Sleep basics 101
Yes, yes, we all know sleep is essential and important. Growing up, my grandma would always nag at me with her classic 早睡早起, literally translated to ‘sleep early wake up early’. And I’d like to think I’ve kept to it for the most part! Quite honestly, I still kept to a bedtime of 930pm even up til I was 16. But as I’ve grown older (and not much wiser), pulling all-nighters, having last minute work engagements or meetings, my relationship with sleep has become distorted along the way.
When I moved back to Singapore in 2013 after a whole 10 years living overseas, I was not accustomed to the insanely fast pace of life in Singapore. The appeal of staying up past my bedtime slowly dwindled away. No longer did I want to, nor had the time to stay up late with my sisters to watch movies while munching on popcorn or some other sweet treats. My nights were now mostly spent having last minute meetings or presentation rehearsals that would drag on into the early hours of the morning.
I viewed sleep as something negotiable. Something I could forgo just to get through my growing pile of work. I remember pulling my one and only all nighter when I had to do my final year project in poly. After much procrastination, I managed to bomb and submit a fat 14k word essay. I crashed so hard for 16 hours, sleeping straight through from 3pm and only waking at 7am the following day.
Although it was fun initially - it made me feel somewhat like a grown up, or a ‘real’ teenager I guess - it took a toll on me physically and emotionally.
The lack of sleep was noticeable with the classic panda eyes, puffy eye-bags that couldn’t go away no matter how much I iced it or slapped chamomile tea bags on it (has anyone tried this and does this actually work??), accompanied with such a sallow, pallid complexion. My lips were constantly pale and I moved so listlessly and without vigour. Sis was Ugly with a capital U!!!! Did I mention that I was also just an Oscar the Grouch 24/7???
A 2017 research paper by Sundelin and colleagues proposed that sleep loss can be detected in a face and that people are less inclined to interact with sleep-deprived individuals. They go on to say that acute sleep deprivation and looking tired are related to decreased perceived attractiveness and health (!!!!! what!!!). Who said "you snooze, you lose"?? I would just like to taLK-
Yikes. Taking this into account and knowing how irritable and grumpy I was back then, I’m surprised I still managed to have friends - this is a public apology to everyone who had the misfortune to meet me 2014 - 2016!!
My relationship with sleep only improved in my uni days, when I realised that pulling late nighters just was not sustainable for me. My brain often felt foggy and hazy all the time. My tiredness prevented me from being fully alert and absorbing all the information in classes. It was like I was eternally on power saving mode, and my battery was never adequately charged even though I slept.
In the first year of uni, my prof bluntly told us that the whole idea that ‘diamonds are made under pressure’ and churning out essays at the last minute was frankly, bullshit, and advised us not to do that. Welp, he was right!
So from there on, I started relearning how to care for myself properly, going back to basics. Instead of staying up all night to churn out essays, I chose to sleep earlier and wake earlier instead - thx grandma - and I noticed a vast improvement in the quality of my work. When I used to go for yoga, the teacher would allege that the brain detoxes itself when we sleep, processing our day’s events, amongst other things like repairing our organs and muscles and the like. I’m still on the fence about this, but hey at least my sleep quality and quantity is improving!
Much like a skincare routine, it’s crucial to develop good sleep hygiene. What is it?
It entails creating a good sleep environment as well as daily routines that enable you to sleep more consistently and uninterrupted. This could look like exercising in the day to physically tire you out, avoiding caffeinated beverages after a certain time of the day, or most importantly, avoiding scrolling through social media in bed!!!
Being exposed to blue light before we sleep suppresses our body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that makes us drowsy and enables us to fall asleep. I know technology has advanced over the years and we’re able to dim our phone screens, or change to a warmer screen light automatically, but still!!
Of course as with any routine, you have to find one that works just for you. In my opinion, consistently keeping to a schedule and the ritualistic nature of the routine helps to get my brain into that space where like, ah yes, it’s time to wind down for the day, y’know? So here are some things I’ve tried so far in my journey to achieving better sleep hygiene!
One of the things I had to address was the fact that I sleep with my eyes open. Yes, I know, it is exactly as terrifying as how you’re mentally picturing it right now. On a holiday several years ago, I was bunking with a friend and they ended up having a one-sided convo in the morning because they thought I was awake and listening to them HAHA.
As I’m typing this I’m refraining from googling ‘sleeping with eyes open’ before Google tells me I have cancer or something to that extent.
Anyways back to my point, I tried buying cotton eye-masks to solve this issue. Which worked for the most part! They ensured that my eyelids were well and truly closed for business at night, and prevented any light from uhh going into my eyes, I guess? What wasn’t so bueno about the eye masks were:
- I started breaking out around my eyebrow and forehead area even though I washed my face and eye-mask frequently!
- The elastic. Some designs I tried had the ear loop thingy, which wasn’t so great because I toss and turn in my sleep, so it just came off. Boo. Another design I tried had to fit the elastic band over my head, which was pulled at my hair, was crazy tight and gave me a headache whilst I was sleeping!! Super no bueno.
So I gave up on my eye masks for years until I was given the Aurelie silk eye mask by Rong. Not gonna lie, I was quite dubious because of the reasons listed above. But oh my goodness. The silk was insanely pillowy soft on my eyelids, and the elastic headband didn’t tug on my hair nor head?? AND obviously if you’re a silk convert, or if you’ve read up about the benefits of silk, you would already know that it’s a hypoallergenic material and helps to stave off breakouts sis!!!
#2 Essential oils
Lavender is by far my all time favourite scent. Together with the fact that inhaling lavender vapour is supposed to improve both sleep quality and latency (the time it takes for you to fall asleep). Just pop in a few drops in the diffuser and you’re all good to go!
I also did try using lavender creams, but I couldn’t really tell the difference in my sleep latency nor quality. My dog decided I tasted really yummy though, so I spent time running away from him after slathering on the creams. Word of caution though, if your skin is sensitive to essential oils, this might not be the thing for you!
If the smell of lavender or liquid diffusers aren’t your thing, perhaps sea salt, wood sage, or freesia diffused with charcoal might work for you! Link here.
#3 Put my phone away!
This was maybe the hardest to do for me. Even though I would be physically in bed at 11pm, room dark, with the lavender bubbling and diffusing away beside me, I would still be on my phone, trapped scrolling through my social media feeds - and then before I know it, it’s 2 am :-) and now I loathe myself for my self-destructive patterns :-)
I don’t have any other tips against this but shEER willpower and deTERMINATION! Currently I just use it to set my alarm and then leave it on the desk. Even though I’m not feeling drowsy, I just let my mind wander as I lie there attempting to fall asleep.
#4 Guided meditation
Okay, sometimes I do use my phone to try and sleep. When all else fails and sleep eludes me, I listen to some guided sleep meditation on my Spotify. One episode usually lasts anywhere from 20 mins to an hour, and usually entails a guided imagery session. This has been really good for me on the days I just can’t fall asleep naturally. I think I’m just the type of person who falls asleep when people are chatting at a low volume, is that weird?? Like having the news on really soft in the background. Someone please affirm me and tell me I’m not the only one like this!
#5 Soft music
A few years back, my sleepless nights were getting so frustrating, I decided to create a Spotify playlist just for tunes I could listen to without paying much attention to, more vibe-y, spacey stuff. This really really helped tons, at the cost of my phone battery :-) But hey at least I managed to fall asleep peacefully!
If you’re curious about what I listened to then (and honestly still do some nights) check it out here. (Shameless plug but only because I make my playlists with love and care)
#6 Silk pyjamas and bedding
I’m really sensitive to the heat when I’m trying to sleep. I hate feeling hot and sweaty in my bed, or feeling my baby hairs clinging to my forehead for dear life smh. Dri-fit shirts were not cooling as I thought they’d be, so short of sleeping starkers, I found silk pyjamas a wonderful solution to all my stuffy problems!
If you haven’t read up about all the benefits of silk, what are you still waiting for?!? Go forth and educate yourself and have your minds blown at the sheer amount of benefits just a simple fabric brings. But I don’t blame you, I wasn’t a believer too :’(
So you should know by now that as a lightweight fabric, silk is extremely breathable, regulating your body temperature and reducing the risk of you overheating at night. Moreover, it feels cool to the touch and has a straight up boujee feel. It makes me feel extra special and slinky and makes me excited to go to bed! Again, this is part of the whole sleep care routine and having something cool and slinky to look forward to after a long, hot day, is such a treat!
I don’t struggle with matted, tangled or frizzy hair like my younger sister does. When she wakes, her hair honestly looks like an explosion happened at some point in the night. With the recent GSS sale that we had (yes, we had a GSS sale and it was bomb.com, sign up for our mailing list to get in the know, or just hit us up or Instagram) I managed to convince her to buy our silk eye-mask, pillowcase, as well as pyjamas.
Although she hasn’t been able to see the difference yet, I can assure you that I do!! Her hair, although still looking like something bao zha’d, looks somewhat more manageable and even shinier than before (*cries enviously in my ramrod straight, thin hair)!
I could honestly wax poetic about the numerous other things I’ve tried just to help me sleep faster and better, but that would be quite boring I would think. Ultimately, sleep hygiene is a personal thing! I encourage all you lovely people to find what works best for you and your lifestyle! If you have tried any of our silk sleep essentials, let us know how that’s been for you!
TL;DR: Sleep early, wake up early. Be nice to yourself and get your 8 hours zz’s because the less you sleep, the more unattractive you look, according to science. Listen to science.