Good night, sleep tight and sweet dreams

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I have discussed the common sleep disorders and treatment options in my previous blog articles. Here, I am sharing more on how you can get good quality sleep without being too reliant on unnecessary medications and therapies (if your sleeping problems are not too severe).

 

Good quality sleep is so important as you age. Without it, you are risking your health and expose to many health conditions. It is wise to identify your sleep patterns or problems early. Otherwise, by the time you realise your health has deteriorated, you may have to go through treatments and therapies.

 

Comfortable sleeping environment

Sleep statistics

From a recent statistics, almost half (49%) the Singaporeans are not satisfied with their sleep, 79% of the subjects wake up at least once during the night. About 6 in 10 (59%) understand what prevents them from getting a good night’s sleep. 

 

Among the various factors, 34% are attributed to stress and worry, 15% affected by the sleeping environment, while 14% are caused by digital devices such as mobile phones or tablets.

 

How long should you sleep?

Coming back to the same old question, how long should you sleep in a day? Students or working adults may occasionally burn midnight oil for examinations or projects, while older adults and retirees tend to sleep lighter, more frequently and at shorter intervals. As an adult, it is very much depending on your daily activity, lifestyle, stress level, and so on. Your sleep patterns may change from time to time, at different health states, and also with different professions.

 

A 2015 study conducted by UCLA shows that sleep deprivation could lead to cellular ageing and elevate disease risks. Studies by Prof. Dr. Torbjörn Åkerstedt proposed a U-shape association between sleep duration and mortality, whereby consecutively sleeping shorter than 5 hours per night increases death rate by 65%, while sleeping over 8 hours per night elevates death rate by 25%.

 

How to improve your sleep quality?

So, how can you get a good and restful sleep? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Environment
    • Make sure your room is well-ventilated, and there is a good exchange of fresh air.
    • Lower the room temperature can help you sleep better.
    • Use night lights, dim light or switch to total darkness. If total darkness is impossible, try putting on a sleep mask.
    • Keep your room in total silence or use some white noise; if you are sensitive to noise, try earplugs or a sleep mask with earmuffs.
    • Clean up the dust on your fan, air-conditioner filters, bedside cabinet, photo frames, etc. on a regular basis can help you sleep better without breathing in dust particles.
    • If you have asthma or allergy to pets’ fur, keep the animals out from your bedroom.
  2. Bed
    • Choose a comfortable firmness for your mattress and pillow will help with your sleep.
    • As you shed dead skins, it attracts bugs like dust-mites and bed bugs, it is important to change fresh bedsheets and pillow covers regularly to prevent allergies and rashes.
    • Use a blanket to add an extra layer of cosy warmth while you sleep, especially when the room temperature is set to low.
  3. Habit.
    • Make sleeping at the same time your habit. In your body, there is a circadian rhythm that governs your internal clock, it regulates your sleep-wake cycle. If you are supposed to sleep but you are awake or vice versa, your hormone release system, digestive cycle, body temperature, mood, energy level, and so on will go haywire within days.
    • If your profession requires you to work on night shift, you should condition your mind and body to get used to the cycle and new routine. Get uninterrupted sleep whenever possible.
    • Avoid smoking, if possible, especially before bedtime.
    • Reduce the use of digital device with blue light before sleep, for example, computer, laptop, tablet, flat-screen television, and mobile phone. Blue light suppresses your body’s secretion of melatonin that makes you feel drowsy, gives your body the false signal of daytime.
  4. Feed your stomach.
    • You cannot sleep when you are hungry, even if you could, it will not be a good quality sleep (unless you are on a diet plan).
    • Having some light meals or warm milk before bedtime can improve your sleep quality, but if you have heavy meal, late dinner, supper, or go to bed with a full stomach, it is detrimental to your health in the long run.
    • Drinking too much water before sleep will also affect your quality of sleep, because you would tend to urinate more often in the middle of the night.
    • You should also avoid alcohol before sleep. It may let you feel relaxed and sedated, but the relaxation effect on the airway could worsen snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea; when alcohol levels drop, you may experience sleep fragmentation, awakenings, night sweats, nightmares, and even headaches.
    • Avoid taking caffeinated drinks before bedtime, such as Coke, Red Bull, coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate.
  5. Prepare for bedtime.
    • To improve sleep quality, you can consider doing some light exercises or stretching in the evening and taking a warm shower to help relaxation.
    • Studies show that meditation is also helpful to slow down and quiet your mind. You can train your mind to put worries and emotions aside, and to be mindful of the present.
    • Reading a book, listening to soft music or white noise can also help you sleep better.
    • Using essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus or lavender is also beneficial to sleep.

Conclusion

Starting today, let’s make small and incremental improvements in your sleep. Practise and maintain good sleeping habits. You should put more emphasis on the quality rather than the quantity of sleep.

 

As emphasised in the blog article on sleep problems, if you don’t have enough quality sleep while you are healthy, you will need longer rest times for recovery when you are sick.

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