24 March 2019
Always be grateful and embrace positive emotions. This will help us relax and fall asleep easily at bedtime. Photo: Reuters
Always be grateful and embrace positive emotions. This will help us relax and fall asleep easily at bedtime. Photo: Reuters

Gratitude journal: a powerful cure for insomnia

Hong Kong is known for the fast-paced and stressful lifestyle of its people. Many of those who live in this busy city are often sleep-deprived, poorly rested or insomniac.

When their sleeping pattern is often disrupted, people find it hard to concentrate at work. Lack of sleep also leads to an accumulation of stress, followed by anxiety or depression.

Insomnia is usually misunderstood as not falling asleep. In fact, there are various types of insomnia.

There are people who have difficulties falling asleep even after a few hours of lying in bed.

Some only sleep lightly and are easily awakened by slight changes in the environment. Some fall asleep naturally but they wake up much earlier than expected and stay awake for the rest of the night.

A female patient in her 40s was often overwhelmed by the heavy workload and picked upon by her superiors. With her confidence low, she worried about losing her teaching post.

Eventually, she went into chronic insomnia. Sometimes she got lucky and was able to fall asleep but she would wake up in the early hours feeling tired and anxious.

When we are under stress, our bodies release extra adrenaline, accelerating our heart rate and breathing rate. If this happens for a long period of time, insomnia is likely to occur. It is a vicious cycle because the harder it is to fall asleep, the more stressed we become.

The next time you experience anxiety, try diaphragmatic breathing. Use the abdomen and diaphragm to breathe, instead of moving only the chest and ribs.

Focusing on the breathing is an efficient way to relax body and mind, and this in turn induces sleep. Count “one, two, three” while inhaling and think “relax” while exhaling. A few sets of this exercise can lighten up your mood.

Though they may be overlooked, negative emotions do cause insomnia. Apart from regular aerobic exercises like running or cycling, feeling grateful can also give a boost and is a powerful cure for insomnia.

Patients who suffer from chronic insomnia may consider keeping a gratitude journal. Write down the things that bring you joy, even if they are as simple as having a good cup of coffee, a delicious dinner or a meetup with friends.

Make it a habit to be grateful and embrace positive emotions bit by bit. As long as the mind stays relaxed, the problem of insomnia will definitely be corrected.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 13

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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