Sleep Your Way to Better Health

One of the things we always take for granted in our daily lives is sleep. According to an article by Jane Zhang, only 27% of Singaporeans are getting enough sleep. This means three quarters of Singaporeans are not getting their recommended 7 hours of sleep.

How important is sleep and what happens to your health when you don’t get enough rest? These are some questions we will be exploring along with some tips on how to maximise the rest you can actually get. Let’s snuggle up and find out!

 

How Important is Sleep?

Before we can fully understand its importance, we should first understand what it is. According to Dr. Tribhushan V. Rambhatla (MBBS), “Sleep is an essential biological process that is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. It is a time for the body to rest, repair, and rejuvenate, allowing various physiological systems to function optimally.”

 

How does sleep work?

Finding out how sleep works will help us be more aware of our sleeping patterns and possibly determining where we lack.

The sleep architect consists of 4 different stages that repeat up to 4 to 5 cycles in a sleep session. They are N1, N2, N3, and N4.

N1, lasting between 1 to 5 minutes is that stage where you are falling asleep. This stage, as most commonly referred to as half awake, is where you start to get loopy and unsure if you’re asleep or awake anymore.

N2, lasting somewhere between 10 minutes to an hour, is a stage where your brain activity, heartbeat and respiratory rate slow down.

N3 is the stage called deep sleep. This is a very vital stage of the whole process as this is where our body gets recovery. The brain activity during this stage has a pattern called Delta Wave which is critical for restoring your body and mind. It sorts out your memories and experiences from the day and your body starts to release growth hormones to heal muscle tissues and strengthen the immune system. This might be the stage we lack the most.

N4 is also known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. At this stage, your brain is as active as it is when you’re awake. It is believed to be a big contributor of insightful thoughts, creativity, and memory. It is also at this stage that you get your most vivid dreams.

 

What Happens To Your Health When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

Now that we know how important sleep is, let’s find out what happens to our health when we are sleep deprived!

 

How do you know if you are sleep deprived?

People who are sleep deprived are usually always tired throughout the day. They don’t feel refreshed when they wake up and have trouble staying alert. Fatigue in the morning is definitely the first sign you’d want to look for to determine if you are sleep deprived.

If you find yourself unable to stay focused for long or dozing off whenever you are sitting still like watching TV, sitting in the car for long rides or even when you’re having a long conversation, you may be sleep deprived.

 

What happens to your health?

Sleep deprivation can lead to some serious health issues if not treated right away. Short term effects may include impairment of learning, memorising and logical thinking. Your mood will also be affected and become irritable throughout the day.

However, long-term sleep deprivation will affect your health and emotional wellbeing greatly. According to Dr. Tan of NUHS, “If you are not getting enough good, restful sleep, it will exacerbate mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. In fact, insomnia is probably a risk factor for anxiety, depression and a whole host of other mental illnesses.”

“Therefore, short sleep or poor quality sleep is very highly associated with cardiovascular issues such as hypertension, heart attacks and even heart failure,” he added.

 

How to Maximise Rest & Sleep?

We already know how important sleep is and what will happen should we continue to be sleep deprived, but how much sleep is enough sleep? According to experts, the most ideal amount of sleep time for adults is between 7 to 9 hours. In fact, Dr. Tan says “Anything below six hours, which is quite often what Singaporeans get, is probably not that ideal.”

Here are some tips we can share to help you get your full night’s rest and maximise the amount of sleep you get.

 

Your environment

To maximise rest, set the right tone to the room. Invest in good mattresses and beddings to help you fall asleep, keep your posture and get comfortable easily.

Block out as much light and noise as possible. Blackout curtains will do wonders to keep your room dark and cosy. An article by Eric Suni and Dr. Abhinav Singh (Sleep Medicine Physician) said that “Avoiding bright light can help you transition to bedtime and contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.” You can reduce noise by using a white noise machine, earplugs, or even headphones.

Keep the temperature of your room cool. Cooler environments help you be comfortable and will minimise sleep disruption.

 

Your routine

Set an alarm for the same time everyday. This will help your body regulate when it should be active and when it should rest.

One of the most important habits to cultivate is to disconnect about an hour before bed. Get off your gadgets within the hour before sleep so you may get some time to wind down and relax. Lights from the devices can be distracting and suppress the natural production of melatonin. Do some light reading or engage in some pillow talk with loved ones to get your body into a rested state.

 

Your lifestyle

Cultivate the habit of taking some time to exercise at least 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be a full fledged workout, just some light stretching will do just as much for your energy.

Did you know that caffeine and alcohol can be a cause for sleep disruption? It is advised that you limit caffeine after 2pm as it promotes jolts of energy throughout the day so it can be disruptive if you consume it later in the day. Alcohol, which most people assume can help with sleep, actually affects the quality of the sleep. Hence, it’s best to avoid it within the hour before bed.

It is highly recommended that you have your dinner earlier in order for you to get sleep easily. It can be harder to sleep when your body is still digesting dinner. So avoid having late night meals and if you’re craving for a snack, opt for something light like some yoghurt with berries drizzled with Coconut Nectar or some mixed nuts.

 

There will always be something that needs our attention and sometimes some thoughts will keep us awake. When it comes to prioritising our sleep, it’s best to leave the worries of the day behind and focus on resting. Whatever that you need to manage, can be addressed the next day.

We should always remember that as vital as it is to keep our body active to stay healthy, it is also important to give it the much-needed rest it needs. Have a peaceful sleep tonight!