Sleep is essential for good health, yet too many people suffer from sleep deprivation because of poor habits or poor sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep can affect cognitive functioning and mood, and harm your mental and physical health in myriad ways.
“Chronic sleep insufficiency has been associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes, including a greater risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and immune suppression,” says Dr Sin Gwen Li, Senior Consultant in the Department of Psychiatry at Singapore General Hospital.
In Singapore, a recent study conducted by SingHealth Polyclinics revealed that some 44 per cent of adult Singaporeans aged 21 to 80 do not get enough sleep on weekdays. For the purposes of the study, getting less than seven hours’ sleep was deemed insufficient.
Sleep helps your mind and body with the following functions:
- Cognitive performance and alertness
- Memory formation, i.e. storing and consolidating new information learned in the day
- Elimination of toxins and waste products
- Replenishing stores of energy and chemicals
- Repair of heart muscles and blood vessels
- Healthy growth/development in children and adolescents
How much sleep is enough?
Adults: Individual needs vary from person to person, but adults typically need six to 10 hours a night.
Children: A newborn needs about 14 to 19 hours of sleep, an infant about 12 to 15 hours and a toddler about 10 hours. Primary school-aged children need at least nine hours of sleep, while teenagers need eight to 10 hours.
How to get a good night’s sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Cultivate a bedtime routine that relaxes you.
- Avoid stimulating activities such as vigorous exercise, working intensively, watching exciting TV shows or films, or reading a thrilling book before bedtime.
- Exercise during the day, at least four hours before bedtime.
- Maintain a conducive sleep environment with a comfortable bed/mattress and pillows in quiet and darkened room, cool temperature.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, heavy meals and excessive intake of fluids close to bedtime.
- Avoid napping during the day.
- Do not repeatedly check the time if you can’t sleep. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
- Do not watch TV or work in bed which may condition the body to being alert.
Finally, put that phone down if you want to go to bed. “The use of electronic screens just before bedtime can affect the ability to fall asleep, as the blue light emissions from such screens can suppress the body’s production of melatonin,” says Dr Sin.