Dealing with insomnia


You know you’re in serious lack of sleep when you catch yourself yawning constantly or feeling exhausted even from just sitting at your desk all day. But when you hit the sack, you find yourself lying wide awake and unable to fall asleep. If this sounds like you, chances are, you might be suffering from insomnia.

Before you hit up a sleep clinic, setting up a more conducive environment in the bedroom may be just what you need to ease yourself into slumberland. From blackout curtains to setting up a wind-down routine, here are 10 ways to deal with insomnia:


1. Get OTC supplements & meds with melatonin ingredients


melatonin pills to deal with insomnia

Popping sleeping pills seems like an obvious answer to combating insomnia. But in Singapore, obtaining a bottle requires a prescription. Thankfully, there’s an alternative readily available over the counter at most pharmacies like Watsons and Guardian – melatonin. 

Basically, melatonin is a hormone in our body that promotes restful sleep. Taking melatonin supplements boosts our body’s natural production of melatonin, which can help with slowly dozing off. In fact, you might have heard of cabin crew gulping down a couple to help fight off jet lag.

Get melatonin tablets from Watsons ($12.60).


2. Use calming scents to ease anxieties at bedtime


deep sleep pillow spray to deal with insomniaThis pillow spray fills your pillow with lavender.
Image credit: This Works 

Step into any spa in Singapore and you’ll instantly be hit with aromatic fragrances like lemongrass or ylang ylang that aid in relaxation. It makes sense, then, to take a cue from these spas if you’re having trouble unwinding for the night.

You can make use of candles and pillow sprays that contain your fave calming scents to recreate a similar peaceful environment. For candles, you’ll want to burn them for about 30 minutes before bedtime to get you in the mood. Don’t forget to extinguish any flames before shut-eye to avoid any fire mishaps through the night.

As for the sprays, a light spritz is more than enough to perfume your whole pillow, so it’s not overly cloying as you sleep.

Pro tip: Sweet-smelling lavender, jasmine, and geranium are known to have calming effects that ease anxiety. Stay away from peppermint and citrus scents that have an energising effect.

Get pillow spray from Sephora ($38).


3. Avoid sweating with cooling bed sheets & mattress pads


cooling Mattresses pad to deal with insomnia
A cooling mattress pad regulates body temperature so you don’t feel too hot at night.

Something as simple as Singapore’s hot and humid weather could be what is keeping you awake. In this case, getting a mattress that has a gel memory foam layer can help draw heat away from your body to help you cope with night sweats and hot flashes.

But switching your mattress for a new one may not be in the cards for all. An easier and cheaper alternative would be getting a cooling mattress pad that can be added directly on top of your mattress. You can also change your sheets for cooler sleep. Breathable cotton and linen with a low thread count of 200-400 have been found to encourage airflow as you snooze.

Buy a cooling mattress pad on Shopee (from $34.90).


4. Create a nighttime routine with journaling & meditation


journaling to deal with insomnia

When there are too many thoughts swirling through your head, it becomes very difficult to fall asleep. Get yourself into a relaxed state by clearing your mind with a set nighttime routine. Spending just 5 minutes to journal your thoughts or create to-do lists helps calm the mental chaos and anxiety you might have about the next day.

meditation app and youtube channels

You can also quiet a buzzing mind with a simple meditation exercise. Start with shorter sessions of just 3 minutes and gradually increase to longer sessions once a routine is set.

There are plenty of free meditation resources available online, like from the Calm YouTube channel. Save your favourites to a playlist so you’ll always have go-to tracks you know work for you.


5. Wind down with easy stretches


easy exercises before bedtimeStretching can help you wind down and improve blood flow for better sleep.

You’ve got your mind relaxed, now it’s time to work on the body. Adding easy stretches before bedtime can help relieve any knots and tightness in your muscles. This removes any tension that could be preventing you from falling asleep. 

This doesn’t take a lot of prep like setting aside 10-15 minutes or any special equipment – a wall and some open space would do. Start by standing in front of a wall with your legs slightly apart. Bend towards the wall, using your arms to hold you steady to stretch out your back.

Adding stretching to your nighttime routine not only relaxes the body but also improves blood circulation which results in better sleep quality.


6. Set up air purifiers & humidifiers for moist & clean air


air purifier

We understand if you have to blast the aircon at night in Singapore’s heat, but breathing in the cold, dry air in AC-ed rooms can lead to snoring and dry throats, disrupting sleep. As such, humidifiers can help to moisten the air around you and prevent nasal congestion so you breathe better at night. 

Many humidifiers are compatible with essential oils too. Drop a couple of relaxing oils like lavender and ylang ylang that can help put you in the mood for sleep. 

Sleep is also when you’re more susceptible to dust sensitivity, which can lead to sneezing and disrupted rest. Consider adding an air purifier to your bedroom for cleaner air, in order to breathe easily when you sleep.


7. Install blackout curtains for complete darkness


Black out curtains to deal with insomnia

Exposure to light affects our melatonin levels, slowing down the process of feeling sleepy. For those who live with their windows facing street lamps, blackout curtains can help block out all that light for total darkness. They can be bought online for as low as $20.

These are even effective for those who need to sleep through the day when the sun is up. The curtains create the illusion of nighttime, so your body isn’t naturally awoken by bright light.

Pro tip: If you share a room with others who sleep later and have the lights on till late, consider using an eye mask to block out the light instead.

Buy blackout curtains on Lazada (from $20.70).


8. Switch off devices 1 hour before bedtime or turn on night mode


night mode on devicesAvoid looking at bright screens before sleeping.

Looking at your phones or tablets just before sleeping is a big no-no, so stop scrolling through IG and TikTok or watching Netflix in bed. In fact, you should spend at least an hour before sleeping doing a non-stimulating activity such as reading or listening to soft music.

If you do have to check your devices before you fall asleep, turn on night mode. This setting reduces blue light emissions, exposure to which hinders your ability to fall asleep.


9. Consult a TCM specialist for a custom herbal remedy


TCM consultation

If you’re looking for a more natural solution to avoid sleeping pills, then turn to TCM instead of the drugstore. TCM specialists can help to identify the underlying cause of your insomnia and prescribe a herbal concoction accordingly.

A common ingredient you’ll find in TCM remedies would be sour jujube seeds aka suan zao ren. These are especially known to have a sedative effect, which quietens activity in the brain. 

Acupuncture can also help by stimulating certain pressure points that help increase the production of melatonin. You can also consider cupping to improve blood flow in the neck and shoulder area, which often become stiff – especially common for those who work at their desks all day.

Read our guide to the best TCM clinics in Singapore


10. Get a white noise machine to drown out environmental noise


Munchkin Shhh Portable Baby Soother
Image credit: FairPrice 

Living near an MRT station is mostly a good thing but it does come with the downside of having to listen to the train pass by every few minutes till midnight. For those affected by noisy neighbours or environmental noises like such, drown all that out with a white noise machine.

There’s no need to splurge much for a high-end one. There are many made for babies that work just as well on adults. These emit static noises that can mask out noises from your surroundings and get you sleeping like, well, a baby.

Get a white noise machine from NTUC FairPrice ($29.90).


Get better sleep with easy home remedies

There are a number of underlying reasons that cause insomnia, from mental stress to physical ailments such as sleep apnea. While we hope that these simple home remedies help you deal with insomnia, consult a doctor for an in-depth analysis of the issue should you feel you need professional advice to solve your sleep woes.

For more tips on getting some shut-eye: