Study: Singaporeans Lose Sleep Over COVID-19 Pandemic

The Philips 2021 global sleep survey finds that Singaporeans now average 6.8 hrs of sleep per night, down from 7 hours in the 2020 survey.

A year since the start of COVID-19, Singaporeans' sleep issues loom large.

A year since the start of COVID-19, Singaporeans’ sleep issues loom large.

The Philips 2021 global sleep survey, in its sixth annual installment, is being released to mark World Sleep Day tomorrow.

The study also found that over half (57%) of Singaporeans’ ability to sleep well has been directly impacted by the pandemic, with more than a third experiencing negative impact on their stress, ability to sleep well, mental/emotional health, sleep and work routines.

With telehealth on the rise, Singaporeans are open to online means to address sleep-related
concerns, yet fear hinders many from getting tested for obstructive sleep apnea.

More details below from the study.

As with fears and concerns in any crisis, the pandemic has exacerbated the sleep woes of Singaporeans.

Almost a year since the onset of COVID-19, Singaporeans are reporting sleeping less, averaging 6.8 hours of sleep per night (vs 7 hours in the 2020 survey).

Despite the challenges, Singaporeans are taking action in the quest for a better sleep – including turning to online resources and telehealth for help.

Singaporeans face hurdles each night in getting a good sleep

For half of the Singaporeans surveyed, their sleep patterns have been altered by the pandemic – close to three in 10 (28%) say that they now sleep less each night, with less than half (46%) feeling that they get enough sleep at night and just 21% saying that they feel well rested most of the time when waking up in the morning.

Falling into a deep, continuous sleep is a challenge for many, with those surveyed facing difficulties like waking up during the night (40%), falling asleep (35%), and staying asleep (21%).

Worry and stress rank as the top reason for Singaporeans’ lack of sleep (31%), as well as their sleeping environment (16%), and mobile devices such as phones and tablets (13%).

Singaporeans kept awake by worry/stress say they worry most about their work responsibilities (58%), financial challenges (56%), family (32%), and their own/families’ health (30%).

Almost a third (31%) also worry about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mobile use leading to inconsistent sleep habits

For those accustomed to using their mobile phones in bed, nearly half (49%) say it’s the last thing they do before falling asleep and the first thing they do when waking up (45%).

Infographic of study findings. Click to view enlarge full graphic.

Infographic of study findings. Click to view enlarge full graphic.

Most use it for entertainment (47%), charging their phone overnight next to their bed (32%), and over one in 10 (15%) even respond to texts and calls that wake them up.

The majority of respondents who use their phone before falling asleep (69%) admit that it leads them to fall asleep later than they would like to, due to scrolling through social media (71%), watching videos (62%), texting (45%), checking emails (39%), or reading news about the COVID-19 pandemic (28%).

Taking action towards a better sleep

To get a better night’s sleep, Singaporeans are now experimenting with a variety of methods.

“The tools required to deliver telehealth efficiently and reliably already exist, and the interest from consumers is apparent, particularly in the face of COVID-19. When used properly, sleep telehealth has the potential to enhance efficiency and quality of care, improve health outcomes, empower patients to make informed decisions, and provide equitable healthcare for all,” said Dr. Teofilo Lee-Chiong, MD, Chief Medical Liaison, Sleep & Respiratory Care at Philips.

These include having a set bedtime/wake-up schedule (26%), watching television (24%), reducing caffeine consumption (22%), reading or playing soothing music (19%), and using sleep trackers or monitoring their sleep (10%).

Positively, Singaporeans are also turning towards telehealth and online health resources to address sleep issues.

Over half (57%) say the first time they had a telehealth appointment was during the pandemic.

With the increased reliance on telehealth during the pandemic, four in ten (40%) respondents expressed a willingness to seek help for sleep related concerns in future from a sleep specialist via telehealth services, although many have yet to take that step.

General awareness of the importance of sleep and the need to tackle underlying sleep issues is also making Singaporeans more open to seeing a sleep specialist (41%), their primary care physician (39%), looking into online health sources and websites for information (40%), and using telehealth or seeing a specialist online (33%).

Taking the bold step to address sleep issues such as OSA

While Singaporeans are positively seeking ways to address sleep issues, fear continues to hinder individuals from getting diagnosed for sleep conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“The pandemic has undeniably altered our daily routines, including our sleep habits. Despite the time savings from skipping the daily commute, it’s clear that Singaporeans still face multiple challenges in getting good and sufficient quality sleep each night. Getting enough sleep is essential for productivity and overall wellness, so it’s crucial that individuals facing persistent sleep issues take action to get themselves diagnosed and treated for serious underlying sleep-related chronic conditions,” said Ivy Lai, Country Manager, Philips Singapore.

One in five (21%) are afraid to take a sleep test as they don’t want to know if they have OSA, with 17% believing it is not necessary to be treated for OSA.

As a seldom-discussed, under-diagnosed condition, OSA is characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle, preventing oxygen from reaching the lungs.

As many as 1 in 3 Singaporeans suffer from OSA, and 91% have not been diagnosed.

Symptoms of OSA include choking or gasping for air during sleep, loud and persistent snoring and excessive daytime fatigue, and poor concentration during the day.

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