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Methods of falling asleep are commonly used to promote sleep and prevent insomnia.

Contents

Alcohol

An alcoholic drink or nightcap is a long-standing folk method which will induce sleep as alcohol is a sedative. However, this is a poor method as, when the alcohol level subsides, there is a rebound effect: the sleeper becomes more alert and so tends to wake up too soon. Also, if they continue to sleep, REM sleep is promoted and this may cause vivid nightmares which reduce the quality of the sleep.[1]

Counting sheep

To relax and so promote sleep, a traditional form of meditation is to imagine sheep and count them.[2]

In most depictions of the activity, the practitioner envisions an endless series of identical white sheep jumping over a fence, while counting the number that do so. The idea, presumably, is to induce boredom while occupying the mind with something simple, repetitive, and rhythmic, all of which are known to help humans sleep. It may also simulate Rapid Eye Movement, tiring people's eyes.

According to a BBC [3]experiment conducted by researchers at Oxford University, counting sheep is actually an inferior means of inducing sleep. Subjects who instead imagined "a beach or a waterfall" were forced to expend more mental energy, and fell asleep faster than those asked to simply count sheep. Sleep, by the same token, could be achieved by any number of complex activities that expend mental energy.

Darkness and quiet

Dim or dark surroundings with a peaceful, quiet sound level are conducive to sleep.[4] Retiring to a bedroom, drawing the curtains to block out daylight and closing the door are common methods of achieving this. When this is not possible, such as on an airplane, other methods may be used such as masks and earplugs which airlines commonly issue to passengers for this purpose.

Hot bath

The daily sleep/wake cycle is linked to the daily body temperature cycle. For this reason, a hot bath which raises the core body temperature has been found to improve the duration and quality of sleep. A 30 minute soak in a bath of 40 degrees C which raises the core body temperature by one degree is suitable for this purpose.[5]

Sex

Many people find it easy to fall asleep after having sex.[6]

Sleeping pills

Sleeping pills are best avoided as their long-term efficacy is poor and they have numerous adverse effects including daytime drowsiness, accidents, memory disorders and withdrawal symptoms.[7] If they are to be taken, the preferred choices are benzodiazepines with short-lasting effects such as temazepam or the newer Z-medicines such as zopiclone.[8]

Warm milk

Foods rich in tryptophan such as banana and turkey have been found to assist sleep and a cup of warm milk or a milk-based drink is traditionally favored for this purpose.[9] Cocoa is traditionally a bedtime drink but this contains high levels of xanthines which are a stimulant and so may be counter-productive.[10]

Yawning

Yawning is contagious as people tend to yawn when they see others yawning.[11] Yawning is commonly associated with sleep but it seems to be a measure to maintain arousal when sleepy and so prevents sleep rather than inducing it.[12] It may therefore be taken as a cue that it is a good time to sleep.

References

  1. ^ Marc Galanter, The consequences of alcoholism, p. 210 et seq., http://books.google.com/books?id=MlvZGm16RMEC&pg=PA210 
  2. ^ P Martin (2005), Counting sheep: the science and pleasures of sleep and dreams, St. Martin's Griffin 
  3. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/sci_tech/newsid_1780000/1780803.stm
  4. ^ Seymour Diamond, Donald J. Dalessio, The Practicing physician's approach to headache, p. 53, http://books.google.com/books?id=f8BrAAAAMAAJ 
  5. ^ Judith Floyd (1999), "ch 2. Sleep Promotion in Adults", Annual Review of Nursing Research, 17, http://books.google.com/books?id=IZL_eUNZN8UC 
  6. ^ Saltz, Gail (2007-07-11). "Jump in bed: Sex can help you stay healthy". http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19696794/. Retrieved 2009-08-29. "Having fun in bed is not only good for a relationship, but also good for you" 
  7. ^ "Sleep complaints: Whenever possible, avoid the use of sleeping pills.", Prescrire Int. 17 (97): 206–12, 2008, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19536941 
  8. ^ Sleeping tablets, NHS, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Insomnia/Pages/Treatment.aspx 
  9. ^ Martin Reite, John Ruddy, Kim Nagel, Concise guide to evaluation and management of sleep disorders, p. 98, http://books.google.com/books?id=sutrAAAAMAAJ 
  10. ^ Laurel A. Eisenhauer, Lynn Wemett Nichols, Roberta Todd Spencer (1998), Clinical pharmacology and nursing management‎, p. 360 
  11. ^ Mary A. Carskadon (1993), Encyclopedia of sleep and dreaming‎, p. 652 
  12. ^ Ronald Baenninger (1997), "On Yawning and its functions", Psychonomic Bulletin &Review 4: 198–207, http://www.baillement.com/texte-baenninger-yawning.pdf 







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