AS WE roll into a second year in a lockdown, we take on one of the health issues this pandemic has brought to our homes: bad sleep. A mattress company and a health tracker have both come up with suggestions on how to maximize sleep and improve its quality.

To celebrate World Sleep Day (Mar. 19 around the world), mattress company Uratex held a Zoom conference on sleep, since, naturally, it takes sleep seriously. “Uratex has been advocating for quality of sleep. We put a premium on the value of sleep,” said Josephine Casal, Uratex Sleep Business Unit Marketing Head. Its campaign for this year is: “Better Sleep, Better U.”

Ms. Casal addressed sleep problems during the pandemic: “A lot of people have suffered, and maybe, still suffer from anxiety, depression, and COVID-somnia. It’s not even over yet. These mental and sleep health problems are still affecting us.”

Dr. Keith Aguilera, President of the Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine, said that they noticed there was “COVID-somnia,” based on what their patients and clients said during teleconsultations at the beginning of the lockdowns last year. According to him, these people did not have sleep-related issues until the lockdowns came into place.

He then gave tips for getting better sleep. For good quality sleep, he said, one has to consider duration, continuity and depth. The optimal sleep time is seven hours for adults. “We don’t like you sleeping for more than nine hours, and definitely having a shorter sleep of less than five hours is not good for your health,” he said. One must make sure that one is sleeping continuously throughout the seven hours, going through each stage of sleep: light, deep, and REM (rapid eye movement). Going through the deep sleep stage improves wakefulness and cognitive function, while going through REM brings psychological well-being and consolidates complex learning.

For this, health tracker Fitbit, which pioneered sleep tracking technology over a decade ago, has a range of sleep technologies that are geared to understand sleep and provide the exact data and insights needed to improve sleeping habits, including Sleep Mode, which turns off notifications and disables the screen to sleep without distractions, the Sleep Score which measures the quality of sleep including heart rate, restlessness, time awake, and Sleep Stages,  which tracks time spent in each sleep stage, as well as time awake.

Fitbit also came up with a list of tips for a better sleep, many of which reflect those given by Mr. Aguilera. Here are some tips for a better night’s sleep according to Mr. Aguilera and Fitbit:

  1. Establish a regular sleeping and waking time, said Mr. Aguilera.
  2. Take a nap when tired —  with a caveat: “We often recommend [a] 30-minute nap. If you can avoid naps, that’s better. Try to use all your tiredness at night,” said Mr. Aguilera.
  3. Manage stress, said Fitbit. With how long and hectic days can be – especially in a pandemic where the work-life balance has been upturned for those working from home — stress can set in, possibly leading to elevated heart rates, quickened breathing, and the increase of stress hormones in the body which can inhibit the body’s natural need to relax. As the onset of stress can impact sleep, simple destressing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or meditative movement like yoga can go a long way towards improving a person’s emotional well-being, which can possibly improve one’s quality of sleep.
  4. Control substance use, like smoking, drinking, or taking stimulants, for these affect your sleep, and set a caffeine cut-off time. Mr. Aguilera recommends not taking caffeine six hours before your prescribed bedtime.
  5. Don’t go to bed hungry — a little snack can help (with an emphasis on “little”), said Mr. Aguilera. Fitbit, meanwhile, suggested that the ideal diet to promote better sleep quality is one rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and dairy. Additionally, one ought to limit intake of heavily processed foods, sugar-rich snacks, as well as caffeine and alcohol can promote positive outcomes in terms of sleep quality. It did note that food consumed throughout the day — not just before bedtime —  affects the quality of sleep. Eating sugary foods throughout the day can affect blood sugar levels — leading to feelings of fatigue which can affect sleep patterns, it notes. And due to the need to digest food, consuming a heavy meal before bedtime can interfere with the body’s natural process of winding down.
  6. While exercise can help regulate sleep patterns, don’t work out less than three hours before your prescribed bedtime, said Mr. Aguilera.
  7. Get comfortable —  this includes bedding, said Mr. Aguilera, setting a room temperature at about 21-24 degrees celsius, and eliminating light: “The darker the room, the more melatonin your body [produces],” the doctor pointed out.
  8. Reserve your bed for sleeping (and other bed-related activities). A bed isn’t for working.

“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. There’s no effort in getting good sleep, because it’s practically free. You just have to help yourself,” he said. —  JLG