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Chronic insomnia and its​ health implications

Still, people who regularly sleep to​o little can suffer from long-lasting health consequences.

Beyond daytime drowsiness – and nodding off at the wheel – prolonged sleep deprivation can in fact lead to serious health implications.

“In fact, insomnia is closely associated with some medical conditions,” says Dr Chan Herng Nieng​​, Senior Consultan​t, D​​epartment of Psychiatry​​, Sing​apore General Hospital​​ (SGH), a member of the ​ Si​ngHealth​​ group.

These conditions include:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Neurologic disease
  4. Breathing problems
  5. Urinary problems
  6. Chronic pain
  7. Gastrointestinal problems
  8. Poorly controlled high blood pressure
  9. Poorly controlled diabetes

Sleep right, and tight

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of snooze time per night. But the majority clock in less than that.

To treat the problem, cognitive behavioural therapy may be effective. Dr Chan explains: “This therapy includes elements like sleep education and hygiene, stimulus control, relaxation training, as well as cognitive therapy. What it does is to guide you to understand sleep, recognise and make changes to certain mindsets and behaviours that affect your ability to sleep.”

For instance, good sleep hygiene is a crucial part of cognitive behavioural therapy. Dr Chan explains: “Basically, sleep hygiene is a set of guidelines that one can follow to ensure peaceful, effective sleep. It is especially helpful in treating mild fatigue or insomnia.”

Try these good sleeping tips:

  1. Keep to a fixed bedtime:

  2. Your body will naturally get accustomed to falling asleep and waking up at certain times. So keep these times constant (even on weekends!). Once your body adjusts to a regular rhythm, you will sleep better.

  3. Establish a pre-bedtime ritual:

  4. As it gets closer to bedtime, give your body some cues to wind down. You can listen to soothing music, drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a warm bath or read a few chapters of a book.

  5. Keep the bed strictly for sleeping:

  6. Refrain from using your bed for brain-stimulating activities like work or even watching television.

  7. Don’t exercise up to four hours before bedtime:

  8. Doing so will energise you and keep you awake. So while a regular workout is good for health, it is only advisable to do it in the daytime so it will not interfere with your sleep.

  9. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep for 20 minutes:

  10. Instead of tossing and turning in bed, leave the bedroom and engage in some light, relaxing activities until you feel sleepy.

If the insomnia persists, you may have to try other treatments. Dr Chan says: “This includes short-term use of medications, such as sleeping pills. At times, sedating anti-depressants may have to be prescribed.”

The Department of Psychiatry, SGH, provides a comprehensive, integrated, multi-disciplinary service in the assessment and management of patients with psychological and psychiatric disorders, including sleep disorders. Consultation is strictly by appointment only. Referrals are accepted from polyclinics, hospitals, general practitioners, voluntary welfare organisations, schools and colleges and institutions of higher learning. Patients in need of assistance can make a self-referral by calling our Central Appointment at 6321 4377.

See previous page to find out how insomnia affects the mortality rate in men​​​​.

Ref: T12