sleep sleep tips

How to improve sleep from Richard Wiseman’s Night School.

Prof Richard Wiseman is based at the University of Hertfordshire, and has gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including deception, humour, luck and the paranormal.

He has written several best-selling popular psychology books that have been translated into over 30 languages.

In this book “Night School, The Life-Changing Science of Sleep”, Richard explores new peer reviewed research, and mass participation experiments on the world of sleep and dreams.

Below are some of his more interesting techniques to fall asleep faster, and improve sleep quality.

Imagining Pleasant and Relaxing Situations

This technique comes from Dr Allison Harvey, a sleep disorders and mental illness researcher at the University of California.

She conducted an experiment where she recruited volunteer insomniacs, and separated them into three groups.

The first group were given no instructions, the second group were instructed to forget their worries, and the third to imagine a situation they found pleasant and relaxing.

The insomniacs who were given no instructions, on average, took over 1 hour to get to sleep. The group instructed to forget their worries took 40 minutes. However, the insomniacs instructed to have happy thought, fell asleep in 20 minutes or less.

Examples of this technique would be to imagine the perfect holiday, or spending a lottery win, or a fantasy world or adventure etc.  

Note: It’s better to avoid any images that are too exciting or sexually arousing.

Counting Backwards or the Category Game

Stephen Haynes from the Southern University of Illinois did a study using both good sleepers, and insomniacs.

He asked them both to complete mildly difficult maths problems whilst going to sleep, e.g. Counting back in threes from one hundred.

He discovered that the good sleepers actually took longer than usual to fall asleep, but the insomniacs fell asleep faster.

Another variation on this theme is “The Category Game”.  Simply pick a category, for example, “fruit” or “famous band”. Then work through the alphabet from A to Z trying to name one within each catagory for each letter.

For Example, if you choose the category fruit, then A = Apple, B = Banana, C = Clementine etc.

Reverse Psychology – Try and Stay Awake

Niall Broomfield, Medical Researcher at the University of Glasgow conducted an experiment over two weeks monitoring a group of sleep volunteers.

The first group were given no special instructions, and the second group instructed to try and stay awake.

Those trying to stay awake were instructed to only use the power of their minds. So, they could have their eyes open, but no television, reading, or moving was allowed.

The results showed that the group instructed to try and stay awake, felt less anxious at bed time, and reported falling asleep more quickly.

Lavender Scent for Improved Sleep Quality

Several studies show that the smell of lavender can be beneficial in helping people fall asleep & improving sleep quality.

A 2008 study by Chris Alford, of University West of England, found sprinkling lavender oil on bedclothes improved sleep quality for partipants.

Similar results have been demonstrated using lavender scented bath oils, pillows, and blankets.

Yawning to Signal it’s time for bed

Fake yawning can sometimes trick our bodies into thinking it’s time for bed and induce tiredness.