If there’s one thing we can all afford to improve, it’s our sleep quality. When we are busy, stressed and distracted, a good night’s sleep is the first thing to go. It is really easy to compromise on sleep as the long term consequences of missing your ZZZs take years to manifest. Even if you do get enough sleep, you are likely not practicing the right sleeping habits, also known as sleep hygiene. Sleep, and how to do it better, has become a very popular topic in our hyper-tech #startup crazy world. There are countless sleep apps (Tom’s Guide has a great shortlist) that can help you track, measure and improve the time you spend in bed. Huffpo founder Arianna Huffington even wrote a best-selling book, The Sleep Revolution, all about the importance of sleep after collapsing of exhaustion one day, which she blames on chronic sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, decreased mental acuity, high blood pressure, lack of concentration, forgetfulness and many more physical and mental health conditions. Below we talk through seven essential aspects of your sleep hygiene so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and rearing to go!
1 – Darkness Rules
Study after study shows that in order to get to that deep REM sleep, you need total darkness. Hong Kong is the city that never sleeps and light pollution is everywhere, which is why if you can, you should spring for blackout blinds/curtains. Beyond what’s going on outside, there are so many sources of lights in your room that you probably don’t even think about, especially when it comes to all the appliances and electronics in your room: the TV, the air conditioner, the air purifier, the alarm clock, the extension plug… All of these small bright lights make it harder for you to fall asleep and when you are asleep, they disrupt your sleep quality. Ideally, try and ensure that you move non-essential appliances out of your bed room. You should also try sleeping with an eye mask: it’s the ultimate way to achieve total darkness. We like the contoured mask at SleepBetter.
2 – Quality Air
If you don’t suffer from asthma or allergies, then air quality might not be something you notice but it has a huge effect on your quality of sleep: if you are busy having trouble breathing, it’s hard for the body to focus on its repair & restore tasks. Sleep is when your cells work on regeneration and they need the cleanest air possible to do so. It’s really worth investing in a good air purifier (see our complete guide here). You can also consider adding a filter plant to your bed room.
3 – Digital Detox
We are all hopelessly addicted to our various electronic devices. Whether you take your phone to bed (guilty!) or relax with your iPad, screen time before bed time is a terrible plan. We all know it but we can’t seem to change our habits. Obviously, the first sensible thing to do is to try charging your devices outside of your sleeping room. But how about going one step further and doing a one-month book challenge? Read paper books every night for a month. We tried it and it made a huge difference. There’s something about reading a book that makes you doze off sooner. For those of you that can’t stay away from your laptops, try downloading flux, a software that adjust the type of light on your computer or mobile screen (unfortunately they don’t have an Android app yet) to remove the stimulating white and blue light rays that are emitted by devices and that have been shown to suppress melatonin levels and decrease the amount of REM sleep you get.
4 – Bedding Boost
Don’t underestimate the importance of what you are sleeping on. Polyester sheets and poorly-made mattresses can leave you feeling stuffy and sweaty even though you may not realize it. Bad bedding can cause body temperature fluctuations, which will lead to interrupted sleep. Spend less on your wardrobe for a couple of months and shell out for the right bedding. Opt for a hypo-allergenic mattress made from natural fibers, (Okooko and Tranquilaid HK specialize in such quality mattresses). Get organic sheets (cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops in terms of pesticide levels) or bamboo ones (Bamboa has great ones). Comfort-wise, you will want to make sure your mattress is firm enough, and a mattress cover that can be washed regularly is more hygienic and can add a pleasant layer of softness.
5 – Scent Sense
Diffusing essential oils for an hour before you want to fall asleep is a great way to get into the right frame of mind thanks to the soothing power of aromatherapy. If you have a diffuser, we recommend a blend of lavender, ylang ylang and vetiver in a base of almond/apricot oil. If not, a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow works like a charm too! You can find great essential oil sleep blends and rollers, as well as individual essential oils on local organic beauty store Native Essentials.
6 – Sensible Eating
Scientists don’t agree on much these days but most will tell you that eating right before you sleep is not ideal. Allow your body to complete its digestion process before getting into bed. Your last meal should be 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. What you eat also plays a part in the quality of your sleep. Heavy food that you have trouble digesting can lead to disturbed ZZZs. A dinner of crunchy green veg with a quality protein and some complex starches is the perfect way to end the day. Mindbodygreen has a great piece by a sleep expert on what to eat before bedtime and our own nutritionist columnist has some great advice too when it comes to supplementation. You can also have a soothing cup of post-dinner lavender, fennel or peppermint tea- all helpful with digestion and promoting sleepiness.
7 – Sound Spoils
If you have trouble falling asleep at all, any and all sounds, especially repetitive ones, can quickly become the bane of your existence. When you live in a busy urban environment, it’s hard to achieve complete silence without help. and soundproofing your entire flat is hardly realistic. Here’s what you can do: wear earplugs (get ones that are fitted to your ear, Melody HK has a whole selection) or try a sleep machine, AKA a device that creates soothing white noise (more about why white noise is helpful for sleep here). Amazon is the best place to find a good one (they now ship to Hong Kong). There are many apps out there that replicate sleep machine functionality but using them would mean you are taking your phone to your bedroom so we won’t push for them!
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