We spend a good third of our lives asleep. Sleep is our brain’s way of going into ‘maintenance mode’, keeping all the complex wiring in our head healthy. A good, solid eight hours of sleep is essential to maintaining our health both physically and mentally. It goes without saying that someone who is lacking sleep will be far from peak condition, thus affecting productivity.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that many Southeast Asians are severely lacking insufficient sleep. Some examples include Malaysia and Thailand, where 35 per cent and 20 per cent of the Malaysian and Thai population respectively suffer from insomnia.

Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is known to have a significant negative impact on our health in the long and short-term, and next day effects of poor quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning. Longer term effects are being studied, but have been associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems and even some cancers.

Malaysia and the Philippines were included in the seven-year survey titled: ‘Association of Estimated Sleep Duration and Naps with Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Study of 116,632 People from 21 Countries‘. The study showed that the recommended amount of time to spend asleep is 6 to 8 hours. Anything below or beyond that resulted in increased health risks.

In a survey conducted by health technology firm Royal Philips, 70 per cent of Singaporeans said their sleep is ‘somewhat’ or ‘not at all’ well and 39 per cent said their sleep has worsened in the past five years. The impact of this affects their productivity, with as many as 65 per cent of Singaporeans saying they have experienced daytime sleepiness throughout the week.

The advancements in computer and communications technology has led to more sleepless nights. Devices such as cell phones and computers are allowing people to stay up to date with social media and consuming entertainment and other content on the go. Additionally, the need to constantly reply e-mails, messages and other work-related correspondence after office hours has contributed to the rise in time people spend on these electronic devices.

Numerous studies have shown that the blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets and television decreases melatonin production, the hormone that regulates night-day cycles or sleep-wake cycles.

We need to realise that getting enough adequate sleep is key to sustaining our mental and physical health. Getting enough sleep has also been associated with decreased rates of depression. Therefore, we should be making good quality sleep a priority in our daily lives.