Once again, Singapore is in the top spot—for sleep deprivation. This past weekend, The Straits Times published an article titled Scientists warn of ‘global sleep crisis’ due to social pressures, with Singapore having the lowest average amount. Considering that the data was gathered from 100 countries, it is worrying that Singapore has the lowest ‘average amount of sleep’. The article highlights social pressure as the leading cause of the lack of sleep. However, other contributing factors such as stress, an unfit lifestyle, and an unbalanced diet can rob you of a good night’s sleep.

Understanding Sleep

The key factor in our body that makes sleep so enjoyable is a hormone called melatonin. This hormone is secreted from a gland in our brain called the pineal gland. When less light enters our eyes, the gland starts to work by discharging melatonin into our blood stream. A large amount of these hormones gives us the drowsy feeling we need before bed but hampers us at 3pm during work. This brings us to the importance of the sleep cycle. To understand the importance of the sleep cycle, we begin by looking at the five stages of sleep.

Stage 1: light sleep
Stage 2: lowered brain waves and no eye movement
Stage 3: gradual increase in delta brain waves
Stage 4: heightened delta brain waves
Stage 5: rapid eye movement (dream stage)

An average person repeats the sleep cycle about four to five times in a night. The appropriate length of sleep for an adult lies between seven to eight hours. However, external distractions can cause a premature awakening. In this scenario, waking up during stages one to three could result in feeling as though you have barely rested, regardless of the hours. As a result, fatigue and drowsiness are almost guaranteed throughout the day.
It takes a little time to reach the first two stages of sleep. However, it will take a few hours before a person reaches the final two stages of rest, which are the most important. While sleeping, it is normal to go from stage one through to four before heading backward to stage one or two again to begin a new cycle. Stage five is seldom reached. In a sleep cycle, stages four and five should always remain uninterrupted—having a stable sleep cycle can ensure this.

Mastering Sleep

Alarm clocks are great for heavy sleepers who need an uncomfortable wake-up call when it is time to face the day. However, setting one off in an untimely manner might disrupt your cycle. If you have a mandatory wake up time, sleeping at least seven hours prior could make a huge difference—this will make your hours count, while you complete the ideal number of sleep cycles.

Another common obstacle that prevents us from even reaching the first stage of sleep is stress. Thinking about the things you have not checked off on your to-do list will only keep the brain active moments before bedtime. This makes it almost impossible to enter stage two of sleep. Managing stress by setting priorities, and delegating tasks are simple ways to compartmentalize your duties for the day. Distracting yourself with friends and family closer to your sleep time is another good way to reduce stress levels, by putting the brain at ease.

Some people claim that working out exhausts the body, which helps bring about sleep. This requires some caution since working out raises adrenaline, which heightens heart rate and brain activity, much like stress does.

Sleep Well by Eating Well

The quality of your sleep is also affected by the food that you eat. The first step for better sleep is avoiding caffeine at least six hours before sleep. Other areas to look at include alcohol, which may cause mid-sleep awakening, and spicy foods that may cause indigestion and therefore disturb sleep.

Nutritional supplements are a natural way of supporting sleep. Activa Well Being Sleep is packed with stress-reducing ingredients such as sweet violet and Matricaria, both of which also double as digestive solutions. Frequent travelers who experience jet lag can find support with Activa Well Being Serenity. The capsules contain melatonin, which helps in easing stress and anxiety and restoring the circadian cycle.

Regardless of our age, good sleep is necessary for our wellness. Ranking at number one for sleep deprivation is not something to be proud of. With better time and stress management, coupled with good nutrition and supplements, quality sleep and longer duration sleep can be achieved easily.

This post was first published on InTheLoop – http://intheloop.com.sg/sleep-secrets-you-did-not-know/ and has been reposted on Your Vitality Store with the permission of the author.