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As we go through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we might start to neglect the importance of sleep in order to finish up things that we didn’t get to do during the day. Having limited time and increasing commitments to manage may lead to us de-prioritising our sleep. Yet, sleep is key in such demanding times as good sleep is the foundation for the body and mind to function effectively and healthily. Let’s learn more about sleep health and how we can sleep better.
Regular, adequate, and restful sleep recharges our bodies and minds, leaving us refreshed and alert when we awaken.This is beneficial for our:
It helps to boost our immune system, while giving our body time to restore itself and replenish energy for the next day.
It helps to consolidate memory for better learning.
It helps with mood regulation.
We usually pass through four sleep stages. These stages progress in a continuous cycle from Stage 1 to 4 (which is known as the rapid eye movement, or REM stage). Sleep cycles vary from person to person. On average, each sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes and repeats several times throughout the night.
A good night’s sleep should leave us feeling refreshed, alert, and ready to begin the day. International recommendations for sleep duration depend on age. We should strive to get at least seven hours of sleep each day.
It is a general term to describe a state when we don’t have enough sleep, or have poor quality sleep. The main signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation include feeling very tired during the day, reduced concentration, slower thinking, and mood changes.
Sleep deprivation can be caused by:
Poor sleep hygiene
E.g. irregular bedtime routines and bedroom environments that do not encourage sleep
E.g. staying up to binge-watch shows
Excessive usage of devices
E.g. using our phones for long periods of time at the expense of sleep
Work and/or study obligations
E.g. multiple jobs, study assignments, long hours
E.g. sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder where one stops breathing multiple times during sleep, disrupting the quality of sleep
Other conditions E.g. physical or mental
E.g. anxiety disorder which includes persistent and excessive worry about activities/events, big or small
Sleep deprivation is often a result of poor sleep hygiene. An example is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination (RBP) where we sacrifice sleep for more leisure time. This happens in cases where our jobs or responsibilities take up a significant portion of our day and we feel that we are left with very little time for leisure and relaxation. We may take “revenge” by pushing back our bedtimes to do the things we find fun and relaxing e.g., gaming, engaging on social media, binge-watching shows. Although this can be tempting in the moment, late nights followed by early mornings can lead to sleep deprivation. Learn how to prevent this by picking up good sleep habits.
Working through the night might seem like a badge of honour and a symbol of being hardworking. We may feel that we can get by with less sleep as we are young, but in reality, good quality sleep is essential at any age to fortify our mind, body and immune system. Unfortunately, catching up on our sleep over the weekend is not as effective as we might think because sleeping in during the weekends does not help our bodies fully recover from the effects of sleep deprivation.Over time, a persistent lack of sleep can pose the following risks to our physical and mental health:
Lack of sleep can result in a decrease in positive mood.
Poorer attention span
Lack of sleep can affect our memory, ability to perform simple daily tasks, and ability to concentrate.
Research has shown that poor quality sleep is associated with poor performance in school.
Compromised immune function
Sleep deficiency has been shown to lead to worsened immune function.
Mental health conditions
Poor sleep has strong associations with conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Some research has found that people tend to consume more calories and carbohydrates when they are sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Insufficient sleep appears to affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Those with poor sleep habits would run a higher risk of dementia.
A sleep disorder is characterised by a disruptive sleep pattern that may include any of the following:
We may experience difficulty sleeping at some points in our lives. If the issue persisted for at least a month, caused signiﬁcant emotional distress and interfered with our social or occupational functioning, we could consider keeping a sleep record. The sleep record, either in the form of a sleep diary or tracker, could allow us to calculate our total sleep time, identify sleep disruptions and other factors that may influence our sleep. It would also serve as useful information for the healthcare professional to make a diagnosis on whether we have a sleep disorder.
The sleep record should include:
The time we went to bed and woke up
Total sleep hours and perceived quality of sleep
A record of the time we spent awake and what we did (e.g. “got up, had a glass of milk”, “stayed in bed with eyes closed”)
Types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine, or alcohol we consumed before bed, plus frequency of consumption
Our feelings and mood before bed (e.g. stress, anxiety, low mood)
Medications or drugs taken, including time of consumption and dose
If we are concerned about our sleep, or if our sleep problems continue, are bothersome or interfere with how we feel or function during the day, we may need to get advice from a healthcare professional from any of the Sleep Centres listed below.
Changi General Hospital
Address:Level 2D (Lung Clinic & Integrated Sleep Centre)Level 8 (Sleep Laboratory)2 Simei Street 3Singapore 529889
Opening Hours:Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pmSat: 8:30am – 12:30pmClosed on Sun and PH
Tel: 6788 8833Appointment for SpecialistClinics: 6850 3333
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Address:100 Bukit Timah RdSingapore 229899
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Tel: 6225 5554
National Dental Centre Singapore
Address:5 Second Hospital AvenueSingapore 168938
Opening Hours:Mon – Fri: 8:00am – 5:30pmClosed on Sat, Sun and PH
Tel: 6324 8802
National Neuroscience Institute
Address:NNI @ TTSH CampusNeuroscience Clinic, Level 1National Neuroscience Institute11 Jalan Tan Tock SengSingapore 308433
Opening Hours (Clinic):Mon – Wed, Fri: 8:00am – 5:30pmThu: 8:00am – 5:00pmClosed on Sat, Sun and PH
Tel: 6330 6363
Address:NNI @ SGH CampusNeuroscience Clinic, Block 3Singapore General HospitalOutram RoadSingapore 169608
Opening Hours (Clinic):Mon – Fri: 8:00am – 6:00pmSat: 8:00am – 1:00pmClosed on Sun and PH
Tel: 6321 4377
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
Address:1 Jurong East Street 21 Singapore 609606
Opening Hours:Tues – Fri: 8:30am – 12:30pmClosed on Mon, Sat, Sun and PH
Tel: 6716 2222
Sengkang General Hospital
Address:Medical Centre, Level 6E110 Sengkang East WaySingapore 544886
Opening Hours:Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pmClosed on Sat, Sun and PH
Tel: 6930 6000
Singapore General Hospital
Address:SingHealth Tower, Level 3 (Outram Community Hospital)
Opening Hours:Appointment-based; no walk-ins
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Address:90 Yishun Central Singapore 768828
Opening Hours:Mon – Fri: 8:00am – 5:30pmSat: 8:00am –1:00pmClosed on Sun and PH
Tel: 6555 8828
Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Address:Level 1, TTSH Medical Centre11 Jalan Tan Tock SengSingapore 308433
Tel: 6357 7000
Our daily habits and sleep environment are vital to ensuring a good night’s sleep and preventing sleep deprivation. Here are some self-help tips:
Avoid using electronics at least 30 mins before bedtime
The blue light coming from the phone/television/tablet suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports our sleep/wake cycle. When our cycle is disrupted, we would feel less rested. Reading emails, sending texts, and checking social media, etc. can also stimulate our mind, making it harder for us to fall and remain asleep.One practical tip to achieve this could be charging/placing our phone somewhere out of reach when we are in bed.
Practise relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation can help us calm our mind and body.
Read a book
Stick to an old-fashioned hard copy book, or use an e-reader, rather than a bright tablet or smartphone.
Listen to relaxing music
Slow and soothing music can help us feel relaxed and at ease, making it easier for us to fall asleep. Once we integrate music into our bedtime routine, we should stick with it. It will become a habit that cues our body to prepare for rest. Check out this playlist to help us sleep better.
Avoid going to bed with an overly full belly. It will make us feel uncomfortable and could keep us awake longer. Sometimes, heartburn or gas will further increase the discomfort and affect sleep. Also, avoid having large meals or late-night snacks before bed-time. Instead, have light and healthy snacks like low-fat yoghurt, a cup of milk, or a serving of fruit.
Moderate-to-vigorous physical activities help us fall asleep more quickly and improve our sleep quality. Being exposed to sunlight while exercising outdoors helps our body regulate its sleep/wake cycle. Exercise also leads to changes in body temperature that facilitate a good night’s sleep. Current science suggests the best time to exercise for better sleep differs from person to person. Try exercising at different times to determine an exercise schedule that works best for us and helps us sleep better. Stay active with our exercise tips!
Stick to a bedtime routine
The consistency of a routine signals for our body and brain to sleep. Create a routine and schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends).
Stay away from caffeine and alcohol at night
Caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea are stimulants that can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. Avoid consuming alcohol at night. Although we may fall asleep faster, it can disrupt sleep later in the night, leading to poorer quality sleep.
Keep our sleep environment comfortable
Block out light using thick curtains or eye shades, and consider using earplugs to shut out loud noises.
Avoid evening naps
Napping later in the evening may disrupt our ability to fall asleep at night. Research has shown that the best time to take a power nap is in the early to mid-afternoon, and the nap should last approximately 10 to 20 minutes.
People who smoke have a dependence on nicotine. As smoking is highly addictive, smoking can lead to poor sleep and sleep-related issues. Heavy smokers may experience withdrawal symptoms throughout the night, when going for hours without a cigarette. The body may begin to crave nicotine, resulting in the need to wake up for a puff. As a result, sleep cycles are disrupted and less deep sleep occurs. Quitting smoking can reduce our health risks and help us begin to get better sleep.
Lying awake in bed for too long can create an unhealthy mental association between our sleeping environment and wakefulness. Instead, we should create positive associations that promote thoughts and feelings conducive to sleep. If we cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, we should not force ourselves to stay in bed. We should get up and do another activity, e.g. go to another part of our home and do something relaxing, such as reading or listening to soothing music.
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