According to Harvard Health, one of the most significant reasons why people are unable to get good-quality sleep is stress, and nowhere is that more evident than in the work-hard, party-hard culture of Hong Kong. Even if you are able to drift off to sleep in an instant, you could be experiencing lighter, more fitful nights of sleep, resulting in a morning after that’s not as refreshed as you might have hoped for. Sleep affects your emotional, mental, and physical health, and a lack thereof results in symptoms like irritability and poor concentration.
Considering that sleep debt is a very real thing and it takes four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep, you may want to rethink your strategy of putting off catching up on your sleep until the weekend. We’ve rounded up a host of our favourite products and apps to encourage falling asleep faster, sleeping longer and better, and waking up feeling well-rested.
Instead of making up your sleep deficit after it’s already incurred, you could try to establish a wind-down time before bed that doesn’t involve a screen. Meditation apps designed for better and faster sleep are a great way to help facilitate a relaxing environment and mindset in the wee hours of the night, allowing users to follow along to guided meditation sessions without needing to look at their phones. Aside from encouraging mindfulness and offering programmes designed for different kinds of sleeping needs, some apps also provide almost lethargic, chilled-out podcast episodes. Click here to see a full list of meditation apps we swear by.
Depending on where you live in the city, chances are, you’ll have street lamps, neon lights, and glowing signage shining right into the depths of your home—not a great atmosphere to begin a restful sleeping journey. Whether you pull night shifts and need to sleep during the day or just have an unfortunate interior set-up with windows too close to the street, the practicality of black-out curtains should not be underestimated.
Helpful at blocking out lights, reducing noise, and even retaining the temperature of your rooms, black-out curtains are a must-have home accessory to turn your flat into a darkened sleep cave best suited for better sleep. Pick a set of Thermal Blackout Pencil Pleat Curtains (starting from HK$599) from Marks & Spencer or Majgull (HK$349) from IKEA.
Studies have shown that weighted blankets offer troubled sleepers a feeling of security to ease insomnia, depression, and anxiety. However, strictly speaking, in the hot and humid climes with which Hongkongers are blessed, sleeping with a heavy (and possibly sweat-inducing) blanket sounds like a complete nightmare. This makes most traditional weighted blankets a no-go, because who wants to be racking up the utility bills?
Luckily, better sleep can come in the form of Gravity’s Cooling Blanket (US$199). Designed for “sweat-free slumber,” the science-backed Cooling Blanket is engineered to be approximately 10 percent of your body weight and features breathable, moisture-wicking fabric with a weighted layer of fine-grade glass beads. You can easily remove the duvet cover for machine-washing to keep your blanket fresh at all times.
Sometimes, the best solution to a good night’s sleep can also be the simplest. Just ask yourself: Are you using the right pillow to accommodate your sleeping habits? From feather and down to microbeads and memory foam pillows, the selection is pretty overwhelming and no one pillow is the perfect match for every kind of sleeper. There are different pillows on the market for back sleepers, side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and so on, so the first thing to do is figure out your own sleeping habits. After that, the quest for the right pillow begins.
This is where Leesa’s Hybrid Pillow (US$109) comes in. Comprised of a firm gel pillow base with a soft, quilted down topper, the Hybrid Pillow feels like a much more comfortable version of your standard memory foam pillow. Plus, the fabric is made with fibres that give a chilling effect and a ventilated gel comfort layer for a cooler night’s sleep—essential for hot Hong Kong summer nights. It’s customisable, too; just remove the pillow insert between the quilted pocket and cool layers to change your support level to fit how you sleep. Similarly, the highly-rated Pancake Pillow (US$69.99) offers adjustable down and microfibre layers that you can stack to your liking, making it ideal for sleepers for whom one-size-fits-all pillows just aren’t a perfect solution.
Sleeping well is inextricably linked to waking well. It is hard to feel well-rested when a jarring, obnoxious ringtone is the first thing you hear in the morning. Wake-up light alarm clocks (a.k.a. glow lights) have received rave reviews for their ability to simulate a natural sunrise, giving sleepers a much more peaceful rise and shine than the average alarm, and most of them come with customisable jingles so you can wake up to the music you want to, from chirping bird noises to soothing music.
The best-selling SmartSleep (US$115) from Philips is arguably the favourite amongst consumers, clinically proven to help you wake up feeling more refreshed. You can use it to relax and drift off to sleep with dimming sunset and sounds, and its coloured sunrise-simulation alarm clock wakes you gradually with a natural light lamp and a speaker that plays a choice of five wake-up sounds. It also pulls double-duty as a bedside reading lamp with 10 brightness settings.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, what we wear to bed is vital for a good slumber. Choosing sleepwear that feels good when you put it on is important, and being strategic about what your bedtime duds are made of can also help regulate your body temperature during the night. There’s simply nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night covered in your own sweat.
Fortunately, sleepwear engineers like Restlab have developed the Equilibrium Sleep Set, a line of pyjamas based the science of sleep to support the body’s thermoregulation process. Their Kickstarter campaign has just launched, so you can be first in line to try their brand-new threads. Likewise, creating the perfect micro-climate in your garments is the name of the game when it comes to thermoregulated sleepwear, and brands like Dagsmejan have perfected such pyjamas with their Stay Warm and Stay Cool series, featuring the finest heat-retaining merino wool and evaporative cooling eucalyptus fibres, respectively.
When we talk about tips and tricks to help us fall asleep faster, a lot of us may not realise the important role that scent plays. Some people swear by pillow sprays to help them drift off to dreamland a little easier, and there may be truth to these claims, especially when lavender scents and their anxiety-reducing properties are involved.
This Works and their Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (HK$215) has reached cult status amongst fans who tout that this natural sleep aid of lavender, vetivert, and chamomile is unbelievably soothing, helping to set up a sleep routine that signifies relaxation time to our bodies. Similarly, Indie Lee’s Pillow Mist (HK$225) offers a blend of vetivert, Moroccan chamomile, calming lavandin, lavender, and patchouli to promote an aura of peace and harmony. If it sounds a bit hooey to you, don’t knock it ’til you try it: Simply spritz your pillow before bedtime and see if it won’t help you drift off to sleep a lot of faster.
Studies show that there is a calming effect to sipping a warm liquid at nighttime, as it may mimic the effect of taking a warm bath before bed. Even though the water you bathe in or the liquid you consume is hot, it ends up cooling down your body temperature and the corresponding drop in body temperature signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep. It goes without saying that caffeinated drinks should be avoided completely this close to bedtime, and thus the best hot drinks to turn to are herbal teas and their sleepytime flavours.
Chamomile boasts an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep. Likewise, lemon balm has been popular with insomnias as a calming herb to reduce stress, anxiety, and indigestion. A study has also found that herbal teas with passionflower improve sleep quality in the short-term. Popular tea brands like Yogi Tea, Organic India, and Celestial Seasonings offer bedtime varieties of herbal teas. Get into the habit of brewing a calming cup of tea as you’re getting ready for sleep!
All right, we know we shouldn’t be looking at our phones and watching television before bed, but the busy bees among us don’t like feeling idle, even right up until it’s bedtime. Similar to meditation apps, a reading app on your phone or tablet can help reduce screentime while helping you feel productive and like you’re using your time well until you finally nod off. Audiobook apps like Scribd and Audible offer sleep mode with timers, so you can listen to your favourite audiobooks and let that lull you to sleep.
Need to catch some zzz’s in the middle of the day? The award-winning Ostrich Pillow (HK$850) can help with that. Sure, it looks like something straight out of an alien sci-fi film, but its patented cocoon-like design helps shield your head and senses from outside intrusion and helps block out light—much like how ostriches stick their heads into the ground (hence the name). Its microbead texture forms to the shape of your face as you sleep for optimal comfort. Whether you’re in need of a nap during your commute or need to take a power nap at your desk, the Ostrich Pillow has your back—or head and neck, rather.