Sleepless in Singapore

It is a well-known stereotype that Asians are hard workers, but a recent study funded by the National Medical Research Council of Singapore has unveiled that working is one of the main reasons Singaporeans stay awake past bedtime.

In a separate survey conducted by Regus, almost a third of workers in Singapore say they have to sacrifice sleep to fit in personal activities and work commitments. This is higher than the global average of 29%!

If you fall into the “sleepless in Singapore” category and think that it’s just a little extra shut-eye you’re skipping on, read on as we debunk the common excuses and myths on missing your beauty rest and how it affects you.

1. I really work much better at night, especially since there’s no one left in the office and it’s peaceful and quiet.

Remember that not everyone is like the late Margaret Thatcher who was said to be functional with only four hours of sleep a night.

Sure, you may be able to do it for one night; maybe two nights in a row, but your efficiency and concentration drastically decrease with each passing day of you getting insufficient sleep.

This is based on a study conducted by David Dinges, one of the longest sleep-restriction study of its kind. The two study groups (four hours and six hours of sleep over two weeks) showed steady declines in their psychomotor vigilance tasks (considered a gold standard of sleepiness measure). In fact, the six-hour sleepers were as impaired as those who had been sleep-deprived for 24 hours straight, which is the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk!

So think again, are you really more productive at 11pm after a long day of work, or have you been reading that same paragraph for five times before understanding it?

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2. It’s just losing a couple of hours of sleep, what’s the big deal? I’ll probably just yawn a little more during the day, but that’s easily solved. I can just grab a couple cans of energy drinks and I’m ready to handle the day.

It’s not just sleep you’re losing, but your health as well!

According to Annals, a journal by the Singapore academy of Medicine, one in three people here is getting so little sleep that it is affecting his health. Not only will sleep-deprived individuals be more likely to become obese and suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, people who sleep five hours or less also have higher levels of coronary artery calcium, which increases the risk of heart attacks.

On a day-to-day basis, shortage of sleep may also lead to migraines and tension-type which have negative effects on memory and performance at work.

Remember that coffee is only a quick fix, with the caffeine blocking the action of a natural brain chemical that is associated with sleep and giving you an adrenaline high. There’s no secret that ample rest is the only solution to staying awake the next day.

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3. It’s my personal decision to burn the midnight oil to finish up the presentation that my manager is chasing me for – and I really have no choice if I want to meet my deadline. It only affects me anyway so I’ll just live with it.

Did you know that sleep is increasingly recognised as important to public health?

Sleep deficiency has been linked to road accidents, industrial disasters, workplace accidents, and even medical malpractices! According to the National Department of Transportation in the US, it is estimated that drowsy driving were the cause of more than 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries annually!

In Singapore, there have also been a number of fatigue-related traffic accidents. In December last year, a driver was arrested for taking the life of a man and severely injuring the latter’s wife because he dozed off at the wheel.

On a less serious note, Dr Joshua Gooley, a chronobiologist who studies sleep patterns, notes that short sleeping patterns can negatively impact mood and relationships; just like a child who gets cranky when they skip their afternoon naps, adults who don’t get enough sleep have a higher tendency to be in a bad mood which affects their relationship with family members and co-workers.

After all, no one likes hanging around with Mr or Mrs Grumpy!

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4. If I sleep less today, I’ll just sleep more tomorrow or over the weekends to make up for it!

Unfortunately, this is not the way to repay your sleep debt, which is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get.

Your body might be tricked into feeling well-rested after the long slumber, but you’re still carrying around a heavy load of sleepiness.

The good news is that, with some extra work on your part to ensure regular sleeping hours, your sleep debt can be repaid.

This doesn’t happen in one extended sleeping marathon, though – taking on an extra hour or two of sleep a night is the way to start your sleeping cycle off on a healthier regime!

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5.  I sleep an average of six hours a day and I feel well-rested. That’s more than most other people I know and it should be enough.

Chances are, you’ve probably heard that eight hours is the golden number to the optimum length of sleep.

While there is no hard and fast rule to how many hours of sleep one really needs, the general guideline seems to lie within the range of seven to eight hours. A research finding published by TIME noted that people who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 a night live the longest.

Take note though, that there is just as much risk associated with sleeping too much as with sleeping too little; according to a study published by The Telegraph, seven hours bring optimal health but those who slept nine hours or more had a markedly increased risk of cardiovascular diseases!

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