Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated and busiest metropolises, is often dubbed “a city that never sleeps”. And rightly so. Nearly 40% of Hong Kong Chinese adults suffer from insomnia, according to a study by the European Sleep Research Society. Not being able to fall asleep every evening is not only frustrating but can lead to a number of health issues if left untreated.
WHAT CAUSES INSOMNIA?
- Consuming caffeinated beverages (e.g. coffee, tea) or foods (e.g. chocolate) in the afternoon or evening
- Going to bed at a different time each night
- Exposure to bright light in the evening or before bedtime (click here to read more about this and melatonin)
- Exposure to blue light emitted from electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs in the evening or before bedtime
- Hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, menopause, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or high levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone
- Depression/ Anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. In Hong Kong adolescents who were addicted to internet use, 51% reported having sleep disorders.
- Expose yourself to bright light during the day. Minimise use of bright lights in the evening. Once it gets dark outside, your pineal gland begins to produce and secrete melatonin, a hormone which controls your sleep-wake cycle. Continuously being exposed to light during the evening will affect melatonin levels and sleep. One study showed that melatonin was suppressed in preschool children who were exposed to bright light in the evening. In the study, one hour of bright-light exposure in the evening suppressed the children’s melatonin secretion by around 90% and these levels remained suppressed for up to 50 minutes after light exposure.
- Sleep in total darkness. Do not use night lights and get black-out blinds if you need to. Any light during sleep will disrupt your body’s melatonin production and stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, which has the opposite effect of melatonin.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When you have a regular routine, your body will learn when to wind down in the evening to prepare for sleep. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will help to establish a proper sleep-wake cycle.
- Tension-reducing techniques. While you lie in bed, take a few deep breaths using your nostrils. Exhale slowly and fully before taking the next deep breath. Try the alternate-nostril breathing technique where you plug one nostril and slowly inhale through one side, then switch/ plug the other nostril and exhale completely through the other side. Another stress-reducing technique: clench your fists for 3 seconds, then slowly release them. Gently shake loose your hands. Repeat these steps several times.
It’s important to treat the root cause. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps people investigate and address the underlying causes of health concerns. Whether it’s anxiety, an overactive mind, hot flashes waking you up at night or cortisol imbalances preventing you from getting restful sleep, Dr. Yik is determined to help you overcome your insomnia.