Getting a good night’s sleep is key to staying healthy and well. Yet, Singaporeans are one of the most sleep-deprived populations in the world. According to a 2021 global sleep survey, Singaporeans sleep an average of 6.8 hours per night, which is less than the recommended amount of 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.
Dr Konrad Ong, anchor doctor at DA Clinic Group, has also noticed an increase in the number of patient consultations for insomnia. He adds, “Sleeplessness is often linked to work and financial stress.”
To help you get quality sleep, Dr Ong shares his tips for sleep and expert advice on how to sleep better and tackle insomnia.
How to Improve Your Sleep with 4 Simple Tips
1. Have a consistent sleep routine
“An important part of sleep hygiene is having regular sleeping hours,” says Dr Ong. This means sleeping and waking up at the same time every day, whether it’s a weekend or a weekday. “If you suffer from insomnia, you should try to avoid daytime naps, as this can further disrupt your sleep schedule.”
Although we may be tempted to stay up later during the weekends, having a regular sleep schedule is a good habit to adopt. Consistent sleep hours maintain your body’s internal clock, so that it eventually becomes easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
You can also put together a pre-sleep routine, to get your mind and body ready for sleep. Build this around relaxing activities that help you to wind down. This can be reading a good book, taking time to journal about the day’s events, or doing some light stretches. Remember to put away your phone, as blue light from electronic devices can affect your body’s natural sleep cycle.
2. Make sure your bed is only for sleep
Tossing and turning in bed, instead of falling asleep? “If you’re not asleep in 10 to 15 minutes, get out of bed rather than force yourself to sleep,” Dr Ong says. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the reason is to stop your mind from associating not being able to sleep with lying in bed.
It’s best that you leave your bedroom entirely. You can sit in your living room and do a relaxing activity to make yourself feel sleepy. Once you’re feeling tired again, you can return to your bed.
“Use your bed only for sleeping,” Dr Ong emphasises. “Try to avoid any other activities, such as eating in bed or watching television.” This way, when you go to your bedroom, your mind automatically associates it with going to sleep.
3. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime
“Minimise caffeine intake 5 to 6 hours before bedtime,” suggests Dr Ong. “You should also avoid strenuous exercises right before you go to sleep.”
For those who like to exercise after work, aim to finish your workout at least 1 hour before your bedtime. This gives your body enough time to cool down and relax, so that you can have a peaceful slumber. Examples of exercises you can consider are yoga, stretching, leisurely swimming or walking.
4. Learn to manage your stress and triggers
Lastly, sleeplessness can be caused by stress and worry. This causes your mind to be more active when you’re trying to fall asleep. Practising good stress management skills will help you control these emotions and racing thoughts and ensure they don’t disrupt your bedtime.
Should your stress be too overwhelming, it may also be a good idea to speak to a trained mental health expert. “A counsellor or therapist would be able to help you recognise your triggers and teach you how to cope with them in a healthy way,” says Dr Ong. Seeking help early also prevents any stress from growing into a larger mental health problem.
If you’re still facing difficulties sleeping even after using these sleep tips, consult a doctor on how you can get better sleep. “Taking hypnotic medication without proper medical advice can exacerbate your sleeping problems in the long run,” says Dr Ong.
Speak to a doctor anytime, 24/7 over the DA app.