Singaporeans are getting more sleep in 2020 (compared to 2019). But why?

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A study by health technology company Royal Philips found that Singaporeans now get an average of 6.9 hours of sleep every night in 2020 – compared to 6.4 hours in 2019 (CNA, Mar. 13) – but beyond the descriptive information there is little explanation for the increase in the number of hours. In other words, among the 1,000 surveyed respondents*, why are they getting more sleep over the last year? As per the study findings, is it solely related to caffeine intake? More proper bedtime or wake-up schedules? Or the increase in the take-up of reading?

(*With this sample of Singaporeans, it is also important to know whether they are representative of the country’s population, their demographics and socio-economic background, and if the same group of individuals were surveyed in 2019, 2020, and across the past five iterations. And if not, are the individuals comparable in the first place? Otherwise, the “progress” made in the number of sleep hours could be attributed to a range of other factors which are not yet well understood.)

In addition, in terms of research methodology, knowing how sleep hours were tracked would be useful too. Relatedly, measuring sleep quality – not just its quantity – should also be productive.

Figuring out the “why” is important for the design of policies or strategies to improve sleep among Singaporeans. More specifically, learning about how sleep patterns vary across different characteristics would yield more practical insights. For instance:

  • Age groups (if there are differences between schooling students and working adults);
  • Occupation and working hours (the extent to which employment or household and caregiving responsibilities relate to the amount of sleep Singaporeans get);
  • Home environment and household composition (whether individuals share rooms, have comfortable accoutrements, and the conduciveness of the sleep environment in relation to other family members living in the same house); as well as
  • Other lifestyle choices such as overall eating habits – not just caffeine consumption or the eating of a large meal before bedtime – and exercise and fitness routines.

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