Without doubt, sleep remains an important aspect of our well-being. But fact of the matter is many of us neglect to get enough shut-eye. And based on findings of Philips’ 2021 global sleep survey, Singaporeans are reporting sleeping less.

The annual report, released in conjunction with World Sleep Day 2021 on 19 March, reports that we are averaging 6.8 hours of sleep per night. The 6th annual global sleep survey, ‘Seeking Solutions: How COVID-19 Changed Sleep Around the World’, also reveals that more than half surveyed admit the pandemic has directly impacted their ability to sleep well.

The Importance Of Good Sleep

According to Ivy Lai, Country Manager of Philips Singapore, people are generally now more aware of the importance of sleep, along with the recommended minimum of seven hours per night. “However, many still deprioritise sleep on a daily basis, kept awake by work worries or distractions such as mobile devices,” she adds.

Raising awareness on the subject is key, which is why Philips, a global leader in health technology, is helping to educate the public on this issue: “Sleep is quite often viewed as an unimportant topic that is not discussed, in contrast to other illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and depression. Yet, sleep is a key pillar of overall physical and mental health.”

2021 global sleep survey
Put away your mobile phone if you want proper sleep (Image: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels)

The company’s global sleep study not only highlights the importance of sleep for overall health and wellbeing, but also aims to motivate individuals to make conscious efforts towards getting more rest. “This ultimately leads to individuals to making conscious efforts towards prioritising sleep and improving their quality of sleep – so they can lead healthy lives, relationships and be their best, says Lai.

The study also sheds light on obstructive sleep apnea, a serious yet under-diagnosed and seldom-discussed issue. It is estimated that more than a billion adults around the world have mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

What’s Causing Lack Of Sleep

In the Philips global sleep survey, a total of 57 percent of those surveyed admitted the pandemic has negatively impacted their sleep. According to the report, Singaporeans cite stress (31 percent), their sleeping environment (16 percent), and mobile devices such as phones and tablets (13 percent) as their main disruptors.

Dr Han Hong Juan, consultant Ear Nose Throat (ENT) surgeon and medical director of the ENT, Voice & Snoring Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, agrees with the finding’s assessment: “Singaporeans often do not get enough sleep, which is largely due to busy schedules and fast-paced lifestyles.”

“This keeps them up in the night due to work, responsibilities or just entertainment (TV or mobile devices) and sleep is sacrificed. Sleep issues are persistent across the ages, and quite often people do not get the necessary minimum seven to nine hours of sleep each night,” he adds.

Dr Han also admits the pandemic has caused disruption to both our routines and sleep patterns. One impact he says is due to working from home, which has blurred work and private time. “This can potentially lead to continuous work schedules right into night,” he explains.

Still, despite of this, Dr Han also sees some positive effects coming from this. “Some are getting more sleep per night due to the time savings from telecommuting,” he says. “However, getting a good night’s rest goes beyond just hours of sleep alone, but falling into a deep, continuous and restful sleep.”

Getting A Good Night’s Rest

Being aware of the factors that affect sleep can help individuals take greater control, allowing them to take active steps to address them. To get a better night’s sleep, the survey states that Singaporeans are now experimenting with a variety of methods.

This includes having a set bedtime/wake-up schedule (26 percent), watching television (24 percent), reducing caffeine consumption (22 percent), reading, or playing soothing music (19 percent), and using sleep trackers or monitoring their sleep (10 percent).

sleep tracker
Time to monitor your sleep (Image: Brett Jordan/Unsplash)

Positively, Singaporeans are also turning towards telehealth and online health resources to address sleep issues. Over half (57 percent) say the first time they had a telehealth appointment was during the pandemic.

“Key to getting a good night’s rest is making sleep a priority, of which ensuring a consistent bedtime and healthy sleep habits are important,” stresses Dr Han, adding that oftentimes it is the simple steps that have the best effect.

“Start by establishing a set bedtime each night and keep to it, even on the weekends. Have a comfortable sleep environment, including a comfortable mattress or pillow and temperature in the bedroom, which should be dark and free from disruption,” he says.

Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or large meals in the evening, or even in the afternoon also helps as do simple relaxing activities near to bedtime such as reading or meditation. Dr Han also points out why the use of electronics in bed and near to bedtime needs to be avoided as the light emitted from the phone can make one more alert.

Addressing Obstructive Sleep Apnea

While Singaporeans are positively seeking ways to address sleep issues, fear continues to hinder individuals from getting diagnosed for sleep conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). One in five (21 percent) are afraid to take a sleep test as they do not want to know if they have OSA, with 17 percent believing it is not necessary to be treated for OSA.

As a seldom-discussed, under-diagnosed condition, OSA is characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle, preventing oxygen from reaching the lungs. As many as one in three Singaporeans suffer from OSA, and 91 percent have not been diagnosed. Symptoms of OSA include choking or gasping for air during sleep, loud and persistent snoring and excessive daytime fatigue, and poor concentration during the day.

Disruption to the sleep cycle can impact energy and mental performance
(Image: Christian Erfurt/ Unsplash)

“Obstructive sleep apnea is characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle,” explains Dr Han. “These interruptions are caused by the collapse of soft tissue in the airway, which prevents air and oxygen from reaching the lungs. This leads to snoring, laboured breathing and low oxygen levels.”

The specialist reveals that sleep apnea can disrupt the sleep cycle, which can dramatically impact energy, mental performance, and long-term health. “If sleep apnea is not treated, it can have serious short and long-term health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and driving/work-related accidents due to excessive daytime fatigue,” he adds.

In conjunction with World Sleep Day, Philips has launched an Online Sleep Quiz and Home Sleep Test for individuals to assess their sleep issues and get diagnosed for OSA. Learn more about Philips’ Global Sleep Survey here.

written by.
Richard Augustin
Former chef turned writer; Richard has tip-toed around the publishing industry for two decades. When not busy chasing deadlines, you can still find him experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

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