Malaysians don’t sleep enough and suffer health problems


The Consumers Association of Penang calls on consumers to inculcate good sleeping habit as getting enough sleep is the key to good health.

According to a regional survey Malaysians get only 6.4 hours of sleep on average. This leads to a sleep gap of 1.6 hours short of the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Mobile devices and spending time online is one of the leading causes of this sleep deprivation.

The survey also indicates that internet addiction as a new threat to healthy living. Although internet penetration in Malaysia is not as high as in some of the other markets in the region, 73% of Malaysian adults interviewed agree that their online activities and social networking are becoming addictive.

81% of the respondents surveyed see spending time online as barrier that is preventing many adults from getting enough sleep. This addiction trend will be fuelled by children growing up with the internet as an integral part of their lives.

While sleeping less might seem to be just a lifestyle choice, studies have shown that a chronic lack of sleep can lead not only to poor performance and decreased productivity, but also significant health consequences.

As regular poor sleep puts one at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens the life expectancy.

Among the possible effects of inadequate sleep are increased hunger and subsequent weight gain, decreased immune function, poor glucose control (contributing to the development of diabetes), increased blood pressure, and higher incidences of heart problems.

Sleepy people are also grumpy, irritable and unable to focus properly, which can lead to social problems, as well as cause work or car accidents.

Studies have also shown that keeping regular sleeping hours can reduce negative thoughts and worries. The findings also demonstrate that repetitive negative thinking is linked to sleep disruption and the research team strongly encourages those at risk of developing a mental health disorder to lend time to their sleep.

In another report, awareness on the effects of lack of sleep seems to be generally low among Malaysians, with only 35% saying that a lack of sleep affects their job performance tremendously, and 42% agreeing that decreased sleep significantly affects their physical health.

The lack of sleep does not just mean not sleeping enough hours for the body to recharge but also the quality of sleep that one is getting.

In the second Sleep Conference 2014 it was highlighted that about 10% of Malaysians have a sleeping disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and many are wrongly turning to pills to get some sleep. Using sleeping pills as the primary solution to get some sleep would lead to addiction.

Malaysians are taking for granted the importance of sleep. For example driving during the period from 2am to 4am, during that period, our body is preparing to sleep and to do something like driving is going against it. The cognition and response will be slower and wakefulness will not last as long as usual. As such driving during that period could lead to an accident. This is especially dangerous for express buses operating in the wee hours of the morning. This practice should be banned.

In a test of 300 Malaysian bus drivers, 30% were found to suffer from sleep disorders, according to a report by the Road Safety Department and the Sleep Disorder Society Malaysia.

Tests have shown that, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, have poorer performance in mental alertness.

In view of the importance of sleep to health the Consumers Association of Penang calls on the authorities to

— Stop issuing 24 hours licenses to eating outlets
— Stop night shifts in factories
— Stop entertainment outlets from operating after midnight
— Ban wee-hour trips by express buses
— The Ministry of Health should have a campaign to create awareness on sleep

To get good sleep, consumers are advised to avoid watching television, using smart phones, exercising, taking heavy meals and consuming alcohol and caffeine at least four hours before sleep. Consumers are also advised to sleep for at least 8 hours a night. As the saying goes “Early to bed early to rise makes a person healthy wealthy and wise,” let this be the guide to our good health.

Press Statement, 5 Feb. 2015