefs and misperceptions on the health benefits of khat consumption. This resulted in a growing prevalence of khat consumption among pregnant women. The myriad of physiological changes associated with pregnancy impairs sleep and memory. Moreover, khat has also been shown to have adverse effects on memory and sleep. Therefore, its use during pregnancy may further aggravate those impairments. The purpose of this mini-review is to summarize the changes in sleep and memory during pregnancy and the evidence supporting a relationship between khat consumption and neurocognitive deficits and sleep dysfunctions. The misperceptions of beneficial effects of khat, the high prevalence of consumption among pregnant women, and the possibility of under-reporting of khat abuse do necessitate the development of alternative methodologies to identify cases of unreported khat abuse in pregnant women. It is proposed that screening for sleep problems and memory deficits may help identify under-reported cases of khat abuse in pregnant women.

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