Sleep, What's the Buzz?

I have yet to hear a person say Hong Kong is boring and there is nothing to do. In this fast-paced environment with no shortage of entertainment, finding an activity that suits your needs is fairly easy. Many people say Hong Kong has that “buzz” that you don’t find anywhere else. However, that Hong Kong buzz can get the best of us if we fail to find a balance between activities and our much-needed rest time.


When it comes to sleep, research tells us we are simply not getting enough. On average, we get an hour less per night than we did in the 1940s. And that myth about catching up on sleep; research also tells us once our precious night’s sleep is over, we rarely recover those lost hours. Sleeping in until 12 or 1pm on a Saturday or Sunday wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythms. Our natural sleep-wake cycle is thrown off by this sudden shift in rest pattern.


But fret not. It’s not mission impossible when it comes to getting those eight hours that health professionals continually recommend. Setting yourself up for a successful night’s sleep isn’t exactly rocket science, but the recommendations are certainly derived from substantial research on the subject. In recent years, more research has been devoted into studying the science of sleep. Optimal sleep times, suitable sleeping environments, napping versus sleeping in, how much sleep for each age category and so on - all these areas are being examined. I’ve distilled most of the recent research to give you this handy guide to get a good night’s rest.


Rule #1 
Stick to a routine. Our bodies work best when we provide a bit of continuity and routine. For example, going to bed around 10pm (plus or minus 30 minutes) and getting up at 6:30am (plus or minus 30 minutes) would help support our natural sleep/wake cycle. Once you establish a feasible routine that works for your particular schedule and lifestyle, try and stick with it!


Rule #2
Create a perfect sleep environment. Make the room as dark and quiet as possible. If you live in an area with noise and light pollution, close the windows and shades to create a relaxing, sleep-friendly area. Creating the perfect sleep environment sets up uninterrupted sleep in order for our body to cycle through its natural patterns throughout the night. Noise or bright lights can interrupt these patterns, affecting overall quality of sleep.


Rule #3
Turn off those devices. Blue light emitted from certain screens have proven to cause eye strain and impact the quality of sleep. Experts recommend we take a break from screens 90 minutes before sleep. Luckily, eReaders such as Kindles are not included in this category. Scrolling through the latest news or checking your email is likely a bad habit you have developed and will be challenging to break, but your body will thank you for laying off the artificial light before you go to sleep. Over the past 10 years, the introduction of devices such as phones and iPads are probably the biggest detractor to our sleep, impacting both the time we sleep and the quality of sleep we are getting.


Rule #4 
Limit drink, food and definitely caffeine intake before bedtime. It’s particularly challenging this time of year when goodies and treats are everywhere to be found. Consuming too much liquid before we sleep may cause the urge to wake prematurely to use the restroom in the middle of our sleep cycle. When it comes to food, experts recommend finishing your last big meal 2-3 hours before bedtime. However, a light snack before sleep is ok versus going to bed hungry. Lastly, caffeine (soda, coffee, etc.) has been found to impact sleep by as much as eight hours before we turn off the lights. Yes, if we sleep at 10pm, the recommendation is to finish that last cup of joe by 2pm.


If your sleep habits are not quite up to par, don’t fret. This is a discipline you can continue to improve over time. Start with one rule at a time. Once you feel like you have successfully implemented or mastered one rule, add another to your routine. Improving your overall quality of sleep as well as getting those all-important eight hours is the goal. Just as getting regular and frequent exercise is paramount to maintaining a healthy body and well-being, getting those eight hours of quality sleep make up equal importance to that equation.


Remember, fun can be had without sacrificing sleep! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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