Are You Getting Quality Sleep?
Posted on December 25, 2019 by Ann
Written by Benjamin Han (Social Worker, SPD)
According to a recent survey by YouGov, 44% of Singaporeans are not getting enough sleep. In particular, caregivers, given their caregiving responsibilities, may experience a lack of sleep. What can we do to improve sleep for better wellbeing and quality of life? Learn more about healthy sleep in this article.
How is Sleep Defined?
Sleep is defined as a period of rest when —
- the body produces growth hormone to repair itself, and
- the brain recharges its adenosine triphosphate (ATP) supply. (ATP are chemical molecules that provide energy for the cells.)
There are five stages in a typical sleep cycle (90 minutes).
Stage 1: Falling asleep
Stage 2: Light sleep
Stage 3: Moderate sleep
Stage 4: Deep sleep
Stage 5: Rapid eye movement (REM)
Healthy individuals experience about 4 to 6 cycles per night.
What is a Good Night’s Sleep?
You have had a good night’s sleep is when you —
- were able to sleep for at least 85% of the time you are in bed,
- could fall asleep within 30 minutes, and
- woke up only once at night.
Did you have a good sleep last night?
What are Some Common Sleep Problems?
Common sleep problems are —
- insomnia (inability to fall asleep easily and/or waking up frequently at night), and
- excessive daytime sleepiness.
Both problems may —
- impair our memory and ability to concentrate,
- make us feel lethargic and irritable,
- adversely affect our ability to carry out daily tasks and social interactions, and
- lead to increased risk of health issues such as heart diseases, obesity and even death.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com</a>
A particular medical condition that is far more serious than the common sleep problems is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA 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 aspect of sleeping. Hence, many potential cases go unnoticed until the long-term effects have unfortunately set in.
Do consult your doctor if you suspect that someone at home may have OSA.
What are Ways to Improve Sleep Quality?
Here are some tips to improve your sleep quality:
- Avoid the following foods or drinks before bed as they may cause indigestion and affect sleep:
- heavy meals,
- spicy food,
- fizzy drinks,
- caffeine, and
- energy drinks.
- Avoid using electronic gadgets, as the blue light emitted from screens suppresses melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body know when it is time to sleep and time to 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, e.g., almonds, spinach, and tomatoes.
- If you prefer to exercise in the evening, complete your workout at least 3 hours before bed. This is because exercising too close to bedtime will keep your body in an energised state and affect sleep.
- Practice good environmental sleep hygiene: keep your room cool and dark, and 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 and body before bedtime.
For More Information
- Are You Getting Quality Sleep?, Healthhub, August 2018
- How does Sleep Deprivation affect You?, Healthhub, May 2018
- Eat Right, Sleep Tight, Healthhub, January 2018
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Singhealth
SPD is an All In Preferred Partner.
SPD is a charity in Singapore set up to help people with disabilities of all ages to maximise their potential and integrate them into mainstream society.
This guide was originally published by SPD and republished with minor editorial amendments by All In.