9 tips to beat insomnia

Having trouble falling – or staying – asleep? Say goodnight to insomnia with these nifty tips.


It’s no secret that we feel better, work faster and make smarter decisions after a well-earned night of ZZZs. But if you’ve been struggling to get to sleep no matter how tired you feel, or you’ve been waking up at night, you’re not alone. Four in 10 Singaporeans are getting only four to six hours of shuteye a night, according to a 2018 YouGov survey, with 77% of us waking up at least once during this period.

So, what’s sabotaging our slumber? Sleep stealers vary, ranging from work- or school-related stress, financial worries, anxiety, troubles at home to poor sleeping habits. But here’s the good news. It’s possible to reset the snooze button with a few simple lifestyle changes.

  1. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

It’s tempting to sleep in over the weekends. In fact, most of us (over 80% according to a recent Wakefield Research survey) do so, trying to repay the “sleep debt” we’ve accumulated over the week, but like credit card debt, sleep debt is cumulative – we can’t simply correct it by “banking” our snoozes with weekend lie-ins. Instead, develop a daily waking and night-time ritual to support your body clock and train your body to sleep better.

  1. Create a sleep sanctuary.

This may sound obvious, but your bedroom could actually be an unlikely culprit in sabotaging your rest. Keep it dark, peaceful and cool. Your bed should be comfortable, help you wake up refreshed (if it doesn’t, it may be time to break up with it. Here’re some tips to help you choose the right bed mate) and be a place only for sleeping and related activities. If you’ve a pet or children cuddling with you, you may want to consider banishing them if they tend to make noises or fidget at night. And if you’re a lark married to a night owl (or vice versa), you may want to consider investing in an eye mask, ear plugs or a white noise machine/app.

  1. Eject all screens an hour before bed.

Electronic screens emit a blue light that disrupts your body’s production of melatonin and is anything but restful. So instead of spending time on your phone, tablet, computer or TV, wind down with a relaxing pre-sleep ritual: read a book (for pleasure, nothing work-related!), listen to soft music, soak your feet in warm water or take a soothing bath.

  1. Don’t overindulge.

A large meal right before bedtime not just packs on the pounds – it can cause heartburn and disrupt your sleep patterns too. However, going to bed hungry can also interrupt your snooze, so it’s a fine balance. Have dinner at least two hours before bed, and if you’re still hungry, grab a small snack such as fruit, warm milk or some crackers. Avoid sweet stuff like candy, dried fruit, or juice as these may cause a sugar crash that’ll wake you up later.

  1. Eat more “yin” and less “yang”.

According to TCM, insomnia is a “yin” (cooling) deficiency associated with poor circulation, spleen deficiency or stress. Foods that are predominantly “yin” (green or pale coloured, with a high moisture content such as tofu, cucumbers, bananas, watermelons and green beans) are hence better for dinner. Sweet, pungent, or spicy foods are considered “yang” (heating) foods, so they should be avoided to help prevent an overactive liver. 

  1. Skip the post-lunch Java and other caffeine.

Say no to coffee, black/green tea, energy drinks, colas or hot chocolate after 2pm. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, which means that half of it remains in your body six hours after your last sip – and your body will still be amped up by bedtime, making you unable to sleep. 

  1. Avoid that nightcap.

Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it also steals it by causing you to wake up every 90 minutes. So, avoid it three hours before bed if you don’t want to be shaken and stirred during the night. 

  1. Exercise regularly. But not after 7pm.

Your workout works for you around the clock but avoid hitting the gym or running three hours before bedtime as strenuous exercise elevates your core body temperature for five to six hours. To feel drowsy, your body temperature needs drop and not the other way around. 

  1. If you cannot sleep, get up.

Lying awake in bed can backfire, with our brains associating our beds with sleeplessness. If you’ve been trying (and failing) to sleep for 20 minutes, don’t force yourself. Get up, leave the bedroom and do something relaxing, such as reading, breathing exercises or drinking a cup of herbal tea (chamomile, chrysanthemum with wolfberries or longan steeped with a few red dates and a handful of wolfberries). Go back to bed when you’re sleepy.