By Cristina Rodenbeck, Executive and Wellness Coach, Certified Wellness Practitioner
"I can't fall asleep easily"; "I can't switch off at night"; "I go to bed late and then wake up super early the next morning"; "I feel like a zombie the next day!" Does this sound like you? If so, know that you are not alone. Sleep deprivation is an all-too common complaint for adults and children alike, especially in Hong Kong—a vibrant, hustling, bustling city that never sleeps.
If insomnia—a chronic sleep disorder—is so common, is it normal? Must we simply resign ourselves to sleepless nights?
Absolutely not! As a wellness coach, I have supported many clients whose lives have significantly improved since overcoming their sleep struggles. Sufficient, good quality sleep is imperative for optimal physical, mental and emotional health, our quality of life and our safety. When we sleep, our bodies work to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical wellbeing. In children and teens, sleep also helps to support growth and development. Sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and exercise.
Quality sleep is not a ‘nice-to-have' but a necessity. Acknowledging this and being open to taking much-needed action is the first big step to claiming back our zzzz. If you struggle to fall and stay asleep, your to-do list is playing on your mind at night, or you're sleeping too late and waking up too early, in all likelihood you're not performing at optimal levels.
Why Can't You Sleep?
As a holistic practitioner I assess all critical areas in a client's life—namely emotional, mental, physical and energetic planes—to identify the imbalance that is causing their sleep disorder. While no two clients are the same, I have noted two recurring themes:
- Emotional Stress: Professionals challenged by poor work-life integration, students feeling the pressure to perform at school and countless after-school activities, and stay-at-home spouses who juggle home and family commitments all day every day, all experience emotional stress. This ongoing stress finds its way into the bedroom and wreaks havoc with sleep.
- Energy Imbalance: In Hong Kong, we are constantly charged up. The overwhelming noise and light stimulation, electromagnetic field and 24/7 device connectivity are hardly conducive to a good night's sleep. Residential areas such as the Mid-levels have high density and tight proximity of buildings. With very little nature to balance out the high-energy stimulation, it becomes even more challenging to physically and mentally switch off and settle to sleep.
How Can You Sleep?
Recently, a client shared with me her sleep challenges. As a young executive with a regional role that demands frequent travel and long working hours—an all-too-familiar scenario in Hong Kong—she was surviving on 4-5 hours of interrupted sleep. After months of sleep-deprivation, she felt troubled by the impact on her work, personal energy and quality of life.
During our sessions, we determined that she experienced poor sleep only in Hong Kong. Having lived in other cities and traveled for work and pleasure, she recalled sleeping well compared to how she slept here. We unearthed her emotional stress from living and working in a city that subjected her to a lifestyle entirely different to the one she had previously enjoyed. Her home—which should have been a peaceful haven—was too visually stimulating and noisy, which added to her inability to sleep well.
We designed a plan for her that included:
- Use Bach Flower Remedies to address her emotional stress around work and her relocation to Hong Kong. Bach Flower Remedies are a 100% natural method of healing, developed in the 1920's in England by Dr. Edward Bach. The healing system comprises of 38 flower-based remedies that correct emotional imbalances. The Bach Flower Remedies gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions, such as fear, worry, frustration, and indecision, and address other emotions which can interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole.
- Replicate nature in her apartment as much as possible by using crystals, salt lamps, plants and aromatherapy. Crystals, Salt Crystal Lamps and Plants channel positive energy, release negative ions into the air and raise the vibration of the environment while removing negative energy. Personal gadgets, mobiles, computers, modem/routers, and electronics in general emit strong negative electromagnetic field in our houses, which impact us energetically speaking. Creating a ‘closer to nature' and high vibration home sanctuary can harmonize the mind, body, and your emotions, in order to increase our wellbeing.
- Minimise external stimulation or disturbances with blackouts and noise reduction.
- Reach out to nature as much as possible to recharge and re-balance personal energy.
After following the plan, the client reported a marked difference in her ability to fall and stay asleep. In turn, she felt better able to function and perform in her personal and professional life.
What More Can You Do to Sleep Well?
Here are just some of the many ways to create a sleep-conducive environment:
- Avoid any gadgets or TV 1 hour before bedtime. Instead, switch to a good book
- Aim to go to bed at the same time every night so your brain and body are conditioned to learn when to 'wind down and rest'
- Eat as early as possible or have a very light meal before retiring for the night
- Use aromatherapy in room with oils such as Lavender
- Use calming herbal teas as you prepare for bedtime—Chamomile is an excellent choice
- Use Mindfulness techniques so you can bring peace of mind before bedtime
- If you find yourself lying awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to not focus on those worries overnight
Creating New and Healthier Habits
Having a healthy sleep routine is like building any other good habit—it takes time, discipline and consistency. The first step is to acknowledge that tossing and turning in bed, all night, every night, is by no means 'normal'.
Kick sleep challenges to the curb and instead empower your body and mind to enjoy good quality sleep. Remember: a good sleep routine (quality and hours) means regaining balance, improving your health and quality of life so you are best equipped to deal with whatever comes your way. You have the power to reclaim your sleep.