Does quality sleep often elude you? Is it just bad luck with pillows or are your vivid dreams the source of your sleepless nights?

Approximately 15 per cent of people in Singapore suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – a sleep disorder where the patient experiences frequent pauses in breathing throughout the night because of a narrowed, blocked or floppy airway.

Try putting an end to your grouchy mornings by finding out the causes of your insomnia. Features writer Vanessa Tai tried the Sleep to Live diagnostic test and the Pacific Sleep Centre’s overnight sleep test; here are her findings.

Had too many sleepless nights? Find out the reasons
behind your insomnia with a sleep test. Image: Corbis

The Sleep To Live diagnostic test, available at Courts Megastore, is designed to tell you the type of bed which is most suitable for you.

  • ONLINE QUIZ: The test began with a few short questions on a computer, like the sleeping position that you usually sleep in and the areas where you experience joint pain. Age was also factored in – we need different levels of support throughout our life because as we age, our joints lose flexibility, muscle tone diminishes, and circulation decreases.
  • DIAGNOSTIC BED: Lie on a diagnostic test bed after the quiz; this bed calculates the precise pressure points on your body to determine which sleep surface is the best for you.

When we got the results a few minutes later and tried the recommended type of mattress, it did not feel as firm as we would have liked. A while later, we realised it supported the contours of our backs, and was very comfortable.

“An overly firm mattress will cut off blood flow and put excess pressure on joints, giving you an uncomfortable sleep,” explains Gary Tan, sales manager at Sleep To Live.

The mattresses come in various models to cater to different budgets, but even if you don’t want to splurge, there is no compromise in postural support – the technology used in the mattresses is the same across the board, it’s just the materials used that vary.

The test results recommended a rather flat pillow type for maximised pressure relief. Gary pointed out that this was to ensure my neck wasn’t at an awkward angle, which can lead to aches and stiffness the next morning.

Verdict: The Sleep To Live diagnostic test took a mere 15 minutes but it opened our eyes to all the mistakes that we made when choosing mattresses and pillows. It’s time to channel our inner Sleeping Beauty!

There are two different sleep assessment tests that you can take to test for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – an overnight sleep test at a hospital, or a home-based one, which can be done from the comfort of your own bed.

After a short consultation on Vanessa’s sleep patterns and general health, Dr Kenny Pang, a Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant at Pacific Sleep Centre recommended a device called Watch PAT (peripheral arterial tonometry).

It is worn on the wrist and can be used to detect sleep disorders. Unlike traditional hospital sleep tests, this method is far less cumbersome. And because you’re in the comfort of your home, it will hopefully be much easier to fall asleep.

Watch PAT comes with two finger probes – one is used to detect tension in the blood vessels and finger muscles to tell whether the patient is awake or asleep. The other measures the amount of oxygen in the blood; if the results show low oxygen levels and high stress in the muscle tone, it’s indicative of OSA.

Vanessa took the Watch PAT back to the clinic after a night’s rest, and got her results within minutes. She had stopped breathing 4.8 times throughout the night, which is normal. Dr Pang said that an OSA sufferer can stop breathing more than 50 times in one night.

Vanessa complained that she often felt tired in the morning, and asked if it was because she had vivid dreams almost the whole night. Dr Pang said that this was just a myth, and that dream cycles are actually what make us feel rejuvenated. He pointed out that her protruding lower lip and small nose are typical physical indications of someone who breathes through the mouth.

A quick endoscopy proved that she had a swollen sinus turbinate, which means that her airways are congested, making breathing through her nose difficult. The congested airways were the cause for her parched throat and the sniffles in the mornings.

Dr Pang said that while Vanessa’s condition is not serious, a simple day surgery using radio frequency on her sinus turbinate to widen the air passage could greatly improve the quality of her sleep.


  • Singapore General Hospital, Sleep Disorder Unit, tel: 6326-6621. Tests available – overnight oximetry (a procedure that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood) and a full polysomnogram, where a sleep technician monitors various parameters throughout the night.
  • Changi General Hospital, Singapore’s Integrated Sleep Service, tel: 6850-3333. A one-stop clinic that combines the expertise of specialists from the ENT, respiratory, dental, sports medicine, general surgery and psychology departments to diagnose and treat different types of sleep disorders.
  • Singapore Neurology and Sleep Center, tel: 6473-2377 or 6473-9257. The resident neurologist will evaluate and test for various neurological and sleep disorders. Depending on the consultation results, you may be scheduled for various tests.

The Pacific Sleep Centre is located at 290 Orchard Road, #20-01, Paragon, Singapore 238859; Tel: 6510 1977; email: Visit to find out more about the sleep centre.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer July 2011.