Most Singaporeans in the dark about dangers of not enough rest

SINGAPORE - Most people here are not aware of the health problems that come with not getting enough sleep.

When The Straits Times polled 140 people last Wednesday about the ill-effects of lack of sleep, most could only suggest a loss of concentration, fatigue and cosmetic problems such as eyebags.

But a recent editorial in a journal by the Singapore Academy of Medicine noted that people who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk of heart problems, diabetes and obesity.

Less than 10 per cent of the respondents, between the ages of 13 and 76, knew about the link with obesity and heart problems. No one knew that a lack of sleep also increased the risk of diabetes.

"Sometimes, before exams I sleep about four hours, and the next day I cannot really concentrate on the exam," 20-year-old student Charmaine Ang told The Straits Times.

Others said not sleeping enough caused headaches, while others pointed to problems such as "bad skin" and "acne". They averaged about 6.4 hours of sleep each night, with 70 per cent feeling that they do not get enough. Most believed eight to nine hours of sleep is ideal.

According to Professor Michael Chee of the centre for cognitive neuroscience at Duke-NUS Medical School, adults should get seven to 71/2 hours of sleep each night.

About a third of those polled blamed work for keeping them up.

Said Mr Karunan Thanapal, a 42-year-old security officer: "The Singapore economy has created a stressful work environment, making us work longer hours."

Almost 20 per cent of those polled said they stayed up for leisure activities such as chatting with friends, surfing the Net and watching dramas. Other reasons included young children and problems falling asleep.

Despite being told the consequences of not sleeping enough, those polled said they were unlikely to change, because they had no choice or their sleep patterns had become a habit.

"I stay up to catch up with friends on Facebook, use my mobile phone or watch dramas. I feel a need to socialise, so it's hard to change," said student Amelia Tan, 22.

Some, such as events managing director Brian Lune, 37, have come to terms with having less sleep.

"I compensate by making healthy choices in other areas of my life, like my diet," he said.

For Ms Jo Sia, who works in sales, sleeping more means less is accomplished.

"Each day is short and I want to spend more time awake," said the 30-year-old. "I know that insufficient sleep causes high blood pressure and I will try to change, but it's become a lifestyle already."

jingjie@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Chan Huan Jun, Natalie Kuan, Fabian Koh and Farah Mohd Ismail

INGRAINED HABIT

I stay up to catch up with friends on Facebook, use my mobile phone or watch dramas. I feel a need to socialise, so it's hard to change.

- Student Amelia Tan, 22

NOT ENOUGH TIME

Each day is short and I want to spend more time awake. I know that insufficient sleep causes high blood pressure and I will try to change, but it's become a lifestyle already.

- Ms Jo Sia, 30, who works in sales


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