Creating good sleeping habits

People should go to bed at the same time every day in order to allow the body and mind to develop a pattern of rest and wakefulness, said Dr Kenny Pang.
People should go to bed at the same time every day in order to allow the body and mind to develop a pattern of rest and wakefulness, said Dr Kenny Pang.PHOTO: ST FILE

Teenagers suffer cognitive deficits when they do not get enough sleep and the effects linger long after, a local study found in March last year.

But not getting enough sleep is not something that is confined to teens. The question is how everyone can create good sleeping habits for 2017.

Dr Kenny Pang, a ear, nose and throat specialist at the Asia Sleep Centre, said there are many aspects to sleeping well.

For instance, diet is a factor. People should avoid stimulants like coffee and tea, as well as sleeping on a full stomach, which causes gastro-esophageal reflux and negatively affects sleep quality.

Camomile tea, he added, is the only tea one should take before sleeping.

Despite the pervasiveness of hand-held technology, one should also stop using the computer, iPhone, iPad or watch television two hours before going to bed.

"Read a book in orange or yellow light," he said.

But what about the apps that supposedly cut down on screen brightness and help sleep?

Dr Pang said: "Don't use the mobile phone before or going to sleep. No apps can help."

While there are those who advocate starting school later to accommodate the different circadian rhythm of teenagers, Dr Pang disagrees and argues that habits can be modified.

"It is a matter of sleeping earlier, having afternoon naps and coping."

One thing that is important is regularity, he said. He recommended regular daily exercise and regular exposure to the outdoors in the daytime.

He said people should go to bed at the same time every day in order to allow the body and mind to develop a pattern of rest and wakefulness.

Snoring, he added, is one of the most common sleep problems for couples.

But, more than simply an annoyance, he said that snorers might be suffering from sleep apnea, which could be a serious condition. Chronic snorers should, therefore, consider going for a clinical evaluation.

Some people also have mistaken beliefs about sleep.

For example, although some believe that "catch-up" sleep - the act of sleeping more to compensate for a previous lack of sleep - does not work, Dr Pang said that it was indeed possible.

"Sleep more on weekends, if needed," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Creating good sleeping habits'. Print Edition | Subscribe