We eat healthy meals and maintain a sustainable and cruelty-free lifestyle to help keep our minds and bodies in shape. But what about the rest of our routine? We might be taking on too much and some things may end up suffering – like the quality of our sleep. And we know how a lack of zzzz can affect our focus and energy, preventing us from doing our best at what we love. So we decided to ask sleep expert Dr Leow Leong Chai to share his tips for a better night’s rest (we included our Souley Green sleep essentials as well), so that we can achieve more during the day as we breeze through the nights ahead.
If we could think of one amazing result or effect from a good night’s sleep, it’d be this: “significant improvements in memory, concentration and mood”.
We got it from Dr Leow Leong Chai, who lists it as one of his favourites based on his studies and findings.
Dr Leow is an adjunct assistant professor at Duke-NUS Medical School and the director of its Sleep Disorders Unit. He is also the president of the Singapore Sleep Society, and a consultant physician at Singapore General Hospital’s Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine too.
So if you’re ever in need of a sleep expert (and more tips for a good night’s sleep), you can turn to Dr Leow
“The most dramatic improvements I see most frequently are patients with sleep apnea who start Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment for the first time,” he says.
“These are patients who are ‘choked’ 30 times or more every hour of every night due to their airway obstruction from sleep apnea. Many of these patients report that they no longer have to get up two to three times or more to pass urine; they go from needing three different blood pressure pills to just one or none; and they feel like a fog has just been lifted from their lives, because they have forgotten what a good night’s sleep feels like.”
Even if we don’t have sleep apnea or a sleep disorder, we can still benefit from Dr Leow’s experiences and expertise. Some of us have pressed the snooze button one too many times, and have had restless nights where we’ve woken up the next morning cranky, sluggish and tired.
“A good night’s sleep requires two things: sufficient duration and good quality. One should be able to wake up feeling refreshed and be able to function optimally during the day without struggling to stay awake,” he states.
He advises us to follow what he calls good “sleep hygiene”, which covers these basic rituals and practices. (We’ve added in our own tips to help you out too.)
1. Keep to a fixed sleep schedule
“Go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Otherwise, you will be giving yourself jet lag every weekend! People with irregular working hours, such as shift workers, tend to have poorer quality sleep and less sleep.”
2. Have a bedtime routine
“This involves a routine of personal care, unwinding activities (that are preferably relaxing) and lights-out, which help set the tone for a good night’s rest.”
Our suggestion: Light a candle and play soothing music. You can also try the Sleep, Brain roll-on and other essential oils by IN.HEAL as one of your steps to prepare for bed. For ideas on how to use your essential oils, click here.
Have them ready by your vanity or bathroom sink
3. Avoid stimulating activities
Dr Leow cites “vigorous exercise, working intensely, watching a thriller or horror movie, or reading a page-turner” as examples.
“The use of electronic screens just before sleep can also affect the ability to fall asleep, as the blue light emissions from such screens can suppress the body’s production of melatonin. It is best to refrain from these activities before sleeping. On the other hand, bright light in the morning helps optimise our circadian clock and enhance melatonin secretion at night.”
4. A conducive sleep environment is essential
“Avoid having harsh, bright white light at home, especially in the evenings,” he maintains.
“A comfortable bed or mattress and pillows, quiet and darkened surroundings, and a cool temperature help create an optimal sleep environment.”
Our suggestion: Cocooning yourself in 100 per cent organic bedding might help. (It works wonders for us.) We recommend ethical and eco-friendly brand Sojao – they create luxe bundle sets using non-toxic dyes, a 300 single-ply thread count, and cotton that’s GOTS-certified.
It’s inviting you to snuggle in
5. Day-time activities also affect your ability to sleep at night
“Exercising more than four hours prior to bedtime has been shown to have some beneficial effects on sleep duration and sleep quality. It helps make it easier to fall asleep.”
6. Excessive intake of nicotine from smoking, caffeine, or having them too close to bedtime would affect your body’s ability to fall and stay asleep too
“Heavy meals or too much fluid before bedtime would contribute to poorer sleep, as you would need to make a trip to the toilet in the middle of the night.
“Avoid going to bed hungry or overly full,” he adds.
Our suggestion: Make sure your last cup of coffee or tea happens hours before. Why not go for caffeine-free options? We have The Abyssinian Pomegranate Rooibos Tea and The Norwegian Forest Prince of the Forest from Kittea.
The infusions are both calming and refreshing
7. Say no to napping during the day
“For those who have difficulty sleeping at night, it is tempting to nap in the daytime. However, this may affect the ability to sleep at night, as well as reduce the duration of night-time sleep. But for shift workers, young mothers, or those who are not able to sleep through the night, naps may be a good way to battle fatigue.”
8. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, do not look at a clock
“If you are still not asleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy enough to fall asleep again. Then go back to bed.”
9. Keep the bed only for sleep or sex
“Reading, watching TV, or working in bed may condition the body to associate being in bed with being alert.”