5 health 'mistakes' you never knew you were making

You brush your teeth, you shower at least once a day, you chill out in the evenings.

All healthy habits, yes?

Not necessarily so, says The Daily Mail in a recent report that cited several studies and doctors. The report claims that your so-called 'healthy habits' may actually be detrimental to your health. It cited a list of habits, including the ones below, that one should break or modify.

1. Showering everyday

A daily hot shower using harsh soaps can be bad for your skin, claims the report.

'Using piping-hot water combined with harsh soaps can strip the skin of its oils, resulting in dryness, cracking and even infection,' said consultant dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe in the report by The Daily Mail.

Yet, in hot and humid Singapore, a daily shower is essential if one does not wish to stink like a piece of fermented tofu. So what is one to do?

The Austin Plastic Surgery Institute recommends bathing in cooler water, which is less drying than hot water.

Also, use soap-free shower gels or aeqeous cream. These will be less drying to one's skin than conventional shower gels that leave the skin squeaky clean - the 'squeakiness' is an indicator that too much natural oil and moisture have been stripped from the skin.

2. Sleeping 8 hours a day

According to a report in TIME magazine, 6.5 to 7.5 hours of solid sleep each night is sufficient for most people.

The report in The Daily Mail claims that getting eight hours of sleep a night can leave you feeling even more tired and might even shorten your lifespan.

Scientists have analysed the sleep habits of more than 1.1 million people who participated in the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Cancer Prevention Study II. The study suggests that people who slept eight hours or more had a "significantly increased mortality hazard."

However, Singaporeans are likely to suffer the opposite problem - sleep deprivation. If you are getting less than 6-8 hours of sleep a day, chances are that you should be worrying about sleep deprivation rather than oversleeping.

On the other hand, if you are sleeping more than 8 hours a night and still wake up feeling exhausted, you could be suffering from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea or hypersomnia.

The bottomline is, one should sleep enough so that one wakes up feeling rested. We need less sleep as we grow older, so if you are in your sixties and feel perfectly refreshed on only about 6 hours of sleep a night, there should not be anything to worry about. But if you are in your twenties, and even sleeping 10 hours a day isn't enough, it might be wise to see a doctor.

3. Rinsing after brushing your teeth

'Rinsing washes away the protective fluoride coating left by the toothpaste, which would otherwise add hours of protection,' dentist Dr Phil Stemmer from The Fresh Breath Centre in London says in The Daily Mail report.

'I try to avoid drinking any fluids for at least half an hour after brushing,' adds Dr Stemmer.

Another dental clinic, Devonshire Square Dental Studio, also says that rinsing after brushing your teeth should be avoided.

Theoretically, the recommendation makes sense. The fluoride in the toothpaste may provide an additional (albeit temporary) layer of protection to the teeth. Also, there are toothpastes on the market that claim to re-mineralise the enamel of the teeth, and leaving it there as long as possible seems reasonable.

But we still think it is extremely strange.

4. Sitting on the toilet

Believe it or not, the toilet bowl is not a very good idea. This is because sitting causes you to strain when you move your bowels. This increases the risk of problems such as piles or diverticular diseases.

Squatting, rather than sitting, is actually better for one's health, says The Daily Mail which cited a study publised by scientists in Israel. This is because squatting is a more natural position which encourages the bowels to empty faster and easier.

A French proctologist - a doctor who specialises in diseases of the colon, rectum and anus - once told Time Magazine: "We were not meant to sit on toilets, we were meant to squat in the field."

A writer at Slate magazine tried squatting instead of sitting for a week, and reported in his article that during that period of time, he spent only a minute or two in the bathroom, instead of his usual 10 minutes.

5. Relaxing after dinner

Doing so may cause you to gain weight.

'If you're inactive during the evening, or you eat just before bed, your body is more likely to lay down that food as fat,' said nutritionist Claire MacEvilly in The Daily Mail report.

UK scientists have also found that exercising after meals can help promote weight loss by boosting hormones that surpress appetite. Volunteers who exercised for 30 minutes an hour after breakfast consumed less calories than those who merely sat quietly.

Do not attempt to exercise immediately after dinner though - the studies that we've seen have generally given their volunteers at least 30 minutes to one hour of rest after the meal before their exercise session.

If you do not wish to wait, take a brisk 20 minute walk after your meal, or a more leisurely 30 minute stroll. Just don't attempt to jog or run immediately after a meal - running on a full stomach may interefere with digestion and be extremely uncomfortable.