Having trouble getting enough sleep during this pandemic? Here are some tips to use while you try to snooze better over the weekend

This article was first published on May 31, 2020, and updated on December 22, 2021.


Living in the coronavirus era has brought about a number of significant changes in our lives. This includes wearing face masks whenever we’re outdoors, shelved travel plans, minimal social activities and a new work-from-home culture that has swept the globe. Ultimately, this means we have had to make adjustments to our daily routines and if you’re anything like me, one of the downsides of this is a disrupted sleep cycle.

My relationship with sleep has always been rocky and this goes way back to my university days. Granted, my lifestyle wasn’t exactly the best. I had many late nights due to schoolwork and my then-active social life. I tried multiple ways to combat this problem, including sleeping with the TV playing in the background; tiring myself out with evening workouts; waking up earlier; and so on. I also tried sleep aids like Zzzquil, a product that contains melatonin (which helps regulate sleep cycles) and sold in pharmacies in the US. It worked. Eventually, I didn’t need it anymore after graduating and returning to Singapore.

But since I’ve started working from home due to the Covid-19 situation, the no-sleep monster has slowly crept back into my life. There were nights where I could only fall asleep sometime between 2 am to 5 am in the morning. But I’m not the only one encountering this phenomenon during this period. In fact, it’s normal to feel worried, stressed and anxious during unprecedented times like this.

“This could be related to ‘cabin fever’. Being stuck at home, and having less work, less business, less revenue, and perhaps more work stress, could produce more of the stress hormone known as Cortisol. Therefore, the result is poorer sleep quality and sleeplessness,” said Dr Kenny Pang, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist of Asia Sleep Centre, in an e-mail interview.

Ideally, a working adult should develop regular sleep patterns, and try to sleep from 11 pm to 7 am daily, added Dr Pang. Getting about seven to eight hours of sleep each night would be perfect. “On weekends, you may get a little more sleep and wake at 8 am, this is to ‘repay’ the sleep debt,” Dr Pang said.

This time around, I decided to tackle the problem head-on and find long-term solutions that could work for me. The fundamentals are these: developing a routine and committing to it. Along with advice by Dr Pang and wellness experts from Amanpuri and Sangha Retreat, here are my tips for the best night's sleep you can have.

1. Do some relaxation exercises

Practising a bit of yoga and meditation before bed is an excellent way to calm the mind and body. Since my regular barre studio is temporarily closed, I had to find at-home workouts to try. I downloaded the Down Dog yoga app, which has various types of practices for different objectives. Go for their restorative or gentle flow options; they work best if you wish to relax your muscles before you call it a day.
  
Otherwise, just relax and meditate instead. “Meditation can also improve your sleep by reducing stress levels, which is the number one enemy of a good night’s sleep, and boosting your melatonin levels, the critical chemical for creating restful sleep,” said Grace Zhu, life coach at Sangha Retreat. She added that "this will ultimately work to prepare the body for better sleep as well". Try these apps to help you get started.

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2. Wear a sleep mask

Blocking out light in the bedroom is a great sleep habit to keep. As Dr Pang wrote in his book, Sleep And Snoring Matters: “Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep. Melatonin levels in the blood start to rise by about 9 to 10 pm and peaks by 1 am to 2 am. It helps to have a dark environment for sleeping.”

I recently started wearing an eye mask to bed once again (a method I used back in university) and found that it has definitely improved my sleep. My favourite is the silk eye mask by Lilysilk.

3. Put on comfortable sleepwear

Stick to a routine and prepare yourself for bed at the same time each night. One way to do that is to slip on some comfortable nightwear to introduce sleep mode. Throw on some soft, breathable PJs or even a silk pyjama set to match your eye mask and you’re all set for dreamland. I like sleeping with a silk pillowcase as well—it feels luxurious and you won’t wake up with bad hair. Remember to wash it regularly to prevent any acne breakouts.

(Related: Look Good While Staying Home In Singapore: The Cutest Loungewear Sets And Pyjamas)

4. Drink some tea

Yes, sipping on tea does help with sleep issues. But make sure you’re consuming tea without caffeine. I'm currently enjoying Pukka Herbs' Night Time Tea, which is made with organic oat flavour, soothing lavender, and silky-sweet lime flower. I love that this tea is both organic and caffeine-free, plus its ingredients are ethically sourced. And brewing a cup of tea is so easy to prepare before bed.

Another option is to have some herbal tea before bed.

“Herbal teas are non-addictive and can really work well when you find the right one for you,” said Kimberly Rose Kneier, immersion manager and Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist at Amanpuri’s holistic wellness centre. She also recommended herbal tea that contains the Schisandra fruit, which helps with adrenal fatigue, digestion and is great for sleep; milky oats-infused tea and suan zao ren tang, a popular Chinese herbal formula often used to treat insomnia.

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5. Sleep on luxurious linen

There's nothing better than curling up in bed after a long day—but this can be made even more enjoyable with silky soft sheets. My current favourite is a collaboration by two homegrown brands, Weavve Home and Scene Shang.

Weavve’s Lyocell sheets are made from sustainably sourced 100 per cent Tencel Lyocell fibres, which are known for their temperature regulating properties and ultra cool touch. This is a useful feature for those who find themselves tossing and turning in bed late at night, unable to sleep due to reasons such as the humidity and heat in our country. 

These fibres have a natural ability to quickly absorb moisture and dissipate excessive heat for a long-lasting cooling sensation.

The new limited-edition bedroom collection uses 100 per cent Lenzing Tencel Lyocell fibres and features Scene Shang’s award-winning design “Love is a Warm Brew” and “Jade Blossoms”. 

“Love is a Warm Brew” portrays ingredients of beverages illustrated in a batik style and is only available on pillowcases. Scene Shang’s signature “Jade Blossoms” is a contemporary take on tiles, floral motifs adorning a sea of jade, and is inspired by the distinctive tiles of Peranakan shophouses. This print is available on pillowcases and duvet covers. 

The founders of Weavve Home believe that good sleep can be achieved through well-designed products—and their range of well-designed products definitely encourage better sleep and comfort.

Read more: What’s the Secret to Better Sleep? Frette Has The Answer

6. Use scents

I’m all for the idea of using scents to boost or alter your mood for the better. Therefore, it’s especially important for me to turn my bedroom into a comforting space by using a combination of fragrance products such as candles and diffusers. You can also apply sleeping masks that include ingredients such as lavender, which has been clinically proven to slow down the nervous system, to help put you to sleep. Try Laneige’s lavender-infused Water Sleeping Mask or the Perfect Nacht Sleeping Balm, formulated with essential oils, by Bynacht. Before I rest my head, I also give my pillow a few spritzes of This Works' Deep Sleep Pillow Spray.

Read more: 11 Steps To Designing A Bedroom For Blissful Slumber

7. Have a balanced diet

This may be the most important tip yet it's also the most challenging to achieve because of the myriad gourmand options that we have, especially during this period where delivery options are aplenty. But Gaby Luo, a nutritionist from Sangha Retreat, offers some words of wisdom.

She shared: “It is very complicated to link diet and sleep directly together, but we know that a balanced diet is the base for a balanced hormone system, which moderates sleep quality. Insulin is one key factor that affects sleep quality. This explains why it is hard to fall asleep when you are hungry, as your insulin and blood sugar levels are both too low. I suggest having three servings of fresh vegetables and two servings of protein-rich foods for your dinner; if you are still not satisfied, add an additional portion of legumes.”

However, sleep is not solely affected by our diet, thus there is no individual food that can directly contribute to your sleep quality, she added. If you're able to narrow down your problems with sleeping, then you can enhance your diet to address those problems, resulting in better sleep quality.

8. Take a warm bath

Draw yourself a luxurious bubble bath filled with aromatic bath oil or bath salts and indulge in a bit of me-time before bed. Researchers have suggested that taking a hot bath can help you fall asleep faster, too. It is recommended that you soak in the tub for 20 or 30 minutes about two hours before bed, according to Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine.

9. Switch off all electronics

If you're all too familiar with scrolling through your social media pages right before bed, this is a habit that needs to be stopped immediately. Studies have shown these devices can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, which is a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep. So remember to avoid using computers, smartphones, and other blue light-emitting devices in the hours leading up to bedtime. It helps to read a book or practise a little bit of meditation to clear the mind. 

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