Sleep problems: Treatments in Singapore

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 27 Apr 2023

Sleep is critical to helping your body rest properly and fight disease. Sleep has several health benefits, including memory and learning. Lack of sleep impairs judgement, impacts longevity and safety, and increases the risk of several diseases including obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders and impaired immune function. 

Addressing sleep is increasingly recognized as fundamental to your ongoing good health. 

Unfortunately, despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, those who live in Singapore grapple with sleep deprivation. While the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven hours of sleep each night, a survey has revealed that only a quarter of the population sleep well. Although occasional difficulties with falling asleep may not pose a significant problem, persistent challenges with falling asleep, maintaining it, or waking too early may indicate deeper underlying medical conditions.

1. Insomnia

What is insomnia?

There are over 100 types of sleep disorders, with insomnia and sleep apnea being the two most common sleep disorders in Singapore. Insomnia is characterised by problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep or early awakening. Although the exact cause of insomnia remains unclear, doctors and specialists believe that it is likely to stem from a combination of various factors, including:

  • Medical conditions causing pain or other sleep disorders
  • Mental health conditions or psychological factors, such as stress
  • Lifestyle habits, such as caffeine consumption, jetlag and irregular sleep schedules

Treatments for insomnia in Singapore

You should talk to your doctor here in Singapore if your insomnia persists for more than four weeks, and your condition interferes with your daily functioning. At Osler Health, we see many patients with sleep concerns and can access appropriate specialist support as and when necessary. When it comes to addressing insomnia, there are several options:

  • Speak to your doctor – a holistic GP can unpack the root cause of your insomnia and discern what may be causing it (whether mental stress or physical). Importantly your GP can eliminate certain causes to help identify causal factors.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to eliminate the specific concerns and worries individuals with insomnia may have and recondition them to associate bed and bedtime with relaxation and sleep. Additionally, your sleep specialist may also recommend sleep hygiene practices, relaxation therapy, stimuli control and specific techniques to restrict your sleeping time.
  • Medication – Your Osler Health GP may prescribe medication after a full evaluation. 

2. Sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which an individual experiences pauses in their breathing while sleeping. When this happens, your body wakes you up to resume breathing. Although this reflex is crucial for survival, it can occur more than 30 times an hour, disrupting your sleep cycle and preventing restful sleep. As a result, you may wake up feeling tired throughout the day, which can impair your concentration and work productivity. This constant sleep interruption may also have other negative effects, including putting stress on your heart, which can increase your risk of medical conditions like heart failure and developing abnormal heart rhythms.

There are two types of sleep apnea, namely central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Central sleep apnea occurs when there is a problem with the connection between the brain and the muscles responsible for controlling breathing. Meanwhile, OSA occurs when the airway space is obstructed or too narrow, and it is observed in as many as one in three individuals in Singapore. Sleep apnea can result from a range of reasons, including:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Specific medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Large tonsilsSpecific medication
  • Nasal congestion and obstruction
  • Facial bone shape and muscle size

Treatments options in Singapore for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea often presents a set of distinct symptoms. For instance, individuals may snore loudly, gasp for breath during sleep, or experience dryness in the mouth upon awakening, morning headaches, and excessive daytime fatigue. If you encounter any of these problematic symptoms, it is recommended that you seek medical advice from a doctor .

Early intervention can significantly reduce the severity of the condition and help identify any underlying medical factors contributing to sleep apnea. With proper assistance, sleep apnea can be effectively managed and treated, enabling you to take the first step towards achieving a restful, uninterrupted night’s sleep. In Singapore, there are several treatment options for sleep apnea, such as: 

  • Lifestyle changes: these include losing weight or reducing your alcohol intake
  • Nasal continuous positive airway pressure: this involves sending air through tubing into a mask worn over your nose and/or mouth. This air pressure ensures that the back of the throat remains even if the throat muscles relax excessively during sleep.
  • Upper airway surgery: when other treatments have been unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend surgery to increase the space in the throat by removing tissue.

Achieve better sleep with Osler Health

Besides insomnia and sleep apnea, problems with sleeping can also arise from other factors. These may be sleep-related movement disorders, parasomnias, such as sleepwalking and sleep terrors. If you have been struggling with sleep problems for some time, it may be time to seek external help. The doctors at Osler Health have supported many patients with their sleep concerns and can offer you help. We view sleep as vital to your ongoing health. 

At Osler Health, our team of international doctors bring a wealth of experience, providing the assurance that your healthcare needs are met. Recognising that no two individuals are the same, we take a personalised approach to deliver a customised sleep treatment plan, ensuring that you receive care  that addresses your concerns. Trust us to help you achieve better sleep: drop by our clinic or schedule an appointment with us online today.

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