The 8 Golden Rules of Sleep

HiDoc Pulse celebrates National Health Education Week by uncovering why we can never seem to get enough sleep.

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Sleep. We all know we need eight hours a night to stay healthy. Yet just about every other Singapore adult is sleep-deprived; a 2018 YouGov survey reported that a staggering 44% of us get less than seven hours of shuteye nightly. Of that group, 41% sleep four to six hours, while 3% get less than four.

Poor quality or a chronic lack of sleep increases the odds of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It could even lead to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. It results in obesity as you go hunting for midnight Mars bars to stay awake, creating an unhealthy cycle of staying up later, snacking more, and packing on the pounds.

Even a full eight hours might not translate to quality sleep. But sleep is as critical as food and water because when you sleep, your brain orders a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid to flow into it so that harmful waste proteins built up during the day get removed. The brain also sorts the information absorbed during the day into “Essential” and “Unimportant” categories, much like how you defragment your computer’s hard disk to keep it running optimally.

HiDoc Pulse presents our handy checklist of 8 Golden Rules to leave you feeling like a million dollars after a good night’s sleep.

Golden Rule #1: Develop a sleeping ritual

This is the most important rule because when you make a set of activities into a routine, you tend to commit to seeing it done. A sleeping ritual trains your body to know when you should hit the sack. Simple stretching exercises, reading a book (an actual physical book, not on a screen!) or breath meditation are some great ways to relax your body and mind before bedtime.

Golden Rule #2: Keep to a regular sleeping schedule

Maintaining a consistent bedtime regulates your body’s circadian rhythm and allows you to fall asleep easily and wake up feeling recharged. The circadian rhythm manages important physical and mental changes that gear your body up for sleep such as release of the sleep hormone melatonin. This means that you should stick to the same bedtime for weekdays AND weekends if you don’t want your sleep-wake cycle to be thrown out of sync at the end of every week.

Golden Rule #3: Avoid spending more than 20 minutes trying to fall asleep

After 20 minutes of tossing and turning, your best bet is to get up as the longer you stay in bed desperately trying to sleep, the more agitated you get and the lower your chances of a quality night’s sleep. Engage in some light activities that don’t involve electronics. Read a book, gaze out the window or meditate to clear the thoughts inhibiting your sleep.

Golden Rule #4: Avoid too much stimuli in the hour right before bedtime

That means reducing your exposure to loud noises and blue light as they overload your brain and keep it buzzing well into the night. Blue light is especially detrimental to the quality of sleep as the light from our electronic devices signals to the brain that the current time is daytime (even if its 1am!) and so, production of the sleep hormone melatonin stops.

Golden Rule #5: Keep active during your waking hours

Being physically active during the day takes away any excess energy that might prevent you from falling asleep easily. Maintaining a regular exercise regimen also promotes better sleep quality. However, don’t go overboard. Running 10km around your neighbourhood will help you to lose weight but it also causes you to feel too energized for bed due to the production of adrenaline. Try low-intensity yoga exercises instead should you wish to exercise before bedtime.

Golden Rule #6: Avoid overeating and overdrinking during dinner:

Not only do you feel bloated and queasy after a heavy dinner, you also get kept awake past your bedtime as your body works hard to break down all you’ve consumed. You may have to also wake in the middle of the night to relieve yourself, furthering lowering your quality of sleep. As caffeine stimulates your nervous system, consuming coffee up to six hours before bedtime may affect your quality of sleep. A nightcap or two might cause you to feel drowsy, but alcohol may also stop melatonin production. Instead, drink a small cup of chamomile tea an hour before heading to bed. It contains antioxidants that help your brain promote sleepiness and better quality of sleep.

Golden Rule #7: Only two activities allowed on the bed: sleep and sex

The bedroom should be reserved for only sleep and sex, because if you’re in the habit of reading or watching TV in bed, your brain will associate that space with activities other than sleep. On the other hand, strengthening your brain’s association between bedroom and rest (or a good time) will train it to wind down.

Golden Rule #8: Make sure your bedroom is comfortable to unwind for the night

To facilitate quality sleep, pay attention to room temperature, ambient noise control and lighting. Keeping your room cool and comfortable at an even 24 degrees helps cool your body down for sleep without leaving you shivering under the covers. Artificial lights from screens are a big no-no because they are distractions, and prevent melatonin production. Opt instead for yellow mood lighting that does not inhibit melatonin production.

NB. If you ever experience increasingly severe signs and symptoms of health issues, consult with a HiDoc specialist immediately. Use the HiDoc app to order a Wellness Package for a comprehensive report, and book a follow-up teleconsultation for a specialist review — all on your mobile device. Sign up to HiDoc Pulse to stay in touch with health information that empowers, strengthens and inspires.

Medical Disclaimer: Content on HiDoc Pulse, including text, images, audio, or any other formats not specified here, is provided only for general informational purposes and not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use information found on HiDoc Pulse for diagnosing or treating medical or health conditions of any kind. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem or condition that needs to be addressed, please contact your professional healthcare provider.


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