Find balance between goals and health

Wednesday's report ("Not enough sleep? Beware of dementia") highlights the lack of sleep among those in their 30s and 40s as possibly contributing to the development of dementia when they reach their 60s.

On average, we require 61/2 to seven hours of sleep a day, but many people are sleeping 41/2 to five hours.

What is alarming is that students at a young age are already suffering from sleep deprivation. This possibly gets worse when they move on to higher levels, graduate and embark on their careers.

Aside from the wrong reasons for not getting enough sleep - such as unnecessarily surfing the Web - many who lack sleep are lamenting that they cannot help it, as work demands require them to sleep less, in order to fulfil their assignments.

Such a development is certainly not healthy for society. Sleep deprivation is not just linked to dementia, it also leads to fatigue, lack of concentration, inertia, an inability to exercise regularly and an overall lowering of one's immunity to illnesses.

In the past 10 years of my general medical practice, I have been seeing more patients in the 30-40 age group succumbing to heart attacks, stroke and depression.

In the past, unless the patient is above 60 years of age, one does not suspect stroke or heart attack as a likely diagnosis.

I suspect this trend is related to stress, which is invariably connected to sleep deprivation and the development of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Somehow, as a society, we need to find a balance that encourages achieving positive goals without compromising healthy lifestyles and good health.

We must remember that good health encompasses physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. A deterioration in one area can affect the others and the whole individual and, in turn, the family and society at large.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Find balance between goals and health'. Print Edition | Subscribe