It has been 3 weeks since MCO (Movement Control Order) in Malaysia is being carried out. I have been in contact with my old high school friends and my close friends. I have been told that most of them have been facing problems with sleep.
So, what are sleeping problems or sleeping difficulties?
There are generally 3 types of sleeping problems:
1) Difficulty in falling asleep, I.e. lying on bed for more than 20 minutes and couldn’t fall asleep
2) Difficulty in maintaining sleep, I.e. light sleeper, while asleep, waking up in the middle of sleep a few times
3) Difficulty returning to sleep, or early awakening, I.e. set the alarm clock at 7am, but yet woke up naturally at 4am, before the alarm goes off, and couldn’t sleep back
Hence, during this MCO period, which problem do you have?
Some of my friends even started to have odd sleeping hours because some no longer need to wake up early to go to work, and hence started to become a night owl. My friend told me that because now she doesn’t have to wake up early to work, she started to sleep at 3am, and sometimes 4am, then she will be sleeping until afternoon around 12pm. Is this your latest sleeping habit as well? Well, you are not alone here…
How do you sleep like a baby during this MCO period? Below are a few tips which may help you now. It’s called a sleep hygiene or good sleeping habits.
1) Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night, get up the same time each morning, including weekends
- Sleep is the time our body can undergo repair and detoxification. Poor sleep patterns are linked to poor health. Sleep has a profound effect on our mental, emotional and physical well being. Having a good quality sleep is important, and hence, going to bed as early as 11pm is recommended. For most adults, getting seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal. Sleeping more than the recommended amount, in fact, will increase the risk of headache, back pain, obesity, type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and even depression. And those who sleep less than six hours a night have a shorter life expectancy than those who sleep longer. Sleeping less is also associated with metabolic syndrome.
2) Good sleeping environment
- A quiet, cool and dark environment is conducive for sleeping.
Darkness is essential to sleep. The absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong time will interfere the body’s internal “sleep clock”, the biological mechanism that regulates sleep, in which will interfere both our quantity and quality of sleep. Artificial light after dark can send wake-up messages to the brain, suppressing the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleeping in a cold room enhances the production of sleep hormone, melatonin. Hence, taking a shorter time to fall asleep and enhancing the quality of sleep, letting us wake up feeling refreshed the next day. Melatonin influences sleep by sending a signal to the brain that it is time for rest. This signal helps initiate the body's physiological preparations for sleep—muscles begin to relax, feelings of drowsiness increase, body temperature drops.
Noise at night can prevent you from falling asleep initially, and sounds during the night can wake you leaving you unable to return to sleep. That’s why it is important to off all music or create a quiet environment for a good quality sleep.
3) 1-2-3 rule of sleep - Establish a soothing before sleep routine will help you to fall asleep quickly and easily. Here’s a simple rule of sleep:
1 hour before sleep: No exposure to electronic devices e.g handphone, television, laptop, tablet. The blue light that comes out from the electronic devices will fool the brain that it is still daytime, confuses the brain into thinking it’s time to wake up instead of falling asleep. When that happens, the body stops releasing melatonin, a sleep hormone. Hence, staying away from them is one of the way you can sleep like a baby. You may try to read a book or practice relaxation exercise to calm yourself down before bedtime.
2 hours before sleep: No strenuous exercise. Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. That’s why we have to stop exercising 2 hours before sleep, which will allows your body temperature and heart rate to return to normal, and gives you a chance to calm down after elevating your adrenaline levels.
3 hours before sleep: No heavy meals. The last meal to be taken should be 3 hours before bedtime, for example, if I am sleeping at 11pm, I should have finished taken my dinner by 8pm. Having heavy meals right before sleep can cause indigestion and hence difficulties in falling asleep.
4) Use the bed only to for sleep and sex - Some of you may be working from home, it is important to get out of the bed to work, and not working on the bed using laptop/ handphone. The use of a laptop/handphone or even watching television in the bedroom links clearly together with what is called a delayed circadian rhythm, and hence interrupting your sleep-wake-cycle.
5) Exercise daily
- A bout of moderate intensity aerobic exercise can help us to fall asleep much more quickly, sleep slightly longer, and have better sleep quality. If you strive to complete about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week, you’ll help improve your sleep quality and also meet the national guidelines (guidelines from World Health Organization) for physical activity.
6) Avoid taking stimulants - Caffeinated products can decrease a person’s quality of sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep a person awake and alert. So, avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) at least 6 hours before bedtime.
7) Avoid daytime napping
- If possible, try not to take nap or if you want to, a short nap of 20-30 minutes is recommended as energy-booster. This duration of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep. Try not to take nap too late in the day, as it might affect your nighttime sleep pattern and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime.
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