Trouble Falling Asleep? Ways To Wind Down Faster
For some people, the hardest part about getting a good night's sleep is winding down.
Plenty of products and services promise to help. Americans spent $32.4 billion in 2012 on sleep-related aids -- from noise machines to specialty pillows, according to IMS Health, a marketing analytics firm in Parsippany, N.J. And according to an August study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.6 million people in the U.S. reported taking medication for better sleep in the month before.
The stress of work and daily life make falling asleep and staying asleep through the night a constant struggle for us. We tried four ways to help us shut off our racing thoughts and ease into bedtime. These methods aim to teach users how to fall asleep and awake refreshed -- without medication. We used an iPhone app, one of a number of new sleep apps available for mobile devices, and a CD set based on audio brain research. There was also a MP3 download that promised to teach us to fall asleep by listening to our body sensations; and a relaxation coach, a new trend popping up across the country.
The Brainwave Music System is a six-CD set created by Jeffrey Thompson, director of the Center for NeuroAcoustic Research in Carlsbad, Calif. The CDs use music embedded with tones to get you to sleep faster. The music sounds somewhat dreamlike with low humming and piano melodies. The CD booklet says the system is based on company research showing sound patterns combined with music can alter brain waves and a person's state of consciousness.
We tried two 30-minute sleep tracks and a 30-minute relaxation track. The booklet instructed us to play the relaxation track in the background while we went about regular activities before bedtime, such as brushing our teeth, and to play the sleep CD at bedtime.
Despite a noisy spouse moving around the room and interruptions from children, we fell asleep quickly and felt surprisingly refreshed in the morning.
Next, we hired Stacy Kamala Waltman, a relaxation coach who teaches corporate workshops, yoga and meditation classes in Buckingham, Va. Ms. Waltman offers $49.99 bedtime packages in which she will create a custom recording of relaxing music with voice relaxation instructions and help you develop a 'sleep ritual.'
Relaxation coaches only recently began popping up across the U.S. There isn't a standard certification process, but the American Institute of Stress in Fort Worth, Texas, offers referrals to stress-management professionals who can offer advice on how to wind down.
Ms. Waltman began with a one-hour phone call in which she asked about our nightly habits, such as TV viewing and our worry level at bedtime. She also asked for our preference of relaxation sounds -- such as wind chimes, Tibetan singing bowls or seashore sounds.
She told us to stop cleaning the house or working on the computer at night. She suggested we create a bedtime routine that brings down the level of activity, such as gentle stretching and a nighttime bath.
Ms. Waltman sent an MP3 track via email a few days later, along with instructions on how to create a sleep ritual. There were generic suggestions such as drinking warm milk and a bath with lavender oil, which was nice but made us itch.
In bed, we listened to the 27-minute relaxation track, which had Ms. Waltman's soft, steady voice over the sound of Tibetan singing bowl music. She said to squeeze and relax muscles moving up from our legs to our eyes. Two nights in a row, we fell asleep 10 minutes into the track.
Next, we tried the SleepEasily MP3 package, a program by Denver behavioral sleep consultant Richard Shane.
Links to download the five tracks didn't work and it took 10 days of email exchanges with the company before we could get them. The program includes a summary card of instructions and earplugs to better hear your 'inner sleep breath.' These didn't arrive by mail until two months after our order. Dr. Shane said he has since fired the fulfillment company for a string of similar problems and he updated the website to fix download problems.
The download came with a 38-page PDF of instructions, including how to use the earplugs. On the sleep track, Dr. Shane says to think about calming your jaw muscles and opening your throat for an inner sleep breath, which he says is shallow, soothing and quiet.
In the 21-minute track, Dr. Shane's words get slower and slower as he talks about imagining sounds of seashells and lullabies. His instructions made it difficult to relax so we turned off the track midway through.
Dr. Shane said most people fall asleep using his method. If the recording didn't work, he suggested reading the summary card's tips before bed. The goal, he says, is to teach you how to feel the body sensations that carry you into sleep. He says he has been refining his voice tonality and tempo for 18 years. 'It's the tonality you use with someone half asleep to let them know it's OK and to go back to sleep,' he says.
We then tested an iPhone and iPad app called 'ABC of Better Sleep.' Created by British hypnotherapist Max Kirsten, this easy-to-use app includes tips on better sleep and a 23-minute hypnosis session for deep sleep. Though the idea of being hypnotized made us a little nervous, Mr. Kirsten promises you will be able to wake and be alert in case of an emergency.
First, he takes users through a 12-minute practice session in which he explains what the ABCs of his program are. 'A' stands for 'Are my eyelids so relaxed that I couldn't open them if I tried?' and 'B' is for breath, he said. He instructed us to take a deep breath, hold it and then release it using every muscle. 'C' stands for 'the sea,' in which you imagine floating underwater.
The app included a 23-minute audio clip with the main hypnosis session to be played in bed. We fell asleep at the end of it and felt great the next day. Mr. Kirsten says in the app that once you've used it for a week, you no longer need it. Indeed, a week later, we easily got to sleep on our own.
很多产品和服务都声称能够助人入睡。据新泽西州帕西帕尼(Parsippany)市场分析公司IMS Health统计，美国人2012年在治疗睡眠上的花费是324亿美元，方法包括噪音机和特殊枕头等。美国疾病控制与预防中心(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)于8月份所做的一项研究显示，美国有860万人表示自己在上个月服用了助眠药物。
“脑波音乐系统”(Brainwave Music System)是由杰弗瑞·汤姆森(Jeffrey Thompson)制作的六张CD套装，汤姆森是加州卡尔斯巴德市(Carlsbad)神经声学研究中心(Center for NeuroAcoustic Research)的负责人。这些CD中的音乐包含着能够帮助人更快入睡的音调。这些音乐有低声哼唱和钢琴曲，听起来如梦如幻。CD小册子上面说，该系统是根据公司研究研制出来的，研究显示，与音乐结合的音律能够改变脑电波和人的意识状态。
接下来我们找到了放松教练斯泰茜·卡马拉·沃尔特曼(Stacy Kamala Waltman)，她在弗吉尼亚州白金汉县(Buckingham)为公司开设讲习班、教授瑜伽和冥想课程。沃尔特曼提供49.99美元的催眠套餐，她会为客户量身制作放松音乐，并且口头指导放松，帮助客户形成“睡眠习惯”。
放松教练最近才刚刚在全美各地兴起。目前并没有标准的认证程序，但得克萨斯州沃思堡(Fort Worth)的美国职业压力协会(American Institute of Stress)会推荐能够为睡前放松提供建议的压力管理专业人士。
接着我们测试了一款名为“改善睡眠ABC”(ABC of Better Sleep)的iPhone和iPad程序。这款易用的软件由英国催眠治疗师马克斯·克尔斯滕(Max Kirsten)设计，包括改善睡眠的小贴士，还有一段23分钟的深度睡眠催眠疗法。尽管催眠的概念让我们有点紧张，但克尔斯滕保证我们肯定能够醒来，并且在紧急时刻能够保持警觉。