SLEEP and your BRAIN

Joshua Hermann Michael
Exercise and Sleep Specialist,Cognifyx Infinitum Singapore

The importance of sleep is well documented and understood. However, the scale of sleep loss is so severe that World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared a sleep loss epidemic in first world nations. Sleep Deprivation in both quantity and quality is known to be associated with an increased risk of Stroke, Heart Attack, Depression, Anxiety, Cognitive Decline including Dementia and even Death. Recovery from a Brain Tumor or other Central Nerve System Disorders could also be affected by inadequate sleep. Recovery from Spine problems including a slipped Disc can also be delayed or reduced in quality by poor Sleep explains Dr Prem Pillay, the Medical Director of the Singapore Brain Spine Nerves Center (

In a recent study, it was highlighted that Singaporeans are amongst the world’s worst sleepers. The Phillips 2019 sleep study indicated that Singaporeans sleep an average of 6.3 hours on weekdays and 6.7 hours on weekends. This is well lower than the global average of 6.7 hours and 7.8 hours respectively. Experts recommend an average of 8 hours of sleep daily.

The statistics do not get any better. 7 in 10 Singaporeans classified their sleep as “somewhat well” or “not well at all”, and 39 % of Singaporeans mentioned that their sleep has worsened in the past 5 years. This is evidenced by the fact that 65 % of Singaporeans stated they have experienced several episodes of daytime sleepiness throughout the week.

Stress was the main culprit depriving Singaporeans of sleep with 61 % of them attributing their sleeplessness to worry or stress higher than the global average of 54%. Other factors include sleeping environment (35%) entertainment media such as TV and media (30 %), partner’s snoring (14%) and personal sleep schedule (10 %).

Amidst the crisis, 81% of respondents from Singapore alluded they want to improve their quality of sleep. While it’s heartening that Singaporeans do acknowledge this problem and wish to take action to mitigate it, many do not know where to start.

We’ve, thus, listed some tips anyone can attempt to help improve his/her sleep.

1) Insomnia bothering you?

If you’re not already exercising regularly, try incorporating some physical activity into your daily routine! Take the stairs, walk more and take hourly breaks from your work desk to stretch.

Many studies have shown the beneficial effects of exercise on improving one’s sleep quality. This is mainly because exercise is able to elicit great energy depletion and tissue breakdown. This, then, promotes sleep as the purpose of sleep itself is for energy conservation and recovery of the body.

However, it is important to do so at least three hours before you sleep and not directly before bed!

2) Up your melatonin!

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by our body to regulate sleep. However, as we age, our body stops producing as much melatonin. That might be the reason why you might be finding it increasingly difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Try increasing your body’s melatonin levels naturally by incorporating foods rich in melatonin into your diet, such as: eggs, salmon, pistachio, walnuts, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, strawberries, cherry.

3) Make a conscious effort to improve your sleeping habits!

Although insomnia is highly prevalent, much of the reduction in sleep time reflects voluntary sleep restriction, with 43% of adults reporting that they often stay up later than they should watching television or using the Internet and 45% reporting that they sleep less to get more work done.

So, try to make sleep a priority and put in some effort to improve your quality of sleep such as:

Going to bed at a fixed time. This will ensure you will be able to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep

Not using your phones or other electronic devices right before bed

Help yourself feel relaxed and calm with some meditation and/or herbal tea

4) Problem sleeping?

Blue light, which is emitted from smartphones, computers, and bright lights, may inhibit your sleep if you’re exposed to it at night. Our bodies produce melatonin, which is a hormone that tells our body to get tired and go to sleep. Studies have shown that blue light tricks your body to think that its daytime and suppresses melatonin production in humans.

So, try reducing your exposure to blue light during the evenings. You can do so by getting a lamp which doesn’t emit blue light, such as a red or orange reading lamp or candlelight. Most smartphone also possess a blue light filter so activate it closer to your bedtime.

5) Sleeping enough but still wake up feeling tired?

When we sleep, we go through different stages of sleep with differing amounts of energy being utilised by our bodies. In particular, deep sleep is considered the most restorative and restful part of the sleep cycle. It is crucial for the restoration of cellular energy, tissue growth and repair.

If you sleep sufficiently but still wake up feeling exhausted, you may not be getting enough deep sleep.

While there is no way to force your body to go into the deep sleep stage, you can however try to enhance the amount of deep sleep you’re getting. Here are some tips:

  • Establishing sleep routines, even on weekends.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Exercise
  • Eat wholesome foods