In this day and age, sleep feels almost like a luxury when it is in fact a necessity – a necessary evil, as many would put it. With World Sleep Day just around the corner, it’s high time to adopt a new attitude towards sleep as well as develop some new habits to help you sleep better.
There are so many things to do, people to see, deadlines to meet, places to be … yet there’s so little time. If only we had more waking hours a day. Sleep is overrated, anyway. Besides, there’s always the weekend to catch up on lost snooze time.
Unless you live in a country that isn’t relentlessly fighting for the top spot in practically everything, you would have likely agreed with the above sentiment. To me, though, sleep is never overrated. So often in the middle of the day, I’d think of my bed with equal parts longing and anguish – longing to lie down on it; anguish for my wishful thinking. Not too long ago, I worked from 10am to 6am for three consecutive days, surviving on only two hours of sleep per day (and countless cans of Red Bull). On hindsight, it’s amazing how far we can push the human body, but that is something I’m certainly not dying to find out.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults. A report published last year found that the percentage of the sleep-deprived in Singapore is higher than the global average of 29 percent, with almost one-third of workers here sacrificing sleep for personal and work commitments. While missing a couple of hours of shut-eye every night may not seem like much, a prolonged period of insufficient sleep can lead to serious complications. It may point towards underlying health problems such as stress and depression, and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Health issues aside, lack of sleep has been linked to poor work performance and even car crashes.
Does sleeping in on weekends make up for lost sleep then? Kind of, but not really. A new study led by researchers at Penn State University of College of Medicine, USA, revealed that weekend recovery sleep does negate some of the deficits associated with mild sleep deprivation, such as improved levels of daytime sleepiness. However, attention levels, which dropped significantly during the week of mild sleep deprivation, remained low even after the weekend recovery sleep. This means, catching up on lost sleep on weekends is best used occasionally or only as a short-term remedy. For better sleep in the long run, try these tips instead:
Put that phone away. Really, I mean it. As tempting as it may be to refresh your Instagram feed just one more time or check your mailbox again because you never know if a client had an urgent message to relay at 1.30am, place your phone somewhere far beyond your reach. Studies have shown that exposure to light from electronic screens can affect levels of melatonin, a hormone you shouldn’t mess with since it regulates your body’s internal clock.
Create a relaxing sleep environment. Set aside at least half an hour before bedtime to put your mind to rest. Listen to soothing music, take a long bath, light an aromatherapy candle, and make sure your bedroom light is off. The next time you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, get up and try these non-stimulating activities to lull yourself to sleep.
Exercise regularly, but not just before bedtime. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help improve your sleep, but make sure it’s done at least four hours before you go to bed as exercise boosts energy levels and raises your body temperature.
Avoid late-night alcohol consumption. And meals, for that matter. Having a nightcap in the hope of a good night’s sleep is a common misconception many of us are happy to follow, but while alcohol does induce sleep, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This means, late-night alcohol consumption can disrupt your sleep later on in the night and result in drowsiness and poor concentration the next day.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.
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