“Sleep! Sleep now,” you tell yourself. It’s past midnight and you got to wake up in less than 7 hours. Yet you simply can’t seem to wind down and drift into sleep. To quell the boredom, you unlock your phone and begin using it.
If the above account sounds familiar, fret not. You are not alone. According to an online poll by Wakefield Research, Singaporeans are ranked 2nd out of 12 countries for sleep-related issues. Singaporeans struggle with sleep and this affects their quality of life because getting a good rest plays a huge factor in health, mental well-being, and general functioning.
Amongst the many causes of insomnia; anxiety and stress are some of the most common ones. They can fuel a vicious circle – when one has difficulty falling asleep, it heightens anxiety and stress.
While we can’t always control external factors that trigger anxiety and stress, here are some healthy habits that we can adopt to secure a better night’s rest:
1. You can’t repay a “sleep” debt.
Trying to make up for sleep deprivation during the week by sleeping in during the weekend just doesn’t work. Once sleep is missed, it’s gone for good. You may restore some cognitive decline by catching up on more rest from burning the midnight oil the previous night. However, this is at best a stopgap measure.
Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Remember: your body doesn’t accept sleep loans! Make it a point to get sufficient hours of sleep daily.
2. Consistency is key.
For overall sleep wellness, it is crucial to get sufficient sleep consistently. That means planning and keeping to a sleep schedule daily (including weekends). Doing so conditions your body to a regular sleep pattern thereby making it easier to fall asleep and wake up every day.
3. Cool and dark is the way to go.
In our humid environment, try to keep your bedroom cool at around 25-degree Celcius. Ensure that your bedroom is as dark as possible when going to sleep. Possible light sources are mobile phones, bright digital clocks, laptop screens, and even television. Exposure to light disrupts your body’s capability to fall asleep. In creating a sleep sanctuary, your body can ease into sleep more naturally.
4. Cut down screen time before bedtime.
Resist the urge to check your emails/texts/social media before bedtime. Digital devices such as laptops and mobile phones emit blue light which suppresses the secretion of melatonin (a natural chemical that induces sleepiness). Exposure to blue light at night inhibits sleep. Allow your body to wind down device-free.
5. Curb caffeine consumption afternoon.
Caffeine is a stimulant that perks one up. If consumed in significant quantity and/or afternoon, it can inhibit your sleep. In fact, some people are more susceptible to caffeine than others. For them, even small amounts (eg. one cup of coffee/tea) can create restlessness and sleep problems.
Avoid using caffeine to counter sleep deprivation as that can create a vicious circle of sleeplessness. For instance, you may drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day. However, the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night thereby shortening the length of time you sleep.
6. Exercise but only at the right time.
Regular exercise promotes better sleep. However, working out vigorously (eg. jogging, cardio-related sports, etc) too late in the day can raise your heart rate and pump you up, making it difficult to fall asleep. Try to keep your exercise regime in the morning or noon. Pro-tip: Hit the gym during lunch!
Sufficient, regular, quality sleep promotes health and wellness. Don’t neglect your bedtime! If you are facing persistent problems with sleep, speak to a doctor. You can seek medical advice via teleconsultation with our qualified GPs anytime.