Do we really need to be making sleep such a priority? Is it really all its cracked up to be?
From scientific studies, we know that our body and mind need an average of about seven to eight hours of sleep. However, sleep is not something we can control but good sleep habits or sleep hygiene is something we can cultivate. Ironically, if we were to put sleep as a priority and harp on it all the time, we then become anxious about sleeping and this may in turn result in difficulties initiating sleep.
What is a piece of sleep research the expert finds to be hugely important, and are there any studies that she or he is sceptical about?
Studies have shown that poor sleep leads to poor quality of life (Evaluation of severe insomnia in the general population: results of a European multinational survey. Chevalier H, et al Journal of Psychopharmacol. 1999;13(4 Suppl 1):S21-4.) and can lead to clinical depression (Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Jul 15;146(2):105-14. Insomnia in young men and subsequent depression. The Johns Hopkins Precursors Study. Chang PP1, Ford DE, Mead LA, Cooper-Patrick L, Klag MJ.)
While I am not skeptical about the studies per se, many studies that showed associations between short sleep duration and increased mortality have been misinterpreted in the media as being conclusive evidences. The research in this area is hardly conclusive and should be interpreted carefully. These media reports, particularly those that went viral on social media, has lead to a hysteria of sorts in individuals who may not sleep up to seven hours or have occasional insomnia, causing them to be anxious and resulting in a self fulfilling prophecy leading to more severe insomnia.
What is the science behind a good night’s sleep and why it is so important?
Sleep plays an important part in both our physical and mental well being. Sleeping is first and foremost the most natural and primitive way of resting which helps the restorative processes for our brains and bodies. Certain hormones in the body are secreted only during sleep and our body reacts to certain hormones differently during sleep. These help with a variety of physiological changes and helps with growth in children, regulation of blood sugar level and keeping our immune system healthy.
We have known for a long time that poor sleep leads to daytime sleepiness and poor concentration leading to poor daytime performance. Later studies shows a relationship between poor sleep and increased risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Poor sleep is also associated with poorer learning abilities, irritation and aggression, and depression.
Why is sleep such a big thing all of a sudden in Singapore – is it just a phase, or is there a reason that you know of behind it?
Sleep has been a big issue all along. Many people afflicted with insomnia have suffered in silence for a long time. However, with information becoming more readily available online and news going viral online, the fact that something we do every night has been neglected and can affect our life in such a big way may come as a huge surprise to many. It is important however to be aware that while we should maintain good sleep hygiene, fretting over sleep will just lead to more anxiety and poorer sleep!