July 7, 2019

Sleep deprivation – not to be taken lightly

Sleep deprivation occurs when one does not get enough sleep, or has a disturbed sleep-wake cycle (such as when travelling to different time zones or working shift hours). This may lead to physical and mental health problems as well as loss of productivity. In addition, research has shown that sleep deprivation increases craving for high-calorie foods and plays a role in the development/maintenance of obesity.

Sleep deprivation is a very common occurrence; many Malaysians are in fact sleep-deprived. The Sleep Survey 2018 by Am Life International Sdn Bhd (a sleep healthcare business) revealed that nine out of ten Malaysians do not get enough sleep. Malaysians get around 6.3 hours of sleep each night, which is below the recommended duration of 8 hours. As a result, Malaysians face problems arising from lack of sleep: 40% of respondents report experiencing headaches, 37% each have trouble concentrating or are fatigued, 33% have neck/shoulder pain and 26% experience mood swings.

Sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on quality of life. It may affect health, interfere with work/school and compromise safety (especially when driving or operating machinery).

Sleep deprivation affects children differently from adults. While adults tend to slow down, children tend to increase in their activity.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in adults

  • Constant yawning
  • Falling asleep when not active
  • Grogginess when waking up and all day long
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood changes

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children

  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Temper tantrums
  • Hyperactive behaviour
  • Taking daytime naps
  • Grogginess in the morning
  • Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning
Device addiction is a significant cause for inadequate sleep. Enforcing a “no screens before bedtime” rule may help one to fall asleep on time, and subsequently have a longer sleep time.

Most people do manage to get some sleep every day. However, not all are able to sleep well each time. Getting quality sleep does require some effort; among the steps one could take to improve their quality of sleep include:

  • Choosing to go to bed early at night

Oftentimes, the lack of sleep is simply due to a person’s choice to stay up doing something else rather than sleeping.

  • Improving the bedroom environment

This includes eliminating source of noise (or wearing earplugs), setting the right bedroom temperature (recommended temperature is between 15-20°C) and turning off the lights.

  • Removing distractions

Putting away the phone and switching off the TV or computer can help one to fall asleep quicker.

  • Getting help to rectify any sleeping problems, such as snoring or sleep apnoea

Serious sleep disorders may indicate underlying health problems and need expert intervention. Addressing the sleep disorders may help one get better quality sleep.

  • Sleeping and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends

This is important to regulate the body clock so one could fall asleep easier.

  • Practicing a relaxing ritual before bedtime

Taking a warm bath (40-43°C) around 90 minutes before bed has been shown to improve quality of sleep.

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  1. Better Health Channel. Sleep deprivation. Available at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-deprivation. Accessed on 24 May 2019.
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Sleep deprivation and deficiency. Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency. Accessed on 24 May 2019.
  3. Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259.
  4. The Edge Markets. 9 in 10 Malaysians suffer from sleep problems, says survey. Available at https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/9-10-malaysians-suffer-sleep-problems-says-survey. Accessed on 24 May 2019.
  5. National Sleep Foundation. How and why using electronic devices at night can interfere with sleep. Available at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed. Accessed on 29 July 2019.
  6. Sleep.org. The ideal temperature for sleep. Available at https://www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/. Accessed on 29 July 2019.
  7. National Sleep Foundation. Sleeping tips & tricks. Available at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed on 29 July 2019.
  8. Healthline. Sleep disorders. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep/disorders. Accessed on 29 July 2019.
  9. Healthline. Having trouble sleeping? Try a hot bath before bed. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health-news/having-trouble-sleeping-try-a-hot-bath-before-bed. Accessed on 29 July 2019.