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Sleepless in Hong Kong: How To Beat Insomnia

By Amanda Sheppard 24 April 2018
It might have made for a great 90s rom-com, but a sleep-less night of tossing, turning, and constantly refreshing your email? In reality, there’s nothing romantic about it. But this is a problem that plagues many of us in the city that just can't seem to sleep. So Hong Kong, let us help you find a way to catch some z's.

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Experts say a healthy sleep pattern ranges between seven and nine hours per night, but here in Hong Kong, more than a third of us sleep less than seven hours each night. Worse still, according to Dr Kenneth Tsang, a specialist in Respiratory Medicine at the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, “up to 2.8 million people in Hong Kong suffer from some form of insomnia”. Dr Tsang doesn’t see the issue disappearing any time soon either. “The Hong Kong way of life, embracing a work hard and play hard attitude, actually deprives many people of sleep here. Hong Kongers on average sleep only six and a half hours per day”, he explains. This is compared with an average of 6.9 hours in Japan and 8.1 hours in the Mainland. So why can't we sleep?

What's Keeping Us Awake?

There are several key factors that can play a role in affecting our sleeping pattern, including: ✓ Smartphone use late into the evening ✓ Lack of exercise ✓ Light and sound pollution ✓ Air quality ✓ Stress ✓ Professional pressures ✓ Caffeine consumption ✓ Certain medications ✓ Underlying medical conditions ✓ Irregular working hours and shift work Do you count yourself among the many tossing and turning into the night? Tempting though it may be to binge sleep on weekends to compensate for hours lost mid-week, studies have shown that it does little to make up for any ‘sleep debt’ – not that it’s stopped us from trying! BodyTalk practitioner Angie Tourani from the Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) works to help people combat the root causes of their restlessness, tailoring her approach to each individual client. "As a practitioner, I have a lot of tools, but no recipe”, she tells Localiiz. BodyTalk works with concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine and psychology. It aims to balance the physical, mental, emotional and environmental stressors which can contribute to insomnia. Tourani classifies people who struggle with sleep into two general categories — the first are those suffering from lifestyle-oriented issues, with busy minds that struggle to switch off and leave people lying awake for hours on end. This can often be made worse by the blue light of a phone screen or laptop disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm and the release of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. The second category describes those who suffer from a poor quality of sleep, waking every few hours due to overstimulation of the stress hormone (cortisol), causing adrenal fatigue and burnout.

The Risks of Restlessness

If your issues with sleep have plagued you for longer than you’d like to admit, it’s time to start making some changes. Prolonged periods of insomnia or sleeplessness can carry serious health consequences, including – but not limited to – an increased risk of depression, heart disease, and cognitive and memory-related problems. While it can be easy to dismiss, Dr Tsang encourages those who experience “loud snoring, particularly those with poor day-time energy, a lack of refreshing sleep, obesity, and other associated illness, such as hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease” to seek medical attention, ruling out conditions like sleep apnoea.

Pillow Talk

But fear not, it’s not all doom and gloom! From lotions and potions to all manner of holistic treatments, we’ve hunted near and far in search of sleep solutions to help you catch those much-needed z's. Here are a few of our tried-and-tested favourites:

Lifestyle Changes

Tourani suggests abstaining from technology an hour before bed and after waking up, allowing your body and mind to detach from the stresses of the day. If you rely on your phone for an alarm clock in the morning, then switching to airplane mode removes potential distractions. Ultimately it's about investing in yourself in the long run. “With health”, she explains, "there is no shortcut”. [su_note note_color="#ecfcd7"]



Acupuncture — Used to stimulate and rebalance energy channels or ‘meridians’, this technique often requires multiple sessions to result in long-standing changes in sleep patterns. Available from certified practitioners across Hong Kong, including Balance Health. BodyTalk — BodyTalk is a technique which works by tapping into the body’s communication channels, identifying areas in need of maintenance and repair, and analysing underlying causes and issues. The practice is sealed into the body by tapping on the head, heart, and gut and can be used to address symptoms of insomnia. Read more about it here. Receive a $300 discount on your initial consultation with Angie Tourani at IMI Central or Discovery Bay. Simply mention the Localiiz Discount during your initial session. Offer expires June 30th.    Reiki — A traditional Japanese healing form that transfers energy from practitioner to client using gentle pressure. It can be used to treat a wide range of ailments, including sleep disorders, injury, and digestive issues. Learn more about Reiki here. Available at IMI and Shine Body & Soul Healing Centre [/su_note]
Read more! Find out more about natural therapies in Hong Kong and explore the rest of our Health & Wellness section.

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Amanda Sheppard

Senior editor

Following a brief and bitterly cold stint in Scotland, Amanda returned to Hong Kong—a place she’s called home for over 18 years—to begin her career as a writer. She can often be found getting lost somewhere very familiar, planning her next holiday, and enjoying a cup (or three) of good, strong coffee.