Singaporeans are a tired bunch, only getting an average of 6.8 hours of sleep each night, according to a recent study by Philips to mark World Sleep Day.
The pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have only made things worse with those working from home clocking longer hours, as well as causing a decline in mental health. So it goes without saying then that getting sufficient sleep is key to improving one's physical and mental wellbeing.
Dr Daisuke Takemoto (PhD), product researcher from Suntory Wellness, explains how to make simple diet and lifestyle changes that can help improve one's sleep quality and promote overall wellness.
Q. How does poor sleep quality affect the body?
Having insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep can affect one's ability to function properly during the day, causing fatigue and a lack of concentration. It may even cause health problems in the long run. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation (which amounts to less than seven to nine hours a night) can lead to numerous health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, immunodeficiency and mental health disorders. Sleep deprivation can also lead to emotional instability. Research1 suggests that poor sleep, whether for a night or chronically over a few nights, disrupts the emotional balance and control in the brain.
Q. What is oxidative stress and how is it related to sleep?
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Uncontrolled oxidative stress can accelerate the aging process and contribute to the development of many health conditions including Alzheimer's disease.
Sleep defends the body against oxidative stress. Research suggests that sleep loss could make people more susceptible to oxidative stress, and subsequently, health conditions linked to such stress.
Q. What are some lifestyle habits to adopt for better sleep?
Here are some simple tips and practices we can adopt to build better sleep habits:
Exercise: According to Harvard Health, exercising may increase the effect of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. Do not exercise close to bedtime and instead, opt for morning workouts.
Switch off when you're on the bed: Put away all devices before going to bed, and refrain from checking emails or watching TV on the bed.
Watch what you eat at night: Do not eat too late or too much as this makes your body digest food at bedtime. It may also increase the risk of acid reflux. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they produce stimulating effects.
De-stress: According to Harvard Health, stress is a stimulus that activates fight-or-flight hormones which can disrupt sleep. Do activities that let you unwind before bed time such as listening to soothing music or meditation
Q. How can my diet help me achieve better quality sleep?
A balanced diet made up of mostly fruits and vegetables would provide you with essential vitamins and minerals, including those that promote sleep. One study among middle-aged Italian adults suggests that the Mediterranean diet is linked to better sleep quality.
Mediterranean diets comprise plant-based meals, small amounts of lean meat and chicken, more servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, fish and other seafood. Olive oil is used during food preparation, and dishes are prepared and seasoned simply, without much sauce or gravy.
Q. What foods or supplements should I take for better sleep?
Kiwi: Serotonin and antioxidants like vitamin C found in kiwi may support better sleep. Researchers in Taiwan discovered that people who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime every day for four weeks fell asleep faster, slept more continuously and longer.
Fatty fish: Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D found in fatty fish may support better sleep. One study reported that men who ate Atlantic salmon three times a week for six months could fall asleep faster than men who ate chicken, beef, or pork, and even functioned better during daytime.
Chamomile tea: Apigenin, an antioxidant in chamomile tea, may support better sleep. Although research has found weak evidence for the effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality, having a cup of chamomile tea before bed can be a great wind down routine.
Sesamin: Found in sesame seeds, sesamin is found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help maintain the body's balance of free radicals. It is readily absorbed by the small intestines to reach the liver, where its antioxidant effects are activated.
Q. What is Sesamin EX and how is it beneficial to my sleep health and other aspects of my well-being?
Produced by Suntory Wellness in Japan, Sesamin EX is a supplement that contains an excellent antioxidant formula of sesamin, vitamin E and super vitamin tocotrienol.
Eating sesame seeds alone is not enough. Sesamin makes up less than one per cent of each seed. Further more, sesame seeds are not easily absorbed by the body. That's why Suntory spent 30 years perfecting a proprietary technology to extract the goodness of sesamin from sesame seeds. In fact, the company received an Achievement in Technological Research award from the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology and Agrochemistry (JSBBA) for sesamin's practical application as a health food.
Sesamin EX supports improved sleep quality and reduces fatigue after eight weeks of regular consumption. In a study by Suntory involving 299 participants aged 40 and above who felt exhausted on a daily basis, consumption of Sesamin EX for eight weeks helped them to fall asleep more easily, sleep more soundly, feel more rested when waking up, and feel less fatigued.
Suntory's research also includes the youthful effects of Sesamin EX. A survey involving 7,310 participants in their 50s to 70s found that 71 per cent who had consumed Sesamin EX for more than one year felt that they looked at least five years younger than their age. 82 per cent felt at least five years younger than their age.
Another aspect is liver health. Research shows that sesamin helps to support liver function and the decomposition of alcohol, thereby helping to ease unpleasant aftereffects of drinking, and maintain blood cholesterol levels.