SINGAPORE - Getting enough sleep is essential to good health, but between late nights at the office and early morning meetings, it can be hard to hit the slumber quota. And sometimes, even if you do get the right amount of sleep, it may be far from the quality snooze required to keep you feeling energetic, fresh and alert the next day.
According to Dr Lim Li Ling, sleep specialist at Gleneagles Hospital, you know you are sleep-starved if you find it hard to wake up naturally and feel refreshed - without an alarm clock - in the morning and then feel sleepy throughout the day.
"Your body is quite good at self-regulating, but if you find yourself having to catch up on your rest by sleeping in on weekends, for example, then it's a sign that you did not get enough during the week," she says.
How much is enough? Between six and eight hours every night, says Dr Kenny Pang, ear, nose and throat/sleep specialist and medical director at Asia Sleep Centre.
If you sleep any longer and still do not feel refreshed when you wake up, then you might be suff ering from a sleep disorder.
Chronic sleep deprivation can be dangerous in the long term. "It can lead to sleepiness, tiredness, lethargy, memory loss, appetite problems, low work productivity, and poor quality of life," Dr Pang adds.
"It can also cause irritability, which may fi lter into other areas of your life, like your relationships and your job. You may snap at others and quarrel unnecessarily."
TO FIND OUT HOW SLEEP-DEPRIVED YOU ARE (OR NOT), TAKE THIS QUIZ.
Answer these eight questions then turn to the next page to decode your choices.
1/ How do you feel when your alarm goes off in the morning?
A Like a zombie, because I feel like I've hardly slept at all
B Mostly rested but sometimes, I wake up with a sore neck or back
C Refreshed and ready to face the day
2/ What's the fi rst thing you do when you wake up?
A Guzzle two cups of very strong coffee
B Stretch my stiff body and lumber off to the bathroom in a semi-dazed state
C I leap out of bed and exercise or start getting ready for the day
3/ How do you feel during the day?
A Lethargic, irritable, moody, and unable to focus
B A little sluggish because I didn't sleep comfortably the night before
C Alert, energetic and even-tempered
4/ By early evening, you…
A Just want to go back to bed and bury yourself under the covers
B Are ready to wind down and put your legs up
C Find you still have a ton of energy
5/ What's your usual after-dinner routine?
A Belly full, I park myself in front of the TV and fall asleep on the sofa midway through my favourite show
B I go to bed and try my hardest to fall asleep in between tossing and turning
C I get ready for bed with a warm bath and quiet meditation
6/ How long does it take for you to fall asleep at night?
A It takes a while because my pre-bedtime ritual is to reply to e-mails on my phone
B Not long - I'm fine once I've gotten into a really comfortable position
C I fall asleep within minutes - my head hits the pillow and I'm out like a light
7/ During the night, you…
A Wake up a few times because of interruptions - usually a snoring partner, anxiousness and worrying, a beeping phone, or noise inside or outside your bedroom
B Sleep relatively well - your partner might wake you with his movements, but otherwise, you experience few interruptions
C Always sleep restfully and deeply
8/ How would you describe your overall sleep quality?
A Poor, because I always feel sleepy and mentally fatigued
B It's okay on most nights
C Excellent most nights
WHAT YOUR ANSWERS MEAN
WHAT YOUR ANSWERS MEAN
You are very sleep deprived and your sleep is seldom rejuvenating.
According to Dr Lim, your sleep deprivation is likely due to poor lifestyle choices, such as too much caffeine during the day, stimulation from TV or the Internet just before bedtime, a noisy bedroom, eating before bedtime, stress and anxiety, or insufficient sleep.
"These lifestyle problems are easily solved," Dr Lim says. "If you drink too many caff einated beverages, cut down and avoid drinking them several hours before bedtime. Steer clear of stimulating activities like surfing the Net or exercising just before bedtime as your mind will find it hard to relax and 'switch off '."
"If you're stressed out from work or suffering from anxiety, seek help because poorly managed stress can lead to depression. If your snoring partner is keeping you awake at night, he must be treated, as his snoring can cause sleep disturbances," says Dr Lim.
Dr Pang adds that certain sleep disorders can also affect the duration and quality of your sleep.
"Medical conditions like snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) are common. People with these conditions may snore, choke, and then start gasping for air.
"They may stop breathing at different intervals during the night, resulting in very low oxygen levels and therefore, poor sleep quality. It's no surprise they feel sleepy, lethargic and irritable the next day. The good news is that both snoring and OSA can be treated."
Your sleep is generally suffi cient and of a decent quality. However, you sometimes experience discomfort, and toss and turn during the night.
Could your bed the problem? Eugene Lau, marketing executive from Simmons (SEA), says that the wrong mattress can cause two major types of sleep interruptions.
"First of all, movement on the bed. The average person tosses and turns 40 to 60 times a night, and when you sleep with a partner, the number of movements increases. So does the potential to wake up and disturb your sleep cycle," he explains.
"There's also the case of physical stress. When we sleep, our weight exerts pressure on our body. If your mattress cannot provide optimal support to diff erent parts of your body, you will respond by tossing and turning unnaturally to relieve the stress and pain."
The wrong pillow can also lead to an uneven spinal alignment that causes neck and back strain.
The solution? Change your mattress and pillows if they are causing you discomfort.
Eugene says that the best way to choose the right mattress is to test out different models.
He says: "First, do your research. It's always good to know your existing mattress type, like if it's firm or soft, foam or coil mattress, and so on.
In the showroom, lie down on each mattress to help you decide which model feels the best.
Many components make up the feel of a mattress, such as coil unit construction, foam and upholstery layers, and cover fabric.
Ultimately, the exact mattress you choose will depend on your personal preference and the sleep benefi ts the model delivers."
Congratulations. Your sleep quality is good and you seem to be getting enough hours every night because you wake up feeling refreshed and bright-eyed.
Dr Pang shares his tips for getting better sleep
● Go to bed at the same time each night.
● Exercise regularly, preferably in the morning. There is strong evidence that regular exercise (including meditation and yoga) promotes restful sleep.
● Get exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day. This helps regulate your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that maintains your body's circadian rhythm.
● Make sure your bedroom isn't too hot or too cold. You don't want to be shivering or perspiring throughout the night.
● Keep noise in your bedroom to a minimum as it can interfere with sleep.
● Your bedroom should be dark enough to facilitate sleep. Light interferes with melatonin production, and this can prevent you from dozing off. Melatonin levels in the blood start to rise between 8pm and 10pm and peak between 1am and 2am.