Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night because of an increasingly hectic lifestyle, although a lack of sleep can also be a symptom of depression.
Dr Joshua Ong, family physician at Parkway Shenton's clinic in Kovan, shares his thoughts on getting quality sleep.
Q1. Why is sleep important?
When we suffer from sleep deficiency, it negatively affects our emotions and mental ability. For instance, it increases the risk of impulsive behaviour and compromises our decision-making process. Sleep deficiency can also lead to higher risk of chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular (heart) disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
Fun facts about sleep:
- 1 in 5 adults fails to get enough sleep.
- People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even knowing it.
- Drinking caffeine during the day can affect how you sleep at night.
- Mild snoring is nearly universal – almost everyone is likely to snore at one time or another.
- Children tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer when they go to bed before 9pm.
Q2. What is considered quality sleep?
According to Sleep Health, a journal by the National Sleep Foundation, key determinants of quality sleep include:
- Spending 85% of your bedtime in deep sleep
- Falling asleep within 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once every night
- Waking up for less than 20 minutes after falling asleep
- 4 stages of sleep – When we sleep at night, we typically go through several sleep cycles. Each cycle consists of 4 stages. Stages 1 – 3 make up non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, while stage 4 involves rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 – 110 minutes, with each stage lasting around 15 minutes. Stage 3 is considered to be the deep sleep stage, which provides the most restorative sleep of all the sleep stages.
- Average sleep time: Healthy sleep duration is between 14 – 17 hours for newborns, 12 – 15 hours for infants, 8 – 10 hours for school children and 7 – 9 hours for adults.
Q3. What are the most common sleep problems that Singaporeans experience?
Younger Singaporeans tend to have more difficulty falling asleep due to work or study related stress. Their sleep tends to improve during the weekends when they have no work or school commitments to think about. On the other hand, older Singaporeans have problems maintaining uninterrupted sleep. This is usually due to their need to urinate frequently at night, which is caused by physical factors such as prostate problems in men or weak pelvic floor muscles and incontinence in women.
Q4. What is your advice for patients with sleep problems?
My advice for patients is to:
- Stick to a sleep schedule with fixed bedtime and wake-up time, even on a weekend
- Practise a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading a book or listening to soft music 1 hour before sleep
- Avoid taking naps, especially in the afternoon
- Exercise daily
- Ensure your bedroom is cool, quiet and dark at night
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow
- Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning to help regulate your circadian rhythms (a 24-hour cycle of physical, mental and behavioural changes)
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and a heavy meal in the evening
- Remove your work, television and computer from your sleeping environment
- Talk to your doctor if you still have problems sleeping