We need between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function at our best, say doctors. Though we know how important it is to get a good night’s rest, many of us are still not sleeping well. One in three Singaporeans are sleep deficient, according to Professor Michael Chee of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
Dr Lim Li Ling, medical director of the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centre at Gleneagles Medical Centre, says lack of sleep has been linked to health problems such as depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to weight gain. “When you lack sleep, your metabolism slows down as your body is trying to conserve its energy stores to carry you through the longer period of wakefulness,” explains Dr Michael Breus, a sleep disorder expert in the US. That slowdown triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that is secreted by the body in response to stress and that also boosts your appetite.
The right amount of sleep can improve our mood, focus, energy level and even immune system. Dr Diwakar Balachandran, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, says: “A lot of studies show that our T-cells (which help our body fight infections) go down if we are sleep-deprived. And inflammatory cytokines go up… This could potentially increase the risk of developing a cold or flu.”
But experts warn that regularly sleeping too much — about nine to 11 hours a night — has been linked to ailments like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Dr Breus says the first and easiest step to ensuring you get adequate sleep is to “count back the number of hours from the time you need to wake up and set yourself the task to be in bed by that time, ready to sleep”. Here are a few easy tweaks to your routine to help you sleep better.