What You’ll Do: If you read, watch TV or even think in bed, you are telling your body that something other than sleep needs to be done. This is confusing. To retrain your body, send only one message each night: “It’s time to sleep.”
How It Works: Systems are built into your body to anticipate certain situations. For instance, if you see food, your body responds by getting “ready” to eat: You salivate, your pancreas releases insulin to aid digestion and you feel hungry. The same is true with sleep. Your body will respond to cues and begin to make the changes necessary for you to fall asleep. The most powerful cue you can give your body is lying down. When you read, watch TV or process your day in bed, you are reprogramming your body to do something besides sleep in bed. By eliminating those activities and going back to just sleeping in bed, you’ll learn to fall asleep fast.
Get Motivated: You will avoid staying up late watching TV, reading “just one more chapter” or going over your to-do list in your head. Instead you will simply fall asleep. Not only will this allow you to gain several hours of sleep each week, your sleep quality may improve because you are less stimulated as you fall asleep.
- Lie Down and Try to Sleep: It is really hard to fall asleep if you are not trying. By reading, watching TV or thinking about your day, you are deliberately trying to not fall asleep. Instead, wait until you are tired, lie down and try to sleep. If your mind needs something to do, count your breaths.
- Watch the Clock: If you are lying in bed for more than 15 or 20 minutes and not sleeping, get up. Even if you think you are about to fall asleep, get up anyway. The idea is that you need to retrain your body to fall asleep fast. You can only do this by not making it a possibility to linger in bed.
- Do Something Relaxing: Once you are out of bed, do something relaxing. Read a calm book, make lists of things (like countries, insects or spices) or doodle. Anything that is calming. Do not turn on bright lights. Do this activity until your become tired again. Do not turn on the TV or sit at a computer.
- Try Again: Once you are tired again, lie down again and try to fall asleep. Repeat the steps above. Your first night, you may have to get up three or four times. That’s okay. This will decrease with time. Just keep trying. Before you know it, you won’t have to get up at all.
- Keep all reading material and remote controls far from your bed. Do not be tempted by them.
- Make sure any lights that you turn on at night are dim. Bright light will stimulate you.
- Try not to nap during the day. If you absolutely have to nap, set an alarm to keep your nap less than 20 minutes. See these napping tips for how to get a great nap.
- Try not to think too much in bed. Your job is to sleep. Count your breaths and try to let go of your day. If you are having trouble, get up until you are ready to try again.
- Set up a place to go when you can’t sleep. Have a comfortable chair, a small light and a boring book or a pad of paper. Go there when you can’t sleep and just read, doodle or make meaningless lists. Stay there until you are ready to try again. After a few weeks, you won’t need to use this place anymore.
- Of course, sex is an approved bed activity that can help you sleep better.
If you already don’t read in bed or do anything else, try staying up late for a couple of days. Don’t go to bed until you are extremely tired and know you will fall asleep right away. Two or three days of sleep like this, combined with the steps outlined above, should really help your falling asleep skills.Remember, try this skill for a whole week before moving on. It is important that you master this skill in order to reach your goal.
Here is the whole program. Give each one a solid one-week try, and then come back and do the next one. If you want a reminder, sign up for the Fall Asleep Faster E-course. It is free and you'll short e-mail reminders each day to help keep you on track.