Now you know.
Count sheep, take a long warm bath before bed, don’t have heavy meals before going to sleep are all great bits of advice that can help anyone who has sleep-related issues. However, there are less common and far more effective therapies that may help many with sleep problems.
Humans normally sleep 8 hours consecutively, but it hasn’t always been this way. Humans used to take 2 hour or 20-minute naps and distributed those 8 hours into small chunks instead. This is known as polyphasic sleep. It can help boost productivity on those intense days and isn’t recommended as a lifestyle. There are three types of polyphasic sleeping: 1) Everyman sleep, a long sleep time of around 3 hours with approximately three 20-minute naps throughout the day; 2) Uberman sleep, 3 hours of sleep per day in the form of six 30 minute naps throughout the day; and 3) Dymaxion, 2 hours of sleep per day, in the form of 30 minute naps every 6 hours.
A strange yet seemingly effective way to fall asleep is to trick your mind into believing that if you don’t fall asleep soon, something terrible will happen. However, these thoughts can cause anxiety. Thought challenging is questioning, “how many times have these awful things happened because I didn’t sleep?” The probability is that the answer is zero. Taking this into consideration when having superstitious thoughts at night reduces irrational thoughts.
Recommended for people that suffer from insomnia, the paradoxical intention is a cognitive technique that consists of persuading someone into engaging in their most feared behaviour. This therapy is based on the idea that performance anxiety actually inhibits sleep. Paradoxically, if someone stops trying to fall asleep and instead stays awake for as long as possible, performance anxiety will diminish; and sleep will most likely occur more easily. According to Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, “This is a technique used for people who are very worried about not sleeping. If you need to obsess about something, don’t obsess about trying to be asleep. Instead, obsess about trying to stay awake.”
Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over involuntary bodily functions. It needs to be done professionally; a sleep specialist connects a device to a person and gains access to biological signals, such as heart rate, brain waves and breathing patterns. With this data, people can train themselves slow some of these signals down and use these skills at bedtime.
Some people tend to do many things in bed like to read or watch tv. However, using your bed as a stimulus for only sleeping can make your mind and body associate that mattress with sleep. By doing stimulating actions outside your body, and on a sofa for several weeks, you’ll train your mind into sleeping when on your bed. As part of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), it targets thoughts and behaviours for better sleep quality.
Another CBT-I method, it limits the amount of time they spend in bed not sleeping. It’s very much related to the stimulus control method, but differs in the hours you stay in bed after you wake up. Today, staying a couple hours in bed checking your phone is a commonality. However, it’s also the main cause of why people have poor sleep quality or don’t feel as refreshed after waking up. Reducing the time in bed may cause a person to feel more tired than usual at first, but this will cause the person to fall asleep easier the next day. This method is usually recommended by and overseen by a doctor.
By re-training your mind to stay present and calm at the moment, mindfulness meditation changes the physical structure of your brain, creating long-lasting changes and positive, healthy habits. Try sitting on a sofa or on the floor, focus on your breath and relaxing through visual, sound or smell stimuli, and prepare your mind and body to rest. It’s a known method for people who suffer from insomnia and is recommended by many doctors.
Now that you know more about these therapies, mention them to your doctor next time you feel you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, and figure out which one works better for you.