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The Rules of Healthy Sleep

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How to fall asleep quickly
Tips on falling asleep and healthy sleep without waking up

Do you just roll in bed night after night trying to fall asleep? Do you easily wake up in the night and not go back to sleep? Then these proven rules of healthy sleep are for you.

Before going to bed, do not stimulate your organism


Five hours before going to bed do not drink coffee, black or green tea, cola, energy drinks or alcohol and do not smoke. Intense physical strain during the day is an excellent thing but it should end at least three hours before going to sleep. Otherwise the body is "in high gear" and active. Good "pro-sleep" drinks are: hot milk with honey and lemon balm tea or other herbal teas with a calming effect.

Objection: But isn't alcohol a depressant?

Answer: Yes, at first alcohol slows down bodily functions but then it activates them. That is why, as a result, sleep is not effective and when you wake up (which sometimes comes too early) you do not feel relaxed.

The S&S bedroom rule


The bed is only for two s-things – sex and sleep. Any other activities are undesirable. Extremely inadvisable ones are planning, dealing with problems, arguments and fights with the partner, watching thrilling things on TV, working on the laptop and using the cell phone.

Objection: What about reading? Many people like to read in bed.

Answer: It's the same as if a person suffering from allergies complains that other people can eat nuts and he can't. If someone sleeps well, let them spread bills and eviction notices all over the bed. You, you take your book and sit in your favorite armchair, cozy under a blanket.
The human brain is based on creating nerve connections: a pear > a sweet taste, a fly in your face > wave it away etc. You need to create a firm nerve connection in your head – bed > sleep, which can only happen if the bed is where you (besides sex) sleep only. If you succeed, your brain will automatically start the process of falling asleep with after you've gone to bed.

Nice and cosy in the tummy


Before going to bed, you should feel comfort in your digestive system. Feeling stuffed after a heavy meal or after a huge dinner is as unfavorable as feeling hungry. Eat heavy meals in the first half of the day. And feel free to have something light an hour before bed so you're not bothered by hunger.

Objection: I never eat after 5 PM, I have to lose weight.

Answer: This rule is very militant. But if you don't feel hungry before going to sleep, it's alright. If you do feel hungry, sacrifice a few calories for the sake of a good night's sleep. If you feel good and relaxed in the morning, it won't even occur to you that starving in the evening could have made you weigh 10 grammes less.

Warm feet


It's hard to fall asleep with your feet cold. If you suffer from cold feet, make sure you warm them up before going to bed.

Objection: But wearing socks doesn't help me, my feet are cold nonetheless.

Answer: Solution 1: Bring a bucket full of hot water and a towel. Sit on the bed, put your feet in the bucket and let them warm up. Then dry them up with the towel, tuck yourself up under the blanket. Put the bucket aside, you can pour the water out in the morning.
Solution 2: Fill a plastic bottle with very hot water and make sure you tighten the cap firmly. Put on socks (without them it's too hot), go to bed and put the bottle to your feet. You will find it kicked away somewhere in the morning.

Pleasant environment


When falling asleep, you should feel good. To achieve that, the air should be fresh and the temperature below 20 centigrade. The atmosphere can be improved with a soothing lavender pouch or other dried herbs.

Objection: I get disturbed by my neighbors' TV and the snoring of my husband.

Answer: Faint sounds like the common noise from other apartments or from the road can be easily resolved by playing light music. Play something pleasant and peaceful or a special relaxation recording (melody, sounds of the ocean or the forest etc.) The partner's snoring can be dealt with in two ways: 1) By a doctor, who can find out why the partner snores and help them get rid of it. The likelihood of that happening is not very high but you can try. 2) By you. Sleep in separate rooms. You will probably have to agree on sex in advance because it will not result spontaneously from the partner being near you, but in other aspects such an arrangement has many advantages.

Either napping throughout the day or sleeping at night


On one TV show a tomcat said: 'I gotta have a nap now (at midday) in order to have enough strength for the main sleep of the day.' This may work for cats but us people we are different. If we take a nap in the afternoon because we are tired, it takes us too long to fall asleep in the evening, we don't get enough sleep, we are tired the next day and then we need a nap in the afternoon... and the vicious spiral of sleepless nights never ends. For people suffering from insomnia, who are otherwise healthy, napping during the day is a serious transgression.

Objection: But I get so tired I can't do anything else anyway.

Answer: Tiredness can be averted. If you find yourself heading for the sofa, try going to the bathroom instead and wash your face with cold water. Then find something to occupy yourself with – go do something, get on the move, call someone. You need to overcome the first moments and the tiredness will go away. If it comes back, rinse and repeat the whole process. Your brain will soon learn that it's supposed to sleep at night – as we'll see in a minute.

Regular cycle


Sleeping and waking are processes that under normal circumstances occur regularly. The day of an insomniac is irregular. The sleep cycle will adapt to the daily routine: it's important to get up at the same time every day regardless of when you went to sleep. In one or two weeks the cells in your brain will understand. They will know what time it is important for you to fall asleep and they will make sure that you feel sleepy at a particular time. It is then that you will have no trouble falling asleep.

Objection: Does that mean that I can't sleep in, not even on weekends?

Answer: The cycle of sleeping and waking does not know the word 'weekend'. For this cycle, every day is 24 hours and in those 24 hours there is sleeping and waking. Do you want your brain to develop a healthy habit of falling asleep easily and having a quality sleep? Then give your brain cells good input (a regular daily routine) and let them work.

Clock facing the wall


If there is a clock in your bedroom that does not serve as an alarm clock, banish it from the room completely. If it's an alarm clock, turn it so it faces the wall, if it's a cell phone, turn it face down. While falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, never check what time it is. Knowing the time does not have a positive effect at all. After a period of sleep that was too short it is better not to know how long you have been sleeping. You will feel better because there will be none of the automatic mechanisms telling you things like 'if you've only slept for three hours, you won't be able to do anything all day and you'll be nervous'. If you don't know what time it is, you can always think that you've slept longer than you really have.

Objection: But I have to know what time it is.

Answer: No, you don't. You only HAVE to do very few things – breathe (which is natural) and treat yourself and those close to you decently. Everything else is just you wanting. Checking the time is your voluntary decision. If you are afraid to make this change, just give it a trial run – use the SEVEN-TIME rule. You can make it through seven nights with the clock facing the wall and after these seven days (not sooner) you can re-evaluate whether you want to continue doing it or not.

Think nice


Falling asleep and sleeping itself is supposed to be relaxing, so forget unfinished matters and disturbing thoughts. You can deal with those the next day. If you're going to sleep, you are only interested in resting. Enjoy the fact that you are lying down. Assume a comfortable position and close your eyes. Let soothing thoughts and images flow freely. If you get any unpleasant thoughts, try to direct your attention (again and again, should they return) towards something nice. For example, you can imagine you are going somewhere. Most people fall asleep after a short time on such a 'trip'. Another option is obtaining some relaxing recordings that are aimed either directly at falling asleep or autogenic training, for example.

Objection: If it takes me too long to fall asleep I'm irritated at the thought that I will not be rested in the morning again.

Answer: Irritation doesn't go together with falling asleep any better than an antelope with a submarine. If you can't fall asleep for a long time, you will be tired in the morning no matter if you feel irritated or not. If you start feeling such irritation, tell yourself: "I would like to sleep but I don't need to. If I just lie like this with my eyes closed, it's about as good as if I were sleeping." And again: "I would like to sleep but I don't need to. If I just lie like this with my eyes closed, it's about as good as if I were sleeping." Repeat this in your mind over and over. This will prevent unpleasant thoughts, and the formula will soon 'burn itself' in your head and will work for your good.

Don't look


Sleeping is connected with the production of the hormone melatonin in the pineal gland and melatonin is best produced in the dark, or more accurately, when the retina is in the dark. If you wake up in the night and turn on the light to check the time or to go to the bathroom, the production of melatonin will stop for a long time. This may make it harder for you to go back to sleep and have other negative impact on your body, because melatonin plays an important part in the cell regeneration process and in the prevention of malignant diseases. The recommendation is clear, then: when falling asleep and waking up in the night, do not turn on the light.

Objection: But how am I supposed to go to the bathroom when it's dark?

You can learn how to or you can go around this. The prohibition of light does not need to be absolute. The production of melatonin is stopped by blue light with the wavelength of 460 to 480 nm. If you manage to find a light source that does not emit this light, problem solved. Another option is using special goggles with a filter blocking this blue light.

Fresh in the morning


If you feel like someone who's just stepped off a banana boat in the morning (imagine how they must feel), enlightenment will help. In this case we do not mean spiritual enlightenment (although it would help in other aspects too). Expose your face to a strong light source for a few minutes. Sunlight is best but any stronger artificial light will do, too – a lamp, a strip light in the kitchen etc. Keep your eyes open but, to protect them, do not look directly into the source of light. This procedure is called 'phototherapy' and is also used in treating depressions.

Objection: But I get up at the last moment and don't have time for such things.

Answer: If the inquirer is less than 10 years old: Maybe getting out of bed five minutes earlier wouldn't kill you. If the inquirer is older: ... ... ... Well, the grey cells can't think of a publishable answer. You know what they say: Those who want find a way, the others find an excuse.

 

Second to last objection: I've been trying to do everything I'm supposed to do for three days already but nothing has improved.

Answer: If you're hammering in a nail, you need to hit it more than once or twice. Any change, any new habit is developed through repeated effort, so hang on. In one or two weeks you may observe a considerable improvement.

The strongest final objection: It's not in anyone's power to manage to keep all these rules...

Answer: What good is this way of thinking if you want to get rid of your insomnia? Wouldn't it be better to focus on those things that are in one's (= your) power? This kind of objection is a typical reaction of human psyche which actually does not like changes, because any change requires energy (and causes stress) and we are naturally programmed to save energy (and avoid stress).
Start with one rule that you can follow.

Think of this example: If someone is weak after an illness, the doctor will recommend this: 'Do not go out and mix with people, wash your hands carefully and have a lot of rest.' If it was just a common flu, someone who doesn't care very much about these things will ignore the second and third recommendation completely and will only follow the first one by drinking vodka as a disinfectant when visiting their hawking relatives. If it was a serious case of pneumonia, the memory of the suffering you had to go though will make you follow two of the three recommendations. If it was a heart transplant, the three recommendations will be the easiest things in the world.

The more serious your insomnia, the more strictly you need to follow the rules of healthy sleep.

And once more: Those who want find a way, the others find an excuse.


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