Sleepless in Singapore

How much sleep is enough — and what does insufficient sleep really do to us?


Today, sleep deprivation seems to be a global problem, as seen in a recent study that placed the global average of sleep-starved individuals at 29 per cent. But an even more startling fact revealed was that every one in three Singaporeans (approximately 33 per cent) claims a lack of sleep, which is higher than the global average.

A recent editorial in Annals, a journal by the Singapore Academy of Medicine, written by Professor Michael Chee from the Centre of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, said that people who do not get adequate sleep are more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart problems and become obese as the sleep-deprived often crave sugary and greasy foods. He also wrote that sacrificing sleep may lead to serious consequences, such as increased all-cause mortality.

What is good sleep?
But do we really need eight hours of sleep? According to the Singapore Neurology and Sleep Centre, it may be actually healthier to sleep a little less than that. Six to seven hours work fine for most people, but five hours or less can be detrimental to our health, as seen in a study done by Wake Forest University researchers in Winston-Salem, in the United States. The results showed that those who got five hours or less of shut-eye gained 2.5 times more abdominal fat than those who slept at least six hours. Scientists in the Netherlands also found that people who slept less than four hours a night developed an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

So how do you know if you’ve slept enough? Doctors say that you’re a good sleeper if you fall asleep and wake up at about the same time every day, even during the weekends. And more importantly, with sufficient sleep, you won’t even need to rely on an alarm clock in the mornings, let alone hitting that snooze button multiple times before finally hauling yourself out of bed.

At night when you hit the sack, you should be able to fall asleep within 10 to 15 minutes, according to doctors at the Singapore Sleep and Neurology Centre. And even if you do wake during the night to go to the bathroom, you should be able to fall right back to sleep easily.

Doctors also state that it is normal to feel a mid-afternoon lull, but there should not be overwhelming sleepiness if you’ve had enough rest during the night.

The story 'Sleepless in Singapore' first appeared in ELLE Singapore

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