Now that life is slowly returning to normal, you will be easing back into your pre-pandemic routine of reporting for work in the office, meeting up with friends, among others.
While you are going back to the life that you missed, however, you should always remember to keep one thing constant—get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every day.
Sleep, according to Dr. Teresita Celestina S. Fuentes, head of the Sleep Laboratory of Cardinal Santos Medical Center, is essential for survival. It is the foundational pillar of health, and the quality of your sleep can impact not just your physical energy in the morning but your mental and emotional health as well.
“Remember when you were younger and your mother would always tell you to sleep early or sleep in the afternoon? That’s because sleep generates the growth hormone. This is also the reason why babies spend so much time sleeping. It also delays ageing so you should keep this mind, too,” Dr. Fuentes said.
Fuentes noted, though, that most adults are sleep deprived because they spend so much time catching up online or watching movies.
“Sleep deprivation means that you are getting less than the needed amount of sleep. If you are deprived of sleep, you will experience day time sleepiness, reduced concentration, mood changes and a worsened memory,” Dr. Fuentes explained.
While many sleep problems can be dealt with by simple changes in routine or in the environment, sometimes, change in behavior may not be enough. If sleepiness interferes with work or any other daytime activity, it might be time to consult a sleep specialist.
“You might have a sleep disorder if you feel tired in the morning upon waking up or fatigued; you are excessively sleepy during the day or take frequent naps or if you have difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration and depression are likewise some of the symptoms of a sleep disorder,” she said.
Other conditions that warrant a consult with a sleep specialist include snoring regularly when sleeping; choking or gasping episodes and unusual movements or behavior while sleeping.
“Certain health conditions may also put you at a higher risk of having a sleep disorder. If you are hypertensive, diabetic or have heart or lung problems, you should be evaluated by a sleep specialist,” Fuentes said.
According to Fuentes, sleep deprivation not only makes you more prone to getting chronic illnesses, it also makes you gain weight. Studies indicate that people who sleep less than six hours a night are 30% more likely to become obese than those who get to sleep seven to nine hours.
She explained that sleep deprivation compromises our ability to metabolize carbohydrates and control our food intake. This makes us want to eat more and crave for high caloric food. To prevent weight gain, getting enough sleep will help.
“When you are sleep deprived, your hormones are off the roof. We have what we call the Ghrelin hormone which is known as the hunger hormone because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage. When you are sleep deprived, your appetite increases because of this Ghrelin hormone. Your hormones go wild and causes your increase in appetite,” she said.
The common sleep problems that Filipinos suffer from are insomnia and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Insomnia, Fuentes said, is difficulty in falling sleep, staying asleep and waking up too early or not being able to go back to sleep
On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop repeatedly during sleep, causing loud snoring and daytime sleepiness.
“Treatment for sleep orders can vary depending on the type and underlying cause. Your sleep doctor may offer sleeping pills, behavior therapy, assistive breathing device or oral appliance that you can use during sleeping or even surgery,” Fuentes said.
The most commonly prescribed device for treating sleep apnea disorders is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine sends a steady flow of oxygen into your nose and mouth as you sleep. This keeps airways open and helps you breathe normally.
While the COVID-19 pandemic gave almost everyone the chance to spend more time at home, this, however, did not translate into better sleeping patterns.
“The pandemic has given us plenty of reasons to lose sleep. I don’t have current local data but definitely we are seeing a rise in insomnia, dubbed now as ‘Coronasomina’ or ‘Covidsomnia.’ The pandemic has caused huge changes in routines and decreased physical activity for many people. People worry about jobs, online school and about getting sick,” Fuentes said.
She added that there is a lot of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, which in turn causes insomnia.
“People are isolated from friends and spend a lot of time online. A lot of people are working from home and sleeping at odd hours which disrupts our circadian rhythm,” Dr. Fuentes added.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants and microbes.
According to Dr. Fuentes, the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep are equally important ingredients to having good sleep.
“Even if you are sleeping the recommended duration of seven to eight hours of sleep each night but if you constantly have multiple awakenings during the night that causes sleep fragmentation, it may still be insufficient and you will end up waking up in the morning with unrefreshed sleep,” she said.
Fuentes pointed out that the path to better sleep starts with small changes in lifestyle habits. Here are five pieces of advice that she shared:
Follow a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. “Adults need seven hours of sleep each night,” she said.
Establish a pre-bedtime routine that includes something you enjoy doing. You should do something that can help you relax and get ready for bed. “Whether it’s reading a book, mediating, listening to soothing music—activities that help calm your body and mind and that will allow you to transition from wakefulness and sleep,” she said.
Create a good sleep environment. An optimal sleep environment can help you fall asleep easier. It should be free from electronics, kept at comfortable temperatures and dark enough to fall asleep. “Aim to turn off all electronics including phones, TV, tablets and laptops at least 60 minutes before bed. Turn off or dim all lights in your room,” she said.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Engaging in regular physical activity can improve the quality and quantity of sleep. “However, don’t exercise close to bedtime as it can interfere with sleep,” Fuentes said.
Limit caffeine intake. It you regularly drink coffee, tea or soda, aim to finish them earlier in the day rather than during evening hours. “Caffeine consumed six hours before bedtime can disrupt sleep,” she said.
“This is the best time to commit to finding the right sleeping schedule. If you feel like you have sleeping problems like insomnia, make sure you speak to a sleep specialist for a diagnosis,” Fuentes said.