Are you invariably drawn to checking your cellphone notifications? Does the glare of the electronic screen cut through the night and strain your eyes? You are not alone. Many of us are often sleep deprived, and functioning at below optimal levels. We get sick more easily and learn slower, so what are some things we can do right now to sleep better?
WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?
With nearly one-third of our day dedicated just to sleep, it is as essential as food and water. It helps us learn and create memories, and removes toxins from our brains. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep compromises both our immune system and mental health. It increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression…etc.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?
How much sleep a person needs varies in age. However, the rule of thumb is that most adults aged 26 to 65 require 7-9 hours of sleep. The number of hours increases for younger children, and decreases as we grow older. This changing need makes sense as deep sleep releases hormones that promote growth in children and teens, and also repair cells and tissues for all age groups.
Melatonin pills are one of the most popular sleep aids. They contain melatonin, a pineal hormone your body naturally produces. Known for resetting your body’s circadian rhythm, it’s the perfect remedy for jet lag.
Short-term dosages tend to be harmless. However, you might want to rethink using melatonin pills as a long-term solution to insomnia. FDA considers melatonin pills a “dietary supplement” in the US so the dosage is unregulated. The dosage can vary, ranging from anything like increasing the amount of melatonin in your body by a whopping 60%, to including additives with unwanted side effects! Common side effects of too much melatonin include: headaches, mood changes, and daytime sleepiness.
If you can make time for your hobbies, you can make time for your body to repair itself. Get in the habit of sleeping at the same time every night. It also helps immensely if you have a regular relaxation ritual before sleep.
A pre-sleep ritual doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a quick meditation, or diving into a good book before bedtime. If you are feeling particularly indulgent that night, a soothing foot soak with essential oils would be marvellous too.
Your bed should be a place of relaxation, a place to recharge, so you are ready to face the next day. National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding electronics at least 30 minutes before your bedtime since the screen light is activating your brain.
Sleep is as much physical as it is psychological. Why not make your sleep environment as therapeutic as possible with essential oils extracted from plants? Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. It is able to reduce anxiety, manage pain, and improve your sleep quality.
Bring peace into your bedroom. Gently rub a few (diluted) drops of essential oil on your skin, or pour a few drops into your diffuser. Drift off to dreamland surrounded by the calming scent of lavender. Perhaps the sharp, citrusy scent of bergamot oil is more to your liking. Take your pick!
As sleep deprivation has become more of a norm, it has set the ground for a growing number of sleep retreats at resorts and hotels alike. There is a wide range of retreats and approaches for you to choose from.
Some feature sleep clinics where they conduct medical tests for a thorough analysis of whether sleep deprivation is the symptom to your underlying health issues. Many more help you destress with herb-infused spa treatments and luxurious massages. Others dive into hypnotherapy and designing a “sleep-friendly” diet.
With thorough consultations with sleep specialists, and a laser focus on tackling your sleep issues, sleep retreats might just be the thing to help you pick up life-changing habits!
See also: Sleep Retreat at Kamalaya Koh Samui
Knowing is half the battle. Invest in a health tracker if you find health data informative. Maybe it will motivate you to embark on a wellness journey to change your sleeping habits for the better. After all, noticing you are only sleeping an average of 5 hours for the past week, and your REM sleep duration is drastically lower than your peers in age and sex can be enlightening.
You can also set up a reminder on your tracker for a timely prod to wind down for bed. This is great for those easily swamped by daily tasks and forget to head to sleep on time.
Still debating on whether you should splurge on a health tracker? There are plenty of fantastic wellness apps of all types and purposes out there. There are guided meditation apps with dreamy soundscapes, clearing your mind for a deep, stress-free sleep. There are also apps with audio stories – narratives that lull you to sleep.
Timeshifter, in particular, is a godsend to frequent travelers, focusing on treating jet lag. We ask the Co-founder and CEO Mickey Beyer-Clausen on how jet lag impacts sleep and the best way to combat it.
He explains that the circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock in charge of regulating metabolism, physiology, and behaviour, resets every 24 hours to match the environment. However, it is not so much the lack of light information but the timing of light and dark cues that disrupt our body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Most are unaware that the timing of light exposure – not sleep, exercise, food, or caffeine – is key to eliminating jet lag, and can be the difference between a successful trip or a miserable one. The right light exposure at the right time can significantly accelerate your adaptation
When you jump across timezones, your internal clock struggles to keep up with the instant change in the light-dark cycle of your new location, so you are hungry and sleepy at all the wrong times.
Timeshifter creates personal jet lag plans for travelers according to your itinerary, sleep pattern, and even chronotype. There is also an option to factor in the use of melatonin if you choose to take it to speed up your adjustment to the new environment. It gives easy-to-follow and practical advice, reminding you to avoid caffeine or catch some shut-eye at specific times.
See also: 8 Best Wellness Apps
Falling asleep at work? A quick snooze is perfect for an afternoon energy boost. A 20-minute-nap is enough to improve your motor skills and attention. If you have a bit more time to spare, a 90-minute-snooze brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps establish new connections in your brain and promotes creativity.
Red Doors Studio in Hong Kong takes it a step further with their power nap classes. Combined with the meditative sounds of gong, Red Doors’ healing environment makes for a deeply relaxing snooze. Mats, blankets, and lavender eye bags are readily provided. Book in advance and drop by during lunch time. Revitalize after with a glass of lemon water before heading back to work.