Up All Night

Sleeping is a daily affair. However, falling asleep can be challenging at times. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can affect mental well-being. Learn how you can make your way to slumberland with greater ease and pave the way to better mental health.


Randy Gardner underwent an experiment by not sleeping for 11 days (264 hours) in 1964. During his experience, Gardner was noted to exhibit behavioural and concentration problems, leading to moodiness, memory loss and hallucination. Although he recovered after sleeping for a few good nights, he had proven that sleep deprivation can be dangerous to a person’s health.

Though we would unlikely put ourselves through such an ordeal, we may still be unintentionally depriving ourselves of sufficient sleep. In the long run, we could experience difficulties in memory, concentration and alertness, thus increasing our risk in work-related and road traffic injuries. Sleep deprivation has also been proven to be the cause of several varieties of medical illnesses.

Our sleep can be affected by factors like our environment, diet and stress from daily life. Stress can affect us emotionally and physically.

The right amount of stress can push us to excel. However, too much stress can definitely disrupt the quality of our sleep.

Here are some tips to help ease your stress for a better night’s sleep:

  1. Create a conducive sleeping environment. A quiet, dark and cooling environment can help promote good quality sleep. Of course, let’s not forget the importance of having a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  2. What happens at work, stays at work. Everyone needs a balance between work and their personal life. It is never healthy to live a life that revolves only around your job. Thinking about work before sleep can keep your mind active and stimulated, which, in turn, can prevent you from falling asleep.
  3. Identify your stress. Of course, not all problems have a solution or can be solved immediately. However, by knowing what causes you stress, you are more likely to be able to find a remedy. As for problems that do not have any immediate solutions, it is probably not a bad idea to keep an optimistic perspective and learn to let go of them.
  4. Make sleep a priority. When it is time for sleep, it is time to sleep. Sleep should not be compromised simply because you have uncompleted tasks.
  5. Stop being a clockwatcher. It can be stressful when you are unable to fall asleep at night. However, staring at the clock and checking the time repeatedly at night only increase your stress and anxiety. If you are feeling anxious and have difficulty falling asleep, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing such as listening to music that soothes you. Return to bed only when you are feeling calm and sleepy.
  6. Seek professional help. Prolonged sleep deprivation can affect our daily functions. If you find yourself struggling with your daily routine due to poor quality of sleep or a prolonged lack of sleep, do consider seeking out professional help from your general practitioner.
  7. Relaxation techniques.
    • Breathing Exercises
      Deep breathing is one of the most common relaxation techniques that can be practised not just before sleep, but at any time, wherever you are.
    • Guided Imagery
      Select a place that you identify with peace and serenity. Visualise yourself being there. To gain the most out of the experience, include sensory details such as the smells, sounds, sight and feel of the place in your visualisation.
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
      This technique helps you to relax and eases tension in various parts of your body that are tense from stress.
    • Aromatherapy
      This can be considered a passive stress-relieving technique as you can continue with your regular activities with aromatherapy. However, if you are applying this technique before sleep, try focusing your attention on the aroma, allowing the scent to soothe you to sleep.

Sleep may seem natural and effortless at times. However, due to hectic schedules and the stress of everyday life, we may be unintentionally depriving ourselves of precious sleep, which allows our bodies to repair and rejuvenate. It may seem forgiveable to forego an extra hour of sleep for your priorities, but the reality is such that you may be harming yourself in the long run by being deprived of good sleep.


Ms Lanurse Chen
Ms Lanurse Chen is a Senior Psychologist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She graduated from Monash University, obtaining her Masters of Psychology in counselling. She is a member of the Singapore Psychological Society and the Australian Psychological Society. She is also a registered Psychologist with the Singapore Register of Psychologists