How to easily fall asleep?

Trying to fall asleep.

. . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3. . . . counting sheep.

Does it sound familiar?

Is this how you try to fall asleep?

Many experience this night after night.

According to a medical journal, every fifth person has some sleeping disorder—women more so than men, adults more so than youths, town dwellers more so than people in the country.

Some have difficulty in falling asleep, others wake up too early, and still others wake up many times during the night.

What can you do about it if you have such problems?

To begin with, it is good to know something about sleep.

What happens to you when you sleep?

Sleep involves intense electrical activity in the brain.

Medical equipment can measure this.

When you sleep undisturbed for a whole night, you pass through wave patterns of different kinds of sleep.

First, you slowly sink into a “deep trough,” called delta sleep.

This is a sound sleep during which everything slows down.

Your brain, heart and muscles relax.

Your body cleanses and rebuilds itself, as evidenced by the release of growth hormone.

Then you slowly rise to the top of a “wave,” to a much lighter sleep, called rapid-eye-movement, or REM, sleep, which is quite different.

It is mostly during this period that you dream.

Researchers have found that there is as much brain activity in the REM sleep as there is when a person is fully alert, wide-awake.

This stage is not yet fully understood, but scientists theorize that this is when the brain is absorbing the events of the day, like a computer, storing them in its memory bank.

You may pass through four to six such “waves” during the night, each “wave” lasting about an hour and a half.

This sleeping rhythm is important to a person’s well-being.

It can be disturbed by alcohol, sleeping pills and sedatives, which eliminate or reduce the important REM sleep.

Some appetite-hampering drugs and cough medicines may also disturb this rhythm.

Sleeping well at night

If you have trouble in sleeping, the first thing to do is stop being overly worried about it.

Worry only hampers your sleep.

Usually there is no danger in being without sleep for a period now and then.

The Swiss psychotherapist Paul Debois likens sleep to a dove.

If you hold your hand out gently, it comes voluntarily and settles on it.

But if you try to grab it, it flies away.

Don’t compare your sleep with that of other persons.

The need for sleep varies with age and from person to person.

Babies need 18 hours of sleep.

Normally, younger people need seven to eight hours.

Some older persons need only four to seven hours.

Much of the anxiety about sleeplessness is unnecessary, as sleep requirements normally change with age.

What matters is not how many hours of sleep you get but how you feel.

Indeed, analysis of the sleep of persons who claim to suffer from sleeplessness shows that they often sleep more than they think they do.

Why you maybe having trouble sleeping?

Perhaps the problem is not you but that of your environment.

The ventilation of the bedroom may be poor, or the temperature may be too high.

Try keeping it between 59 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 17 degrees Celsius).

Rather high humidity in the bedroom is usually good.

If you take the chill off your bed before lying in it, you may fall asleep more easily, as a cool bed has a stimulating effect.

Is your bed well suited to you?

You should be able to move in it without difficulty.

Since your bed is where you spend one third of your life, get the best you can afford.

Make sure it is correctly placed in the room.

Most people prefer to sleep with their head toward the window.

Even the material in the mattress and the bedclothes may affect your sleep.

For example, a nightdress of synthetic fiber might cause discomfort.

The bedroom light may disturb you.

Some need complete darkness and even have to wear an eye mask, while others want a soft night lamp burning.

There may also be annoying sounds.

Have a new washer put in that dripping faucet.

If nothing else helps, use earplugs—although it takes some time to get used to them, and they are not a good idea for people with chronic ear problems.

Resetting your day and night rhythm

Do not try to force yourself into sleep.

Some people simply cannot get sleepy until the early morning hours.

Doctors have found that it is much easier to adjust their internal clocks by advancing them than by trying to “move the hands back.”

Some lifetime insomniacs were cured by simply postponing their bedtime a few hours each day until their cycles advanced to a normal bedtime!

“During treatment I felt like a zombie [a walking dead person],”
admits one cured patient, but the final results were good.

Some people who complain about poor night sleep actually rob themselves by sleeping during the day.

So, if you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, try to avoid that nap after lunch.

‘But I get so drowsy!’ some will say.

Well, at those times why not do something else that may be refreshing, like taking a quick walk?

Think of your sleep as money in the bank.

If you “spend” it in naps, you won’t have it at night when you really need it.

The “do’s” and “don’ts”

Vigorous physical exercise is a good remedy for sleeplessness.

Have you considered getting off the bus one or two stops earlier on your way home from work and walking briskly the rest of the way?

It may help you to sleep better.

On the other hand, too much exercise just before bedtime is not advisable.

Nor is eating a heavy meal before bedtime.

Both activities will get your body all “fired up” and may chase sleep away for hours.

Even a light meal before bedtime may activate you if it contains sugar.

Did you know that smokers generally have more problems with their sleep than do nonsmokers?

Sleep habits of smokers who suddenly quit improve dramatically, according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University.

In fact, heavy smokers who abruptly stopped reportedly spent 45 percent less time awake during the first three nights after quitting.

Avoid stimulants before bedtime.

Coffee, tea and cola drinks contain caffeine, the stimulating effect of which usually does not culminate until between two and four hours after you have consumed the drink.

Even cocoa is somewhat stimulating.

Some persons cannot drink such stimulants as coffee or tea after four o’clock in the afternoon if they want a good night’s sleep.

Other sleep-hampering stimuli may be late TV watching and exciting reading.

Milk, cheese, nuts and liver contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which makes a person sleepy.

Preliminary results show that persons taking a dose of L-tryptophan before going to bed fall asleep more quickly and sleep longer.

A warm bath, or at least a warm footbath, before bedtime has a soothing effect.

Other suggested remedies for insomnia include such herbs as hops, heather, chamomile, passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and peppermint used in the evening tea.

In some cases doctors may prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time, but, as Family Health put it, sleep experts “are categorically against the use of any sleeping pill for an extended period of time.”

If you suffer from sleeplessness, why not try the simple ideas found in this article?

If they don’t work, see your doctor.

It may be that your insomnia is caused by a chronic physical problem of which you are unaware.

While it may be true that sleeplessness never killed anybody, it is equally true that, as a haggard victim of insomnia said:

“It can make you wish you were dead!”

So want to sleep better?

● Avoid sleeping pills.

● Sleep at regular times.

● Get physical exercise, and avoid sleeping during the daytime.

● Quit smoking.

● Avoid coffee, tea, cola drinks, cocoa, TV watching and exciting reading before bedtime.

● Take a warm bath, or at least a foot bath, before going to bed.

● Have a cup of soothing herb tea.

● Keep your bedroom well ventilated, with low temperature and rather high humidity.

● Don’t take your problems to bed with you. If you couldn’t solve them today, let them wait until tomorrow.