Regular sleep for a healthy future

19 March marks World Sleep Day, a day to advocate and educate the world about the importance of sleep in achieving an optimal quality of life and improving global health.

Professor Dr Moy Foong Ming, Professor Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi and Dr Wan Kim Sui (our Doctor of Public Health candidate) wrote to the media to stress the importance of regular sleep for good health. The article was published in The Star and Sinchew.

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. It increases stress hormone and inflammation, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Insulin function, which controls blood sugar, is affected and increases the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Most adults need between seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night. However, the study on Clustering of Lifestyle risk factors and Understanding its association with Stress on health and wellbeing among school Teachers in Malaysia (CLUSTer) reported that only 21% had at least seven hours of sleep and 19% had no disturbance in daytime function due to sleepiness. Overall, 61% of them had poor sleep quality. However, 87% of them self-reported that their overall sleep quality was fairly good to very good. This reflects that the participants were not aware of their sleep quality problem.

If you feel tired, cranky, and find it hard to concentrate on what you are doing, you may be showing symptoms of sleep deprivation. The World Sleep Society recommends the following ten steps to achieve healthy sleep:

  1. Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
  2. If you are in the habit of taking a nap, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate.
  5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Use comfortable bedding.
  8. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
  9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  10. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Do not use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.

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