What you need to know about sleep this World Sleep Day.
Sleep is a very basic human need that appears to be a fundamental process.
Some think that we need sleep for our bodies to rest, but in truth scientifically, we sleep for our brains to rest and rejuvenate.
Sleep is characterized by 3 features:
(i) a transient reversible state (the person can be awakened);
(ii) a behavioral need (some people require more sleep than others); and
(iii) a perceptual disengagement from the environment (one is not aware of the surrounding).
Some perceive sleep as a habit. However, sleep is a physiological need and not a habit. Sleep is extremely important and keeps the mind alert and reactive to the surroundings and work requirements. Pushing oneself to extremes and compromising on sleep will cause the brain to gradually become less responsive to visual, auditory, and other environmental stimuli during wakefulness and result in lower productivity levels.
Not only is the quantity of sleep crucial, the quality of sleep is also vital. Barring presence of sleep disorders, a healthy lifestyle and routine practice of good sleep hygiene are key to achieving good quality sleep.
The commonest sleep disorder that robs one of good quality sleep is obstructive sleep apnea (snoring being the most commonly known symptom of this disorder).
The presence of snoring is an ‘alarm’ that alerts one to the possibility of this sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea is closely associated with high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and sudden death.
Snoring implies an increased resistance to the inflow of air during breathing at the level of the upper airways. It is due to the vibration of the tissues in the mouth and oral cavity (namely the soft palate, uvula, base of tongue and other soft tissues). A person suffering from obstructive sleep apnea experiences recurrent apnea – cessation of breathing and low oxygen levels – during sleep due to the persistent collapse of his or her airway.
Other symptoms include, during the day:
- Daytime sleepiness, tiredness
- Poor concentration (short attention span)
- Poor memory (forgetful)
- Morning headaches
- Mood changes
During the night:
- Choking sensation at night
- Gasping for air at night
- Frequent arousals (awakenings)
- Nocturia (frequent passing urine)
- Loud snoring
In America, a screening study in over 600 adults showed that the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea is 24% in men and 9% in women; and most of them are undiagnosed.
In Singapore, a study done on 240 people (published in The Straits Times, 18th March 2016) showed that 33% (1 in 3) of Singaporeans have sleep apnea but are unaware of it. A notable 33% have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea while 10% have severe obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring is also frequently deemed as a social nuisance. Not a nuisance to the snorer, but a nuisance to the bed-partner. Dual sleep studies conducted on both bed-partners have shown that the snorer who has obstructive sleep apnea suffers from low oxygen at night, while the partner’s sleep is fragmented and disrupted by the loud volume of his snoring.
Innocuous as it seems, this 5 letter word ‘S-L-E-E-P’ can affect our daytime alertness, mood and temperament, relationships, marriage, memory, academic performance, work productivity, and consequentially our career promotions and income. Good quality sleep is critical for one’s physical, emotional and mental health.
The next time you deny the symptoms that you (or your partner) is experiencing persistently, think again.