Right now, in what feels like eternity of social distancing, you probably don’t even know what the actual time of the day is, and your body might not either.
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, nothing feels normal, and that might include your body’s sleep schedule. So don’t worry if you’ve been unable to sleep, we’re here to explain to you why that is and what you can do about it.
What stays in the office, (cannot) stay in the office
Dr Leong Hoo Kwong, Consultant Surgeon at Nobel ENT Centre credits part of this phenomenon to the circuit breaker. And rightly so, Because of the way we have turned our homes into offices, it becomes hard to switch off at the end of the day.
“As such, many people find it difficult to sleep an adequate amount, because of stress, disrupted daily routines, as well as a lack of movement” says Dr Leong. He also adds that a sedentary lifestyle can worsen pre-existing problems like sleep apnoea or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), all of which can lead to a night of bad sleep.
Do I have good sleep?
We’ve been talking a lot about good sleep, and while we think it’s only about having more than 8 hours of sleep, the term actually weighs a lot more than that.
Good sleep encapsulates the duration and quality of sleep. And this may differ between individuals.
In general, most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep while children can sleep for up to 12 hours. Besides sleep duration, indicators of sleep quality include how often you wake up at night, and how long it takes for you to go to sleep.
– Dr Leong
However, more is not necessarily better too. Oversleeping may be a sign of underlying health conditions such as depression or obstructive sleep apnoea.
Tips for better sleep
In light of this, Dr Leong has suggested a few ways you can get better sleep.
1. Manage medical conditions
Ear, nose and throat conditions (ENT) such as GERD, sleep apnoea or allergic rhinitis are some of the common medical conditions that can affect sleep greatly. As such, managing these conditions are very important.
For instance, Dr Leong encourages those with allergic rhinitis and GERD to take the appropriate medication, while those with obstructive sleep apnoea can consider using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which uses gentle air pressure to keep the individual’s airways open as they sleep.
2. Exercise goes a long way
Exercise can help promote better sleep as well. However, Dr Leong advices us to exercise at least four hours before we intend to sleep to prevent over-stimulation after a night-time run.
3. Nighttime routines
Preparing for bed can help to condition our bodies to sleep earlier. Take up a book, listen to music, podcasts or any other relaxing activities to put your mind at ease just before bed. These routines can greatly alleviate the stress of the day.
4. Say no to screens
Putting away screens like mobile phones and televisions before bedtime is actually more important than you think.
Explaining from a biological standpoint, Dr Leong notes that screens produce blue light which suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, being exposed to stimulating content such the news, movies or work-related emails can make it difficult for us to begin the winding down process.
Sleep is for the strong
In our culture that celebrates workaholism, “sleep is for the weak” has become a bragging right. But we hope we have shown you differently.
Getting a good night’s sleep can boost both our mental and physical health. Bad sleep can lead to weight gain and put us at risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
People who struggle with getting sufficient sleep are also more likely to be depressed, anxious or suicidal. In turn, this can make us irritable, affect our ability to focus in the day, and ruin interpersonal relationships.
Understandably, sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. But we need to reconsider our priorities and put sleeping earlier higher on the list. “Making up for lost sleep by taking afternoon naps or sleeping in on the weekends is just not enough,” says Dr Leong.
Contributed by Dr Leong Hoo Kwong, Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon from Nobel ENT Centre (a member of Healthway Medical Group)