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Why you should stop taking sleep for granted, according to a sleep expert

By CAMILLE SANTIAGO Published Mar 17, 2021 5:04 pm

We spend one third of our lives sleeping yet many of us take sleep for granted. During the quarantine, a lot of us have spent our nights awake and mornings in bed (don't lie, we did that, too).

According to a study, "35% of people do not feel they get enough sleep, impacting both their physical and mental health." It was also found that about 71,000 people suffer injuries every year due to sleep-related accidents, and 1,550 of those die. And compared to 15% of healthy sleepers, 45% of the individuals skip work or events or make errors at work due to frequent sleep disturbances.

“We take [sleep] for granted. It has become a bragging right for some of us… If you have less sleep, you're more productive at work,” said Dr. Keith Aguilar, president of the Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine Inc.

To celebrate World Sleep Day this coming March 19, Uratex held a webinar where they invited Dr. Aguilar to talk about the importance of sleep to our health. "The truth is, we spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. The best investment for your lifetime is getting a good bed. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. Quality sleep is crucial to ensure good health and quality of life. Good sleep is practically free—you just have to help yourself," shares Dr. Keith.

Continue reading below to know more about sleep.

COVID-19 sleep fatigue is real

We spend most (if not all) of our time at home, and yet, it seems like we’re always tired and sleepy, or some are sleep-deprived. You may not know it, but it might be pandemic-related insomnia.

“Early in the pandemic, the most common sleep complain is actually insomnia,” revealed Dr. Aguilar. They found out that the main cause is sleeping late (and marathoning their favorite movies and shows).

“They extend their sleep time, and because they don’t have anything to do the following day, they extend their rise time. And this fluctuates during these times,” he said. “If you keep changing your sleep time and rise time, this would lead to misalignment of your sleep and wake cycle.”

“So having a regular sleep time is important even if you have nothing to do the following day, try to wake up at the same time pa rin,” he added.

Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being.

Dim the lights at night, expose yourself to sunlight during the day 

Melatonin, those sleeping pills that you take, are actually found in our bodies. When melatonin starts secreting at night, you start getting sleepy. Also, if you notice, when you watch TV at night or use your phone before bedtime, it’s harder to fall asleep, because “when you expose yourself to bright light, this could suppress the melatonin secretion,” explains Dr. Aguilar.

To maintain a proper sleep cycle, it is also important to expose yourself to sunlight. “The sunlight also helps signal your body that it's time for you to stop sleeping, it's time for your brain to stop secreting melatonin,” Dr. Aguilar said.

“Sunlight is actually very important in regulating your daytime function as well as your sleep time,” he added.

There is such a thing as “sleep debt”

Here’s the thing: the more you are awake, the more you actually start building up chemicals in your system that will make you tired and sleepy. That concept is called Process S or homeostasis.

“When these chemicals in your body start to pile up and become higher and higher, you have a higher tendency to actually fall asleep,” said Dr. Aguilar. 

Basically, the more you deprive yourself of sleep, your body will need more sleeping time. “The longer you stay awake, then the higher your sleep debt becomes until such a point that you can't control your sleep debt and you can have sleep attacks. So ito yung nakakatulog ka while in a meeting, in the car. Some people who have extremely high sleep debt sometimes fall asleep while eating during their lunch break.”

“We take [sleep] for granted. It has become a bragging right for some of us... If you have less sleep, you're more productive at work.”

Lack of sleep can affect a lot of things

When we’re sleepy or when our sleep is disrupted, it’s HARD. TO. FUNCTION. Ultimately, it can affect our performance at work, in school or at home. It can also affect our physical and mental health and could lead to anxiety, depression, hypertension, and diabetes, according to Dr. Aguilar.

Sleep for eight hours, but also have a stable rise time

Having a stable rise time can lead to better quality of sleep, better mood, and better psychological performances. Dr. Aguilar says, “The more regular you are with your sleep time and your rise time, it actually improves the amount of time that you spend in REM sleep and slow wave sleep.”