In this episode we relax around the fireplace in a cozy mountain cabin. But before that I talk about sleep - why we sleep at all, why we often wake up during the night, and how to get a good night's sleep.
Listen to the podcast here:
Soothing Science- episode 2- cozy cabin scene
Sleep is all about cleaning your brain while still being able to deal with sabre- toothed tigers. It's a pretty impressive trick, but ultimately a compromise between the deep sleep we need to restore our energies, and the alertness we need to not get eaten by our cats during the night. If you are interested, the hard science is here - Dr Nedergaard's and Xie's work on the glymphatic system; and here - an article about Dr Ekirch's work about the first and second sleep.
And here are my hints for a good night's sleep:
1) Get up at the same time each day, no matter how badly you have slept.
2) Get bright sunlight and exercise as soon as you get up.
3) Have little or no caffeine or other stimulants, particularly in the afternoon.
4) If you must nap in the day, no more than 20 minutes timed by a clock.
5) Have a wind down routine before bed.
6) Don't look at screens in the hour or so before bed and keep the lights dim.
7) Only sleep or make love in bed - don't read, watch TV, eat, play hockey.
8) Learn to switch off - meditation will help with this.
9) Keep your bedroom properly dark - no screens, no little lights.
10) Limit your time in bed - going to bed early in the hope of getting more sleep never works.
11) If you wake through the night, and don't fall asleep again quickly, get up.
12) If you do get up in the night do something quietly engaging - colouring in, knitting, something that quietens your thoughts but does not overly stimulate the mind. Allow yourself to cool. Go back to bed after 30-40 mins.
13) Set aside time in the day for active problem solving - where you really try to solve your problems - so that they dont pointlessly occupy you at night.
14) Don't use alcohol or medicine to help you sleep- it never works well in the long run.
Now hopefully you won't go to sleep during the relaxation exercise - it is designed to sooth the conscious mind, not the sleeping one.
Here is a picture of the fireplace I was thinking of in the New England National Park. That's where the photo at the top of the page was taken too.
Acknowledgements to Dr Pete Miles, as I recorded the fire sounds and frogs at his place, and to kangaroovindaloo at the free sounds site for the insect sounds which are actually from a desert night rather than the cool rainforest of New England - poetic licence, hey?
And thanks to my teacher and colleague Dr Alan Fahey from the college of medical hypnosis, who taught me the relaxation techniques on this recording.