How to get better sleep – Manila Bulletin

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Published October 15, 2022, 11:00 AM
by Jules Vivas
Today’s teens are the most sleep-deprived people in the world according to the book Generation Sleepless by Heather Turgeon. In a 2019 Philips Global Sleep Survey, meanwhile, 62 percent of adults worldwide feel they do not sleep well and lose around one to two hours of rest per night. 
On top of our already fast-paced lifestyle, the challenges of the times such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the like, are some of the aspects that cause a lack of sleep.
In the era of sleeplessness, Filipinos top the charts as revealed by a study conducted by Sleep Cycle this year, where we are ranked fourth overall in people who need rest. 
To help remedy the situation, business community Bounce Back Philippines together with wellness company Wellspring Philippines hosted a webinar titled “Pillow Talk: And Why Filipinos Need to Survive the Era of Sleeplessness.”
“Considering what we have at the moment [health crisis, war, economic recessions], sleep has become a luxury. You have to earn it,” says Bounce Back Philippines COO Bianca Angeles in her opening remarks. In the New York Times, sleep is considered “…the new status symbol and a measure of success, a skill to be cultivated and nourished.”
The keynote speaker of the session was neurologist and sleep specialist, Dr. Debbie Bernardo, whose extensive portfolio on sleep science includes finishing a fellowship in sleep medicine at the National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, as well as becoming the head of the Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center and the neurology section of the Institute of Neurosciences in the Philippines. She is also an esteemed member of leading organizations like the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.
Sharing her “gospel of better sleep and healthier body and mind,” Dr. Debbie discussed essential insights on sleep with the participants of the online event.
“Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personnel renewal,” read Dr. Debbie in her presentation, citing American journalist and author Tony Schwartz, who wrote the book, The Power of Full Engagement.
“Because Filipinos are unaware of the repercussions of sleeplessness, we don’t make it a priority in our daily schedules that we need to sleep as much as seven hours per day,” says Dr. Debbie. 
“As we grow older we need fewer hours of sleep, but the minimum is still seven hours a night. During school age, children and teenagers need as much as nine to 12 hours per night. There are consequences to chronic insufficient sleep. We are more prone to depression and anxiety. Studies are also now showing that it [sleep deprivation] makes one prone to breast and prostate cancer.”
Other problems in the body caused by lack of sleep are the derangement of the immune system, negative impact on the heart and blood pressure, and an increase in propensity to gain weight.
Also tackled are the two stages of sleep, the non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and the REM. 
The latter is the period of dreaming when the body is paralyzed so we do not act out of sleep. REM, also known as active sleep or dream sleep, among others, is the time when the brain sorts out the information we had received the entire day. It is the rest and restoration that the body needs.
In 1998, the circadian rhythm was discovered. Scientists saw that proteins inside cells run in feedback loops in almost all organisms. The physiologic and behavioral patterns based on the circadian rhythm tell us we are supposed to be asleep at midnight and that the deepest sleep comes between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. when the body temperature is the lowest. Melatonin secretion starts when the sun goes down, provoked by the onset of darkness, and stops early morning at 8 a.m.
A highlight of the talk is the subject “insufficient sleep syndrome,” the shortened sleep below an individual’s usual baseline or amount of sleep needed to maintain optimal performance regularly.
One of the factors for inadequate opportunities for sleep these days is Covidsomnia or insomnia caused by the fear of the coronavirus. If the sleep disorder has been in existence for three months or longer, it is considered chronic insomnia.
But what causes sleep deprivation? Humans are the only species that voluntarily delay sleep. No other animal could do this. Medical problems could also cause a lack of sleep. “There is no cure for sleeplessness. So how do we cope?” asks Dr. Debbie.
There are behavioral changes we could do to improve sleep. “You should make your bedroom a sanctuary. It should be clean. Minimize allergens. Provide adjustable lighting. Serene artworks and a calming color palette help.” Dr. Debbie also points out that the best ambiance for sleeping is extreme quiet with a cool temperature.
Avoid using gadgets at night. But if it is unavoidable to do so, use night mode and turn off ambient lighting. Stop using gadgets altogether an hour before your proposed bedtime. “I always tell my patients to stick to a schedule. Establish a regular wake time and get sunlight early in the morning. This synchronizes our brain to the circadian rhythm.”
Dr. Debbie emphasizes creating a wake time rather than a sleep time because working hard on trying to sleep will make it more difficult for one to fall asleep. Extending your sleep in the morning is no longer a restful or restorative sleep, so you better set an alarm.
You snooze, you lose.Fragmented sleep is bad. Only take naps if needed. The best time for naps is after lunch, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. as there is a dip in our circadian rhythm at this time. Remember that naps take away from evening sleep. If you want to sleep well at night, do not sleep too late in the afternoon. The advisable amount of nap time is 20 to 30 minutes. Waking up beyond this time gives one a hangover or groggy feeling.
Watch what you eat and drink. It is difficult to sleep if you are hungry. But also avoid big meals two to three hours before bedtime. Food or drinks to stay clear of hours before rest are coffee, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint, and fatty food. Try not to drink coffee after 2 p.m. as caffeine blocks adenosine.
Try to sleep on your left side if you have acid reflux. Because of gravity, the shape of our stomach, and the angle of the connection between it and the esophagus, sleeping on the left side can greatly reduce reflux. Minimize all fluid intake within two hours of bedtime. 
Exercise is very important to improving sleep, especially aerobic exercises. Those who do this will be able to fall asleep faster. Gentle exercises are also helpful. You should, however, avoid exercising two hours before bedtime.
Quit smoking. Nicotine is a potent stimulant. Nicotine withdrawal causes sleep disturbances, so you may want to quit slowly instead of doing cold turkey.
Take melatonin if you must. “During the pandemic we were concerned about the senior members of the family and the babies and we were also constantly thinking about our businesses so we suffered from bouts of anxiety and sleeplessness,” says the COO of Wellspring Philippines, Casey Ching. This led her and her health and wellness company to bring the Wellspring melatonin gummies to the Philippines. It was Casey and her family who first used the product.
Casey saw the FDA-approved melatonin gummy as the solution to sleep problems of “young adults who suffer from anxiety, mommies, and freelancers who have to do the extra hustle to make a living.”
The gummies, she noted, are not sleeping pills, but a sort of relaxant. Melatonin is produced by the body and has now been developed and manufactured in vitamin form. It alleviates fatigue and lets one sleep naturally and deeply.
“Many people nowadays opt to take gummies because they’re easier to swallow, and taste better,” furthers Casey. Aside from melatonin, Wellspring gummies contain other ingredients with added benefits such as vitamin B6, and Passiflora extract. 
Wellspring is the only brand in the market today to have three variants of melatonin gummy products namely, Melatonin Sleep Aid Gummies with passion fruit extract to help relax and promote calm before bedtime, Wellspring Nighttime with Collagen and Hyaluronic acid for better sleep and glowing skin, and Extra Snooze Extra Strength Melatonin with L-theanine and Lemon Balm gummies for an added dose of relaxation for that extra good night’s sleep.
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