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TALKING POINTS

How to get better sleep

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Are you suffering from insomnia? Two experts share a few sleep hacks so you can snooze well tonight.

“Hong Kong is one of the most sleep-deprived cities in the Asia Pacific region, with an average sleep duration of 6.5 hours [per night],” says Dr Esther Lau, Assistant Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong’s Department of Psychology. A lack of sleep can wreck havoc on our health. “During deep sleep, your body works to repair muscle, organs, and other cells,” says Sudha Nair, a Hong Kong-based naturopath and lifestyle coach. Most importantly, sleep helps to regulate our circadian rhythms, aka the sleep/wake cycle.

Wake up refreshed
Getting better rest takes discipline. “Turn in and get up at a fixed time every day – even on the weekends, to calibrate our internal clock,” advises Dr Lau. Finding it hard to wake up? Increasing bright light exposure will stimulate your body to feel more alert; throw open your curtains first thing in the morning to soak in some natural sunlight.

Healthy food for better sleep
Certain foods help to regulate your sleep/wake cycle, so make wise decisions at lunchtime. Go for a simple meal with lean meats like turkey, which has an amino acid that promotes melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Craving a snack? Almonds and walnuts are also both natural sources of melatonin. “Berries, prunes, raisins, and plums are all rich in antioxidants,” recommends Nair. “They can counteract the oxidative stress caused by a sleep disorder.”

Time to relax
When it’s time to hit the hay, be armed with items that will support quality slumber. Think blackout curtains and weighted blankets, which are believed to bring calm thanks to a deep pressure touch on the body. Memory foam pillows relieve pressure on the head and neck. Wind down with the narrated bedtime stories on the meditation app Calm. “You can also try listening to relaxing music, working on a puzzle or deep breathing,” suggests Dr Lau.

Beating insomnia
For people who experience insomnia, lying awake in bed for hours might seem familiar. Instead of reacting to sleep interruptions with stress, Nair advises, try and perceive it as normal. Get out of bed and occupy yourself with a relaxing activity – get in only once you’re ready to sleep again.

To nap or not to nap?

We know what you might be thinking: that dozing for longer on weekends can somehow offset lack of sleep on weeknights. Unfortunately, this is not the case and you’ll continue to go through irregular sleep/wake cycles in the following week. If you do feel tired halfway through the day, a well-timed kip can help. “A nap as short as 10 minutes has been found to effectively improve alertness and mood,” explains Dr Lau. But avoid napping for longer than 45 minutes or after 3pm, as it might interfere with falling asleep at night.

Instead of relying on lie-ins, start establishing a healthy routine day in, day out – your body will thank you for it.

After getting a good night’s rest, see how you can challenge yourself and be a better you here.

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