Getting a good night’s rest doesn’t always have to be a struggle.
Even though Singaporeans are known to be ‘kiasu’, we are definitely not when it comes to sleep. With hectic school and work lives, poor sleep habits are cultivated from young. This is a rising concern as a lack of sleep can cause health issues like heart diseases, poor immunity system and diabetes. We speak to Dr Laura Palagini, a renowned psychiatrist from Italy to gain more insight on the issue of sleep deprivation and find out how we can cultivate good sleeping habits.
Why are people getting less sleep?
It is not news that we live in a competitive society. The fast pace of life results in accumulated stress and poor work-life balance among many Singaporeans. According to Dr Palagini, stress increases your psychological arousal in ways that are incompatible with the state your body needs to be in for relaxed and restorative sleep.
Furthermore, you are probably guilty of using your phone right before you sleep. The blue light emitted by LED displays can disrupt sleep patterns by blocking melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.
In order to develop better sleeping habits, we must first dispel some misconceptions.
Misconceptions of sleep deprivation
- Everyone needs eight hours of sleep
Depending on your age and body type, you may need more or less than eight hours of sleep a night. Sleeping too much or too little can affect your sleep quality. This is also why some people find themselves waking up all groggy despite having the supposed eight hours of rest often preached to us. According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, children under the age of 14 require more than eight hours of sleep, but that is not the case for other age groups. It may in fact be appropriate for teens aged 14 to 17 to sleep seven hours and adults above 18 to sleep six hours a night. Having said that, it is important to understand the needs of your own body.
- Alcohol helps you to sleep better
Alcohol may be sleep-inducing, but it does not actually improve your quality of sleep. According to Dr Palagini, the second cycle of your sleep will be disrupted once the alcohol level in your blood drops. You might then wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. Not to mention, depending on how much alcohol you drink, you may wake up with a headache or feel less well rested.
- You are only insomniac if you have difficulty falling asleep
Insomnia extends beyond not being able to sleep. It is a complex disorder that includes other symptoms. The other symptoms are waking up early and being unable to go back to bed, having disrupted sleep and waking up feeling tired.
- Power naps make you feel refreshed
Dr Palagini says not all naps are equally restorative. She recommends 20 minutes of nap time for a boost in energy and mental alertness. If you nap for too long, you may end up feeling even more tired.
Here’s what you can do to get better quality sleep.
- Cultivate a fixed sleep schedule
This may sound like a tall feat for the busy bees, but you can start with small steps like going to sleep an hour or two earlier than your usual bedtime. Sticking to a fixed routine will set your body’s internal clock to expect sleep after a certain time.
- Exercise regularly
Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster. But try to exercise early in the day instead of right before your bedtime. This is because exercise produces the hormone cortisol, which will cause your mind to be more alert, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Skip that power nap
That afternoon nap you have been sneaking into your everyday routine may be what’s keeping you from falling asleep at night. Keep your naps short and preferably before night falls.
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine
Engage in relaxing activities before you sleep. Some examples include reading or taking a nice bath. Avoid using electronic devices or engaging in stressful and stimulating activities.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Avoid them four to six hours before you sleep. You should be aware that caffeine keeps you awake, so it is best to avoid foods that contain caffeine. Yes, that means even chocolate. As mentioned, alcohol will only prevent you from getting uninterrupted sleep.
- Do not overeat before you sleep
Eating greasy and oily food close to your bedtime may cause indigestion and affect your ability to fall asleep. You should definitely avoid these five foods that can sabotage your sleep. If you really need a bite, snack on something light that will not disturb your sleep.
- Don’t get stressed when you cannot fall asleep
Avoid staring at the clock or getting frustrated when you find yourself having trouble falling asleep. If you are unable to fall asleep, do something relaxing to induce sleep rather than tossing and turning in bed. Try out some of these nine tips to help induce sleep.