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MindSG

Explore our suite of self-care tips and tools designed to help you achieve better mental well-being.

Why do we need sleep?

Regular, adequate, and restful sleep recharges our bodies and minds, leaving us refreshed and alert when we awaken. This is beneficial for our:

Learning

It helps to consolidate memory for better learning.

Health

It helps to boost our immune system, while giving our body time to restore itself and replenish energy for the next day.

Mental well-being

It helps with mood regulation.

What happens when we sleep?

We usually pass through four sleep stages. These stages progress in a continuous cycle from stage 1 to 4 (also known as rapid eye movement, or REM). Sleep cycles vary from person to person.

On average, each sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes and repeats several times throughout the night.



sleep-cycle

How much sleep do we need?

A good night’s sleep should leave you feeling refreshed, alert, and ready to begin the day. International recommendations for sleep duration depend on age. If you are an adult, you should strive to get at least 7 hours of sleep each day.

sleep-cycle

What is sleep deprivation?

It is a general term to describe a state caused by inadequate quantity or quality of sleep. The primary sign and symptom of sleep deprivation include feeling extremely tired during the day, reduced concentration, slower thinking, and mood changes.

Sleep deprivation can be caused by:

poor-sleep

Poor sleep hygiene

E.g. inconsistent bedtime routines and non-conducive bedroom environments

Lifestyle choices

E.g. staying up to binge watch shows

Work obligations

E.g. multiple jobs, extended hours

Sleep disorders

E.g. sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder that induces abrupt awakenings

Other medical conditions

E.g. anxiety disorder which includes persistent and excessive worry about activities/events, big or small


What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

People who are sleep deprived are more likely to struggle while at work or in school, or experience mood changes that may affect personal relationships. It can also lead to unintentional errors and accidents, as in the case of drowsy driving.

Over time, a persistent lack of sleep can pose the following risks to our physical and mental health:

Cardiovascular disease

Sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Diabetes

Insufficient sleep appears to affect the body to regulate blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Obesity

Some research has found that people tend to consume more calories and carbohydrates when they are sleep deprived.

Compromised immune function

Sleep deficiency has been shown to lead to worsened immune function.

mental health

Mental health conditions

Poor sleep has strong associations with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Dementia

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:

  • Abnormal behaviour associated with sleep (e.g. sleepwalking)
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Excessive total sleep time
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times

The symptoms of a sleep disorder depend on the specific type of sleep disorder.

  • Difficulty concentrating at home, school, or work
  • Difficulty staying awake while sitting
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Falling asleep while driving
  • Feeling sleepy or irritable during the day
  • Memory problems
  • Needing multiple caffeinated drinks to make it through the day
  • Often appearing tired and/or feeling fatigued every day
  • Slowed reaction
  • Snoring

Some people experience difficulty sleeping at some point in their lives. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, keep a sleep record using a sleep diary or tracker. This makes it possible to calculate total sleep time, identify sleep disruptions, and other factors that can influence your sleep. Bring it along when you consult your GP or a sleep specialist. The condition must have persisted for at least one month and has caused significant emotional distress and interfered with one’s social or occupational functioning.

Your sleep diary should include :

The time you went to bed and woke up.
Total sleep hours and perceived quality of sleep.
A record of the time you spent awake and what you 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 you consumed before bed, plus frequency of consumption.
Your feelings and mood before bed (e.g. stress, anxiety, low mood).
Medications or drugs taken, including time of consumption and dose.
  • the time you went to bed and woke up
  • total sleep hours and perceived quality of sleep
  • a record of the time you spent awake and what you 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 you consumed before bed, plus frequency of consumption
  • your feelings and mood before bed (e.g. stress, anxiety, low mood). Try some stress relief exercises here.
  • medications or drugs taken, including time of consumption and dose.

Do consult your GP or a sleep specialist if you are concerned about your sleep.

Sleep centres

Do consult your GP or a sleep specialist if you are concerned about your sleep. If sleep problems persist and are bothersome or interferes with how you feel or function during the day, you may need to seek a doctor’s advice from the Sleep Centres listed below.

What can I do to get a good night’s sleep?

Your daily habits and sleep environment are vital to ensuring a good night’s sleep and preventing sleep deprivation. Here are some self-help tips for you:

01
sleep at night

Avoid using electronics at least 30 mins before bedtime

The blue light coming from the phone/tv/tablet suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports your sleep/wake cycle. When your cycle is disrupted, you feel less rested. Reading emails, sending texts, and checking social media, etc. can all stimulate your mind, making it harder for you to fall and remain asleep.

02
relaxation techniques

Practice relaxation techniques

If you have trouble falling asleep, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation can help you quiet your mind and calm your body.

03

Read a book

Stick to an old-fashioned physical book, or use an e-reader, rather than a bright tablet or mobile phone.

04

Listen to relaxing music

Slow and soothing music has the power to help you feel relaxed and at ease, making it easier for you to fall asleep. Once you integrate music into your bedtime routine, stick with it. It will become a habit that cues your body to prepare for shuteye.

Check out this playlist to help you sleep better.

05

Eat smart

Avoid going to bed with an overly full belly. It will make you feel uncomfortable and could keep you awake longer. Sometimes, heartburn or gas will further increase the discomfort, thus, affecting sleep. Also, avoid satiating hunger pangs before bed with large meals. Instead, have light and healthy snacks like low-fat yoghurt, a cup of milk, or a serving of fruit.

06

Exercise regularly

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activities help you fall asleep more quickly and improve your sleep quality. Being exposed to sunlight while exercising outdoors helps your 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 individual to individual. Try exercising at different times to determine an exercise schedule that helps you sleep better. Stay active with our exercise tips!

07
good-sleep

Stick to a bedtime routine

The consistency of a routine signals for your 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).

08

Stay away from caffeine and alcohol at night

Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or tea, are stimulants that can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline production. Avoid consuming alcohol at night. Although it helps shorten the time taken to sleep, it can disrupt sleep later in the night, leading to poorer quality sleep.

09
sleep environment

Keep your sleep environment comfortable

Block out light using thick curtains or eye shades, and consider using earplugs to drown out loud noises.

10

Avoid evening naps

Napping later in the evening may disrupt your ability to fall asleep at night. Research has shown that the best time to take a power nap should be done in the early to mid-afternoon that lasts approximately from 10 to 20 minutes.

11

If you’re a smoker, quit smoking!

People that 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 on 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 your health risk and help you begin to get better sleep.

1/11

What if I cannot fall asleep?


trouble sleeping

Lying awake in bed for too long can create an unhealthy mental association between your sleeping environment and wakefulness. Instead, we should create positive associations that promote thoughts and feelings conducive to sleep.

If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, don’t force yourself to stay in bed. Get up and do another activity e.g. go to another part of your house and do something soothing, such as reading or listening to quiet music.