If you can’t fall asleep without counting sheep, here’s one trick that seems worth a shot: writing a to-do list. Researchers at Baylor University in Texas conducted a study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The experiment had 57 healthy participants between 19 and 30 spend the night at a sleep lab. All were given a five-minute writing assignment before hitting the sack. Half were asked to write about the things they needed to do over the next few days (to-do list), while the others were asked to write about the things they’d completed over the past few days (completed list). Results showed that those who wrote to-do lists fell asleep by an average of nine minutes faster than those who wrote completed lists. Researchers think the act of offloading one’s mind through writing probably helps to ease bedtime worry, so go ahead and pen down tomorrow’s tasks before hitting the sack!
HOT STONE THERAPY: YAY OR NAY?
In a gist, ganbanyoku – “rock bathing” in Japanese – is a treatment where you lie on volcanic stone slabs that are heated to 45 deg C, and said to release far infrared rays (FIR) and negative ions to help boost the release of toxins from the body through perspiration. As they do not contain UV rays, FIR are very safe, offering benefits that include improving blood circulation, aiding detoxification, easing pains, and regulating digestion. As I frequently have shoulder aches and a weak gut, I was game to give it a shot. No harm trying, right? Associate editor Estelle and I went for a session recently. Here’s what to expect.
When you first arrive, you’ll have to change into the provided top and bottom for the treatment. You’re expected to strip down (no undies or bras) for maximum efficacy. If you’re uncomfortable with that, wear yours but do bring a spare pair to change into post-treatment since you’ll likely be sweaty. Disposable ones are not provided.
Each person will also be given two towels. You can use these to wipe down after the treatment or to lie on during the hot stone therapy if the heat becomes unbearable. And, before entering the room, you’ll be given a cup of water to drink. Due to the heat, you’ll lose a lot of water during the treatment so it’s normal to feel thirsty. The key is to stay hydrated throughout. You’re also allowed to bring in a cup of water.
Inside the treatment room, the temperature is comfortable. The heat is nowhere near that of a sauna or steam room. The ganbanyoku stones are maintained at roughly 45 deg C and they’re comfortable to sit on. When you first step on the hot stone slabs, warm your extremities first (by placing your feet and palms flat on the stones).
Once you’re ready, slowly lower your body and lie flat on the hot stones. There is a little pillow provided to support your head. Alternatively, you may also roll up one of your towels and use it as a pillow. It’s recommended that you stay in one position for roughly 10 minutes before moving on to the next position. Somehow, as time goes by, the stones do feel hotter and I jump when my bare skin touches the slab. That said, the heat definitely helps to soothe achy muscles.
After spending 10 minutes on our backs, we flip over to warm our abdomens. This is actually the most comfortable position for me as I frequently have gut issues. The heat from the stones warms my tummy. It feels as though I have a giant hot water bottle draped across my belly. It’s also recommended that you spend some time lying on your sides to target the lymph nodes in your armpit areas. Lymph nodes help to filter and drain toxins from your body. Stimulating them is supposed to help speed up this process.
Dawn and Estelle were all smiles after their hot stone therapy session.
My body was covered in a light layer of perspiration by the end of the session. I left the room feeling relaxed – and very hungry. Over the next few days, I noticed that my hands weren’t as cold anymore (they used to turn icy in the office). The morning after ganbanyoku, Estelle and I also had no problems emptying our bowels (normal for me but very unusual for her). Perhaps there’s some truth in the detoxing bit.
While there’s no scientific way of knowing for sure how effective it was, ganbanyoku was a comfortable treatment. The most immediate benefit is the rosy glow you get once you come out of the heated room. Skin will feel noticeably softer, too.
Give ganbanyoku a try if you’re curious. At just $20 per session, it is pretty aff ordable and at the very least, you’ll leave the session feeling more relaxed! - DAWN CHEN
Open from 10am to 9pm daily, Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy is at #02-29 Far East Plaza, tel: 6208-9357.