I think that the article is right that you need to stop this cycle before falling asleep. Meditation practice helps to stop your thought cycle by focusing on your breath. As soon as your focus shifts away to any new thought, and you recognize it at some point, then you try to refocus again on your breath.
However, meditation is done while being fully awake. You want to feel the mind stopping, being fully present in the moment.
I found a trick, that helped me to find sleep, even when having the hardest thought cycles. Lying on the back in the bed, I try to focus on my breath just like being in meditation. After a while I slow down my breath as much as I can. It does not take long and I'm fully asleep.
I use this trick everytime I have a hard time finding sleep. And it always worked for me. Its one of the most valuable tricks in the toolbox of my life.
I guess it might be related to my young childhood as I had parents who would almost always read to my brother and me at bedtime. So possibly there's a part of my brain that has associated falling asleep to the sound of a voice speaking.
10 minutes or less, guaranteed, every time.
It's almost like the old crock of "you only use 10% of your brain"... when I wake up, I'm on 10% mode, but programming thoughts spin up the whole engine.
You should be aware that this allows me to ignore and procrastinating on pressing issues which I should face head-on. But practicing meditation in the mornings helps with that.
Try watching a good show that doesn't require too much attention an hour or two before your bedtime. Putting your brain into a passive mode helps a lot. (Do not watch Game of Thrones or any complex/stimulating show or it probably won't help!)
I have trouble sleeping but it's unpredictable. It's not always, and it usually goes that way for period of time, then I don't have trouble for a period.
I usually don't lose my focus and drift off, instead it's like I'm listening carefully, then I instantly wake up the next morning. It's like a hard stop and I lose a chunk of progress in the book. I'll do anything to fall asleep so I don't mind that.
I've tried it all, I can lay in bed and think about nothing for hours, I'm pretty good at it, and have been doing it for a long time. It's not enough to just 'not have thoughts'.
Also, I never remember my dreams. I can still remember 2-3 nightmares I have had over the years. They are very rare. Never dreams though.
And youtube is awesome with it's 6 hour meditation music: to help you do meditation.
I already have sleeping problems before, as I like to be occupied with something before going to bed at 11 or 12 pm. Normally, I would either program, write a blog or a chapter, or read an interesting book that I have been putting off for a while. My problem then was sleeping for only 6 hours, and I wanted to sleep 7.5 ~ 8 hours.
So I decided to switch it, by sleeping earlier (8 am) and doing these other things after I wake up at 4 am. This only worsened, as now I am having issues falling asleep. Tricks that I tried that worked only initially were counting, listening to music, having a hot shower, meditation, etc.
The first time I tried counting, I fell asleep before the count of 10, but on the second night, I was still awake past 30 and getting worried as it getting higher and higher and I am not asleep yet. So I changed it on the third night by repeating "one" until I fall asleep. That worked, but the following night, it was not as effective, as my thoughts just drifted on what happened during the day.
I've tried listening to music. Norah Jones' songs really worked for me for a few nights, but afterwards, the songs became a distraction, as I am now just listening to them and waiting for sleep to fall for hours.
I've tried to clear my head of racing thoughts, but after the thoughts are gone, I hear something like bubbles popping inside my head, which carry on endlessly and keeps me awake. Same with taking hot showers.
Later on I learned that my sleep problems is due to timing, since starting sleep at 8pm is within the "forbidden zone". It also does not help that my gym time is from 5 PM to 7 PM and have dinner afterwards.
I've move my bed time to 9 ~ 10 PM but my sleeping problems persisted. I think it has now become akin to performance anxiety.
I've tried 4-7-8 technique last night, but I find myself gasping for breath trying to hold it for 7 counts, plus the swooshing sound on 8 counts is too distracting when I exhale.
I am still looking for a technique that will work every time. I think I should have a log of my sleeping habits and what worked and what didn't and what things I did preceding the sleep. I'm considering purchasing a sleep tracker like Dreem just to automate sleep quality logging, and see if I could come up with something that works for me.
So next time you can't fall asleep, take off the blankets, make sure your room is cold, and then get really, uncomfortably cold, and stay that way for at least 15 minutes. Then, and this is key, cover your whole body only with your sheet, and then pull the blanket just over your legs. You'll warm up and fall asleep. If you pull the blanket all over yourself and "mummify", then you'll risk getting too warm, which will wake you right up again.
I'm sure this doesn't work for everyone, but I think many people get too warm and comfortable, and that will keep you awake.
Get cold, warm up, and snooze!
The cold water grabs the brain's attention. So the brain doesn't let the mind latch onto thoughts... energy contracts rather than scatters
One is to really tense up and to fight the feelings of cold. I don't think this is too beneficial. The other is to really relax and embrace the cold. Taking deep breaths and focusing the mind inwards allows you to accept the cold for what it is. It takes a little practice, but once you are in that zone the shower becomes rejuvenating and relaxing at the same time and really helps shake off the day and get me in the zone for sleep.
Many places I have lived would be very expensive to keep under 68 all night.
If you're concerned about energy usage, it's by far more important to tolerate higher temps during the day than during the night. Conversely, in the winter, you can afford to warm your house up a little more during the day, but if you want to sip energy, you need to set the lowest acceptable temperature at night.
You can optimize this further by putting a minisplit or a window unit in your bedroom. If your bedroom is small compared to your dwelling, you can save some serious energy this way. Generally speaking, the cost of climate control will scale in the surface area of the climate controlled volume, and obviously a single bedroom has much lower surface area with the environment than the whole house. This is also why it takes so much less energy to control the climate of a given apartment unit than a house of the same square footage.
I remember reading in A study that feet warming up was the factor best correlates to falling asleep (I remember it from only a few years ago, maybe it was a follow-up to this 1999 study? )
I ride a bicycle. That fixed my blood circulation, so I don't get cold feet.
I also read the Bible and pray. It's very easy to fall asleep in church on a hard wooden pew. The same approach works at bedtime.
Sleeping less once a week (CouchSurfing meetup from 9 pm to 1 am on Wednesdays) builds sleep debt. That increases my emotional extremes, but the prayer handles the low points, so I end up happier. It also makes me pretty tired, so I'm able to sleep more easily on Thursday & Friday.
The music is awesome. I sometimes get hypnogogia. I can imagine the music and then, as I get closer to sleep, I actually hear the music.
If I don't imagine music and I get hypnogogia, I'll hear people chatting next to me. That was quite scary before I understood what was going on.
If I don't get hypnogogia, I'll start imagining odd scenarios. Sometimes I'll recognise that it's a sign I'm about to drift off and then bang I'm awake.
From what I've read, this comes from straddling wakefulness and light sleep phase.
I believe Thomas Edison and others took advantage of the creative power. He drifted whilst holding a ball bearing above a plate so when he went, the ball would clatter on the plate. He'd wake up and note everything down.
Me, I just wanna sleep. I struggle as it is and I cannot nap. The idea of purposefully preventing sleep sounds like torture.
It's been somewhat impotently translated as "slumber" - but it's more akin to what gp describe. I'm sure many native American languages have similar concept.
Don't think you have to worry. I haven't had any issues with my mental health for 8 years, beyond maybe periods of high work stress, and it's appeared at night often since then.
> If I don't get hypnogogia, I'll start imagining odd scenarios. Sometimes I'll recognise that it's a sign I'm about to drift off and then bang I'm awake.
Almost like lucid dreaming, but when I'm only half-asleep, and becoming lucid wakes me up.
(1) Seems like sometimes dreams /can/ be logical
I woke and my light was on. I remembered that I'd definitely turned my light off - hey, this must be a lucid dream! So I looked at my hand for a few seconds and everything turned to white. Then I woke up, pitch black with my arms under the covers. The excitement of lucid dreaming woke me up!
What is your writing schedule now?
I wake up during the night around one a.m. I write half-awake in a semi-conscious state. Progressively, as I drink coffee, I become more conscious. And I write until I’m sick of it.
Edit: Search for the sentence "In this posture, you must hold a heavy key which you will keep suspended, delicately pressed between the extremities of the thumb and forefinger of your left hand." and look at the google book result, you can read the page 36.
I've never used drugs, but this is how I imagine hallucinogens to be...
I think a couple of things contributed to this weird state that I've never been able to reproduce again:
* This happened soon after my family relocated to the other side of the world and my sleep schedule was still a bit messed up.
* I was a teenager and at the time was going through a phase of interest in lucid dreaming, so I'd been keeping a dream journal and got to the point where I had really good dream recall. I think it also helped me stay conscious closer to the boundary between sleep and wakefulness (eg as opposed to just blacking out into sleep I would remain conscious during more of that transition process)
* I had been practising taking mid-day naps because I read that those might be the best time to induce a lucid dream. I wasn't trying to do this when this happened, but it _was_ somewhere around mid-day and I _was_ in bed, maybe my body just decided it was time for a nap and entered that state between sleep and wakefulness.
I wish I could make it happen again, but I've never been successful with inducing this.
Same here. But there are some things that help me getting into this state: Dont be hungry, dont be thirsty, ensure to use the restroom beforehand -- basically, get rid of nagging distractions so you can focus on just mental state. Then work on getting to the edge of sleep. It happens to me sometimes on the subway if I'm coming home late or on a bus trip where i've starved myself of sleep beforehand (usually in the winter, cozy in a overcoat.)
Not sure if you meant for this to be funny, but I laughed out loud at this because i do the exact same thing. I too can fall asleep within two minutes anytime, anywhere, while "working" on my "novel".
The trick is to never go to sleep with the actual intent of going to sleep. You go to sleep with the mentality of finally, some time for myself to just lie here and work on this project in my head. I work on fleshing out my little fantasy/sci-fi world or solving problems related to my pet programming project. I drift off seamlessly within minutes.
Attempting too hard to sleep is self-defeating; ironically, the stress of actively trying to sleep will prevent you from doing just that.
f.lux et al reduce the amount of time necessary to be away from the screen, but don't eliminate it. The only screen that's "safe" for me is a small black AMOLED screen (aka no backlight) with dim text.
With obstructive sleep apnea, you too can fall asleep in those stressful situations like driving, in the middle of a fire drill at your desk, and while attending an important work presentation!
(On the serious, I have an appointment to get a CPAP tomorrow and in the meantime I sleep sitting up with my feet elevated and avoid most of the ill effects, but it's only a short term solution because it must be weighted against the possibility of a DVT or other blood clot.)
Make sure they give you one of the newer machines that has an SD card in it. And it must be an APAP machine, not CPAP. The APAP continuously adjusts air pressure to match your current needs.
The SD card records details of every breath you take. You then plug that info into SleepyHead software and see what's happening to your body.
This is important, because in general the insurance companies only care that you use your machine 4+ hrs per night. They are happy if your AHI (a measure of how bad your apnea is) is below 5. But that still means you are having 5 serious events per hour. Which is bad, unless you're an insurance company.
Go to cpaptalk.com and apneaboard.com and learn how to interpret your SleepyHead data and fine tune your machine to get your AHI down to 0. Works for many younger people. Old folks tend to have other medical issues that keep them from getting full benefit from CPAP. Even they can still be helped; e.g. there are more sophisticated machines that will even help people breathe in and out if their body/brain can no longer do it automatically.
Here is a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_airway_pressure
Oh and your insurance (if you live in a country that has it) may require specific amounts of usage in the first month. Be very aware of that, it's easy to be "non-compliant" because you took it off in the middle of the night.
The main things I notice now... I used to be able to sleep 12 hours a night easy and wake up tired, now I can hardly sleep more than 8 hours and function completely fine on 6 hours. I can drive for more than 2 hours without having to pull over and take a nap. I don’t feel like I’m about to doze off at work regularly. My productivity has overall increased, but it was a gradual change that I don’t notice unless I think back to my productivity in the past.
If I lapse on usage, I find myself unable to really feel like I'm working at 100% efficiency. It takes a few weeks of nightly use before I feel good again.
You may not feel a night and day difference. It can be subtle, but things like not needing multiple naps a day can really make a difference to your quality of life.
If your SO says you snore, or choke and stop breathing, PAY ATTENTION. Get a sleep study!
Get it, the difference is huge. Be aware that it's one of those things that's like 10 good things and 8 bad things; but the good outweighs the bad.
Sometime over the last few years I started to notice I was moments away from falling asleep because my stream of consciousness would become nonsensical. I then discovered I could fall asleep faster by purposefully daydreaming nonsensical sceneries.
It feels almost like my body thinks it's about to die, so it does a desperate hail mary to stay alive, or something. Very unsettling.
Does anyone know what this might be about?
The first is more of a mental, physically still thing. The other is, for me, a sudden motion of a large body part, usually linked to dreaming about falling off something. More importantly, the latter is emotionally neutral. I wake up going "oh, I didn't really fall. It was just a dream."
When the former happens, it is very emotionally uncomfortable. It's a feeling of pure dread, but sort of wrapped in cotton.
By this time it's too late to just let it happen, and I'll have wasted a 'chance' to fall asleep so to speak.
I close my eyes, and start trying to hear instruments. I start with the bass drum, add some hi-hats. It’s difficult at first, but as my mind drifts off, other instruments start appearing, and I hear a voice singing, a melody. Songs I’ve never heard before.
I do this every night now, and I drift off nearly right away. Sometimes I’m jolted by the complexity of the songs, and return to reality to check if I’m not just hearing music coming from my neighbour.
The History of English podcast is my favorite for that. It’s the entire history of English from Indo-European onwards. It’s 100+ hours of readings from old English poetry or medieval monastic rule books interspersed with word etymologies (Did you know that ‘green’ and ‘grow’ and ‘grass’ are all from the same root word?). Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely fascinating but I challenge anyone to stay awake longer than three minutes listening to it in bed.
You get to learn thing like the connections between father/pater/vader and brother/frater/bruder (f/p, th/t/d, b/f), the reason many plurals with 'f' become 'v' (elf/elves, wolf/wolves, half/halves), why 'x' at the beginning of the word sounds like 'z' but in the middle of a word like 'ks'. Or how some languages have more than singular/plural 
Unexpected word connection: 'c' in Latin/Spanish to 'h' in English: century/hundred, cornu/horn, casa/house, caliente/hot
Unexpected word connection: 'w' in German-to-English words and 'g' in French-to-English words: warranty/guarantee, warden/guardian (also seen in English/French: William/Guillome, war/guerre)
The first is to play the 'unrelated words' game, where you think of a word as completely unrelated to the last word as possible.
The second is to count up and work out whether the current number is prime.
Both occupy the mind while minimizing stress, allowing the body to relax into sleep.
I'm definitely going to try the techniques in the article though.
This also made me think of Feynman's sleep experiments:
i have always considered my technique to be so weird and awkward that i have never discussed it with anyone. but now i see, from reading the comments here, that other people have similar techniques. who knew.
... to be able to imagine wild scenarios.
I'm guessing you're a fantasy writer...
If not, I've never seen a more obvious sign..
Getting stressful thoughts off my mind is important. But just trying to stop thinking about whatever is worrying me doesn't work because my mind doesn't like to sit there doing nothing, so it looks for something to fill the time with. And the easy choice is whatever issues or problems I've been struggling with lately.
But if I do a mundane task, my brain has something to work on, and it doesn't go looking for things to occupying itself, which means the risk of thinking about something stressful is much less.
Personally I use a crossword puzzle app on my phone. It requires my full attention to think through different words, and the clues give sufficient fodder that I can have some harmless, non-stressful mental tangents. And the thought of leaving a crossword puzzle and coming back later doesn't bother me, unlike say quitting a game of chess in the middle would.
Maybe there's a kind of thinking you like to do that's 'routine' and irrelevant to daily stresses?
I don't particularly have any bedtime rituals, but I often have a cup of caffeinated black tea right before bed. I don't know whether my ability to sleep at the drop of a hat is physiological or psychological. I'd be interested to figure it out... once I fix the 831 unit tests I just broke by upgrading all the nuget packages in this solution XD
I'm 31. My mom said... even when I was a baby, she would lay me down at 10:00pm, I'd fall asleep almost immediately and wake up at 6:00am like clockwork.
On the ultra-rare occasions I don't fall asleep...
Instead of trying to relaaax... first I tense the muscles, then relax.
The contrast is key. Tension, release.
It's almost like sticking your hand in bucket of room temp water.
If you would've stuck your hand in an ice bucket for 5 seconds, THEN put your hand in the room temp... different feeling.
In particular, the part in the OP where you "picture yourself being on lake, etc" looks to me as completely anti-meditation.
The trick is that I do it laying down instead of a more conventional meditation position.
see http://marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations "Body Scan for Sleep" for example
As one makes progress in their practice they will find that their body and mind will start experiencing deeper rest for the same or lesser amount of sleep.
Some of the relaxation methods can be done upon waking up too -- gets rid of grogginess.
To backtrack a bit, I've been having decent success with meditating to fall asleep. Namely, the basic technique is to simply focus on my breath -- specifically, on the very point at which I can feel my breath entering and exiting my nostrils (or wherever the outermost point of my body is that I can feel my breath going in and out of), and whenever I notice my attention drifts away from my breath to just gently, without reproach, to focus it back on my breath again.
That technique usually worked for me, if I wasn't too agitated. The problem was that sometimes I'd have thoughts really rushing through my mind when I tried to fall asleep, and then even meditating like that wasn't enough. I analyzed what was going on and decided that just focusing on my breath was too monotonous, and gave me too much time for my mind to drift away to thinking about other things. What I needed was a better way to keep my mind busy with something monotonous, but not too monotonous.
So I came up with a small modification which has worked better. It's basically the same as above, except on every other breath, instead of focusing on the breath, I'd focus on whatever sensation in my body that's most noticeable.
For instance, I might feel a lot of pressure on a body part that I'm lying on, like a certain part of my left arm or something. So every other breath, I'd focus on that. Whatever that is that is most noticeable might change from time to time, so I'd just go with whatever it happens to be. And every other breath, I'd focus on the sensation of my breath as usual. So effectively, I'd be alternating from focusing on my breath on one breath, and on the next on whatever sensation in my body was most noticeable, and then back to my breath.
Wearing earplugs and a night mask (blindfold) helps too.
I figured out a nice trick to fix this. I close my eyes and visualize myself in an absurd, impossible fantasy scenario. It's amazing how quickly you will let dream consciousness kick in, when you subconsciously know you're giving it a job it's actually good at.
I have the opposite problem, I can just fall asleep pretty much anywhere and in any position. Just had a triple espresso or four cold brews, no problem.
I frequently take “desk naps” throughout the day. I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes and lay my head down on my wrist rest. I fall asleep in less than a minute.
Does anyone know if there is a name for that? I generally refer to it as controllable narcolepsy or “luck”.
In movies and such narcolepsy is often portrayed as uncontrollably falling asleep mid-activity. Turns out that's not actually narcolepsy but a specific form of cataplexy. They are often present together, but are distinct. My son, for example, has very strong narcolepsy but relatively mild cataplexy.
I’m not familiar beyond the movie tropes (that I now know are misrepresentations).
Are there complications or other serious things that it can lead to?
Are people with narcolepsy generally deep sleepers?
My son, when not on meds, is always very tired, debilitating so. It's life dominating. He can sleep 12 hours, have breakfast, and sleep a few more hours, etc. It's not just a matter of being able to sleep or wanting to sleep, he feels exhausted roughly 20 of 24 hours a day. He would not wake up in 15 mins because a timer went off.
I, on the other hand, am rarely physically tired, even when I've not got a lot of sleep.
So, it may be that you are just more on the tired end of the spectrum. If your tiredness and ability to fall asleep quickly has more than a casual negative effect on your life, it may be something to talk to your doctor about.
It can sometimes get worse over time, but I don't know of major complications other than those directly caused by the sleep trouble and AFAIK treatment is entirely symptom based at this point. Medical treatments for sleep disorders are generally not that good (but in some cases better than nothing).
Ideopathic hypersomnia or other hypersomnias might cause your symptoms also (maybe more likely if you are a deep sleeper). Antihistamine use might also make that easier (even second generation antihistamines affect some people that way and some random medications are also antihistamine). Or it could just be luck as you say that you are able to do that :). Unless there is more than what you mention, it sounds like an entirely good thing at this point and hopefully if so it will stay that way. I've heard some people with that ability call it a superpower and as someone who has trouble getting to sleep it certainly sounds like one to me.
The rare diseases summary of narcolepsy notes:
"However, because narcolepsy often goes unrecognized or misdiagnosed, determining its true frequency in the general population is difficult.
The onset of narcolepsy can occur anytime between early childhood and 50 years of age. Two peak time periods have been identified; one around 15 years of age and another around 36 years of age. Some researchers believe that narcolepsy is under-diagnosed in children. Narcolepsy tends to remain a lifelong condition. Although the nature and severity of symptoms experienced by an affected person may varying over time, the disorder is not progressive."
Edit: As someone mentions above, sleep apnea can also cause this and can be treated.
I wonder, though, since you particularly mentioned "desk naps": Does focussing on your work exhaust you to the point of sleepiness?
I originally started doing it to try to take my mind off the problem to not overthink it. But then I’d find that I’d slept for an hour or so. Thus the timer.
I have no trouble being awake and activity 18-19 hours a day, but unless I'm trying to keep going, around hour 18, I naturally do what Mr Winter describes. It's lights out for 5-6 hours.
However, I'm told that I'm a frequent sleep talker and have a habit of standing up, surveying the room, and then lying back down (of which I have no recollection).
As well it's come to my attention (partly from those who happen to live with me) that my body seems to "cycle" different sensory groups on and off. The talking and standing being part of it, but I've also noticed external sounds influencing my dreams, many of which border on lucidity.
I assume this is abnormal (would like to hear otherwise), probably stemming from some deep seated need to be in constant control, but I quite enjoy being able to actively think and remember during my sleep cycle.
Which is a contrast to when I was younger and would have trouble falling asleep and had to actively drill more or less what Mr Winter taught, to no avail. Counting sheep just led to an internal Wikipedia dive into sheep and sheep related topics.
The relaxation ideas here, of course, come from Indian yoga techniques, but maybe they didn't mention the history of it when teaching it. Now that would be a selling point, ha!
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
For me, it does not work immediately, but it makes me fall asleep much faster. AFAIK this works by calming the sympathetic nervous system, just like meditation would. A downside I‘ve experienced is that sometimes I‘m very cold for a while after waking up.
I'm very good at getting a good night's sleep, though. I fall asleep within a minute of my head hitting the pillow. The key for me is to go to bed at a consistent time (plus or minus 30 minutes or so) every night, get 8 hours consistently, limit light exposure before bed, eliminate caffeine entirely, and generally adopt a stress-free mental attitude. I can deviate slightly from this, but if I deviate too much I start having sleep issues.
As a result I consistently wake up without an alarm at the same time every day (plus or minus 30 minutes) feeling refreshed.
Learning something new of a physical nature (new sport or physical game). That helps. I can see my mind wander and drift quickly.
You just have to let go of mind concentration and you'll drift off. Now if I can figure out how to FORCE the drift then I'll be good.
When I can't sleep - my mind is stuck on one thing or another. Like the brain isn't lubricated.
Sometimes low level pain just perceptible (normally not enough to warrant a pill) enough to keep you awake.
Delayed onset muscle soreness can keep me up as well - but not exercising can keep me up too.
The next thing I do is search for patterns in the blackness behind my closed eyes. Once I find myself following random images into whatever they become I know sleep is imminent.
Finally, I discovered that mimicking REM by moving my eyes back and forth usually makes sleep come on even faster.
An added benefit is that 8 hours later, I have to pee so bad that it forces me to get out of bed. It's a sleeping aid and an alarm clock all in one.
I just close my eyes and think "sleep, sleep, etc". Slowly and methodically to take away other thoughts. It doesn't work 100% for me. Maybe I will try to add the physical relaxation.
Sexual activity also triggers hormonal activities related to sleep. Or, to quote someone: "Sure there may be a certain outcome, but that's not why we do it"
Both techniques require months of practice to get right.
This way my brain associates the bed with sleep and nothing else.
Your second likely drew downvotes because it's explicitly against the site guidelines.
> "Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading."
FWIW, at least from its text color, it looks like the initial comment is non-negative. In my experience, things like this often balance out.
You started with a sarcastic comment that was irrelevant to the topic at hand, then complained abusively when just one person signalled their disapproval with a downvote, then when a helpful commenter politely explained why you were downvoted, your response was to abuse the entire community. In this instance at least, nobody's conduct has been close to being as destructive as your own.
Please, if we want this place to be better, the first step is to take responsibility for being good citizens ourselves.