Are Singaporeans getting quality sleep? In a recent survey by YouGov, 44 per cent of Singaporeans are not getting enough sleep. Caregivers, in the midst of their caregiving roles, may experience lack of sleep. What can we do to improve sleep for better wellbeing and quality of life? SPD social worker, Benjamin Han, shares more about healthy sleep in this article.
1) How is sleep defined?
Sleep is defined as a period of rest when the body produces growth hormone to repair itself, while the brain recharges its adenosine triphosphate (ATP) supply – the chemical molecules that provide energy for the cells. There are five stages in a typical sleep cycle (90 minutes), and about four to six cycles per night for healthy individuals.
Stage 1: Falling asleep
Stage 2: Light sleep
Stage 3: Moderate sleep
Stage 4: Deep sleep
Stage 5: Rapid eye movement (REM)
2)What is considered a good night sleep?
A good night’s sleep is when one is able to spend at least 85 per cent of the time in bed, can fall asleep within 30 minutes and wakes up only once at night.
3) What are some of the common sleep problems?
Common sleep problems include insomnia (inability to fall asleep easily and/or waking up frequently at night) and excessive daytime sleepiness, both of which can result in impaired memory and concentration, and makes one feel lethargic and irritable. Our daily tasks and social interactions can, in turn, be adversely affected. Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased risk of health issues such as heart diseases, obesity and even death.
4) What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and its symptoms?
A particular medical condition that is far more serious than the common sleep problems is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs when the airway is blocked (obstructed) and oxygen supply to the brain is disrupted (apnea) by a large mass of throat muscles causing a reflex coughing action to reopen the airway. This is repeated throughout the night and it interferes with the body’s natural healing process as it increases the circulatory system’s effort to pump blood to the brain. In the long run, chronic issues such as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes and even stroke may occur.
The most common symptom of OSA – loud snoring with choking sounds, is often casually dismissed as a natural part of sleeping. Hence, many potential cases go unnoticed until the long-term effects have unfortunately set in. Do consult your doctor if you suspect someone at home may be having OSA.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is fully blocked, causing interruption in breathing during sleep
5) What are some tips to improve sleep quality?
On a more positive note, here are some tips to improve your sleep quality:
- Avoid heavy meals, spicy food, fizzy drinks, caffeine and energy drinks before bed as they may cause indigestion and affect sleep.
- Avoid using electronic gadgets, as the blue light emitted from screens suppresses melatonin production, which is a hormone that helps your body know when it is time to sleep and wake up.
- Drink a warm cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bed. Chamomile contains healthy antioxidants and natural sedatives to help you sleep better.
- Eat more foods that are high in melatonin, for e.g., almonds, spinach and tomatoes.
- If you prefer to exercise in the evening, finish your workout at least three hours before bed, as exercising too close to bedtime will keep your body in an energised state and affects sleep.
- Practice good environmental sleep hygiene: keep your room cool and dark, use a comfortable mattress.
- Sleep and wake up at regular times – even on weekends!
- Practice deep-breathing meditation and/or mindfulness techniques to relax your mind before bed.
Tips on healthy sleep include avoiding caffeine, alcohol and overeating and practising good sleeping habits
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