More Singaporeans are having trouble with their sleep. About four in 10 people are sleep deprived from having less than seven hours of sleep on weekdays, according to a study by Singhealth Polyclinics. Sleep specialist clinics such as the Sleep Disorders Unit at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) are also seeing more insomniacs and people who find themselves dozing off during work hours.
<b>photo</b> OMAZZ CONTEMPO MATTRESS, FROM LOTUS SLEEP STUDIO
Dr Leow Leong Chai, consultant respiratory and sleep physician at SGH, shares that sleep is a very important time for the brain to consolidate the memories and skills acquired during the day. Many important “housekeeping” processes for the body happen during sleep, such as healing, growth, getting rid of waste, and replenishing stores of energy and chemicals for the next day.
Some of us might be familiar with the poor mood, memory, concentration and cognitive function that we suffer when we have poorer or shorter hours of sleep than usual. But poor or insufﬁcient sleep over a prolonged period can have serious consequences, such as contributing to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even certain cancers.
Dr Benjamin Tow,
An orthopaedic doctor’s tips to sleeping right
BACK IS BEST
Of the three main sleeping positions – back, side and front – lying on your back puts the least strain on the cartilage of your lower back. However, if you suffer from chronic back aches, lying on your side with knees bent may be a more comfortable position. Sleeping on your front can cause neck pain from turning your head to one side for a long time.
A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL MATTRESS DOES NOT EXIST
No scientific study has conclusively proven that one type of mattress is better than the rest. The right mattress for you is one that suits your body and preferences. As a rough guideline, it should be adequately firm so that your body does not sink into it when you lie down. Take note of the height of the mattress from the floor – it should not be so low that getting in and out of bed requires a lot of back bending . The mattress should be elevated to about knee-height.
TRIAL AND ERROR
You can’t know if a mattress is suitable for you unless you try it out. When shopping for new mattresses, lie on different ones for a few minutes each and eliminate those that feel uncomfortable. If you suspect that your existing mattress is causing you backaches, try sleeping on different surfaces, like your sofa. This way, you can root out particular surfaces that may be causing you pain.
BACKACHE? IT MIGHT NOT BE YOUR MATTRESS.
Many people blame the mattress for causing back pain as they feel most of the pain in the morning. But this may be because we are less distracted at the start of the day, so the pain is felt more acutely. As the day progresses, we become increasingly preoccupied with tasks that distract us from it. If you experience chronic back pain, you should always seek your doctor’s opinion first.
Home & Decor
Our review: The 4-7-8 breath technique
WHAT IS IT?
A breathing technique conceived by Dr Andrew Weil, an American sleep expert who claims it can help people fall asleep quickly, and can be used to control cravings and rising tempers.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Begin by exhaling through your mouth. Keep the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, behind the upper front teeth, and breathe in through your nose for four counts. Then hold your breath for seven counts, and breathe out through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound for eight counts. Repeat for four breath cycles.
WHY DOES IT WORK?
It works like a meditative breathing exercise, where you concentrate on the breath – instead of your thoughts, which may be keeping you up. European Bedding carries organic latex mattresses, such as the Heveya Natural Organic Latex Mattress (from $2,688 for single-size).
HOW DID IT GO?
For a year now, I’ve had a problem dozing off at night and getting enough shut-eye, averaging a mere six hours on weekdays. So, I tried this method for two nights in a row.
A breathing technique like this should be pretty straightforward, but for someone who has chronic nasal congestion, breathing in through the nose for those mere four counts was a wheezing fest. Since I couldn’t inhale enough air, I didn’t have enough to expel evenly for eight whole counts.
On the second night, I learnt to relax a little while exhaling, but making the exhalation last to the eighth count still proved difficult. More crucially, I didn’t drop off to sleep right after on both nights.
Overall, I think that having clear nasal passageways is important if you want to do the exercise. Also, Dr Weil says that you have to do it at least twice a day religiously for four to six weeks to see a difference.
European Bedding carries organic latex mattresses, such as the Heveya Natural Organic Latex Mattress (from $2,688 for single-size).
Sleep your way to better health
1. DOCTOR’S ADVICE – DR LEOW FROM SGH: SLEEP HYGIENE IS KEY
• Keep regular waking times and get at least 30 minutes of exposure to morning light every day. Do not take naps longer than 30 minutes. Avoid sleeping in for more than one hour on weekends.
• Limit yourself to one or two caffeinated drinks per day, before 4pm.
• At night, avoid strenuous exercise and limit use of devices two to three hours before bed. If you have to use electronic devices, dim their brightness level or use blue-light blocking glasses. Make the bedroom optimal for sleeping – quiet, dark and cool.
2. TRY DIMMING YOUR SCREEN – TWILIGHT
The blue light emitted from our devices suppresses the secretion of melatonin, causing a delayed onset of sleep. Twilight is an app that adjusts the brightness of your screen and also has a red filter. Why red, you ask? Because red light is the least potent light to suppress melatonin and shift circadian rhythms.
For iOS users, the f.lux app has similar functions.
3. AURAL STIMULI – RELAX MELODIES
Perhaps the dead silence of the night unnerves you. In that case, Relax Melodies might be a godsend. It provides over a hundred soothing sounds to induce sleep, such as rain or waves, white noise, and even guided meditations.
Sleep hygiene refers to the practices and habits that are necessary to achieve a good night’s sleep, such as avoiding caffeine close to bedtime.
Sleep deprivation describes the condition of having less than the recommended number of hours of sleep.
Circadian rhythm is also known as your sleep/wake cycle. It is a roughly 24-hour internal clock running in the brain that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.
Sleep cycle refers to the different sleep stages the brain cycles through – light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep.
REM or “rapid eye movement” is the stage in the sleep cycle after coming out of the deep sleep stage, where the most dreaming occurs and your eyes jerk rapidly – hence the name. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after falling asleep, and this is when the brain consolidates and processes information from the day before to be stored in your long-term memory.
Blue light is a light emitted by screen devices that suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep onset. This results in the disruption of your circadian rhythm.
From The National Sleep Foundation, Harvard Health Publishing, Sleep.org
Be tech-ful with your rest
1. FITBIT ALTA HR
We should be familiar by now with wearable tech, like the Fitbit, that tracks a range of activities from exercise to sleep. With the Alta HR ($248, available at Courts), the Fitbit’s sleep tracking prowess gets a leg up with the added heart rate monitor, improving its accuracy in reading and tracking what stage of sleep you’re in.
2. SLEEP CYCLE
The Sleep Cycle app sells itself as a smart alarm clock that uses sleep monitoring, so it knows to wake you up when you are in the lightest sleep phase, minimising the grogginess you’ll feel when deep sleep is interrupted. It uses the built-in accelerometer in your smartphone that detects movement to find out what stage of your sleep cycle you’re in.
3. SLEEP AS ANDROID
An Android-only sleep tracking app, it works as an alarm clock much like Sleep Cycle does. It does, however, come with a few more frills, like CAPTCHA features – such as solving a simple maths equation – that force you to wake up if you want to switch off the alarm, and also snoring recording.
Developed by a team from Oxford University, Sleepio is an online programme that aims to solve your sleep problems with a personalised sleep course. It starts with an in-depth sleep questionnaire, from which your sleep course is crafted. A virtual sleep expert, The Prof, will guide you through and suggest sleep improvement techniques.
Mattress types and why they matter
Coil or spring mattresses come in two versions, open coil and pocketed coil mattresses.
Open coil mattresses have a long piece of metal wire coiled into numerous springs. Pocketed coil mattresses are made from individual small springs that are housed in their own pocket of fabric. As the pocketed coils move independently, the mattresses minimise motion transfer, making them great for users with partners who toss and turn.
“The precompressed coils of Simmons’ mattresses enhance their resilience and resistance when the weight of a body compresses it, providing improved support.”
<b>photo</b> 123RF/ LIM_ATOS
Memory foam mattresses are usually made from a mouldable, viscoelastic foam such as polyurethane foam. The material allows the mattress to conform to the shape of your body. The greater the surface area of contact with the mattress, the less pressure there is on those points of contact. However, memory foam mattresses are known to retain heat because of how the mattress conforms to the body’s contours, which can become an issue in hot weather.
Chloe Ng, assistant
“The newly launched flagship mattress collection features the new CoolTouch technology in its covers, which keeps the mattress surface cool to the touch.”
<b>photo</b> 123RF/ MAREK ULIASZ
Latex mattresses are made of latex from the liquid sap of the rubber tree. The sap is processed into blocks of latex foam for the mattress. These mattresses are hypoallergenic as they are naturally antidust mite, anti-mould and antibacterial. Latex foam is also breathable and does not retain heat.
“Non-certified materials can be toxic and a health hazard, so don’t go for a thick mattress just because it looks more plush and impressive. Our mattresses are 100-per-cent latex, certified non-toxic, and have removable covers for easy maintenance.”
<b>photo</b> 123RF/ LINDO12345
The new kid on the block is the hybrid mattress, which can contain two or more of the aforementioned materials. The draw of such mattresses is that they aim to combine the desirable attributes of each material used.
Lotus Bedding is one place that offers hybrid mattresses, like its coil mattresses with latex tops. Director of Lotus Bedding Lee Kheng Soon says that the goal was to create a mattress with good support from the coils, good body conformability, and a cool feel from the latex top.
Mattresses that provide quality sleep and chic aesthetics
1 Simmons Beautyrest Marina Bay Signature, from $6,699 for queen-size, from Simmons Gallery, major department stores and authorised dealers. 2 Sealy Posturepedic Enhance Collection, from $3,999 for queen-size, from Sealy Sleep Palace and Sleep Boutiques. 3 Omazz Fe Rossi, from $7,599 for queen-size, from Lotus Sleep Studio. 4&5 Tempur Hybrid, from $3,699 for single-size; and Tempur Contour, from $3,699 for single-size, both from Tempur Sleep Sanctuary, Tempur Sleep Boutique and selected major department stores. 6 Trilogy latex mattress, from $1,799 for single-size, from selected furniture retailers.
text ISABELLE TOW