White Noise: Karen's Thoughts

Karen's Thoughts

Karen's latest thoughts:
Space is Sexy: Let's Colonize Mars
Not all relaxation techniques help you sleep
Why obsess about time?
Never try hard to fall asleep
Let your baby learn to sleep through the night
Tips for sleep if you have ADHD
What is double-system recording?
The hypnagogic state
Using an out of body experience to enter a lucid dream
Shut up about insomnia.
Don't change your lifestyle because of insomnia
Sex in lucid dreams?
My thoughts on how medical professionals treat insomnia
Natural sleep remedies
Glossary of audio engineering terms
Sleeping in on weekends is a bad idea
How to stop nightmares
Vitamins and foods for sleep
How to prevent microphone bleed
Sleeping pills and their side effects
The two main types of insomnia
What is sleep paralysis?
It's bad to read, watch TV, and use your laptop in bed
Tips for your baby to sleep better
How to do nothing before you sleep
Tips for audio compression and limiting
False awakenings
Sleeping pills are dangerous
Tips for recording sound effects
Things to do in a lucid dream
Can't sleep? Get up and do stuff!
Q: My doctor said I need to stop drinking energy drinks and instead have water, should I listen to him?
Q: What is the best form of punishment for criminals?
Q: How do I turn my gay friend straight?
Q: Is it illegal for babies to grow mustaches longer than seven inches?
Q: How can society prevent abortion?
Q: What is the worst way to compliment a friend's baby?
Q: How do we end all gun violence?
Q: Dear Karen, has this ever happened to you? I was washing the dishes when AAAGAAGHHGGG IT'S HAPPENING TO ME AGAIN WHAT DO I DO HELP
My wife wants to watch “Twilight” with our 6-year-old daughter. Is this a good idea?
Don't just lie awake in bed!
Do nothing in bed except sleep and make love
Q: How do I teach my baby to self-soothe back to sleep?
History of dream interpretation
Prolonging the lucid state
Why you should get up at the same time every day
Q: Is taking naps good or bad?
Alternative therapies for insomnia
Q: How do I produce melatonin at the right times?
The most important prerequisites for sleeping well
Q: My wish came true in a dream. What does it mean?
The importance of audio monitoring for videographers
Q: How much do babies sleep?
Levels of lucid dreaming
Quit taking sleeping pills!
Real world treasure hunting
How to get to Dobe, Botswana
Our genetic history
The double-slit experiment explained
So you want to live in Toronto?
My Onkyo TX-NR5007 review
My Onkyo TX-NR3007 review
Healthy eating habits for better sleep
How to feel good
Denver Art Museum visit and art critique
Q: Why does white noise help soothe colicky babies?
Q: Why do we wake up to loud noises, and cats don't?
Top 5 causes of insomnia
Q: Does white noise really help you concentrate?
Karen's remedies for insomnia
How to deal with noisy neighbours
Why Winamp is just terrible
Why TRT is moot

Sleeping pills are dangerous

When I had insomnia in the past, I experienced many negative side effects of sleeping medications. If you take a prescribed sleeping medication, you run the risk of developing addiction and many unpleasant physical and emotional problems. You may be more likely to crash your car, have accidents, and your work and relationships may suffer. You may become depressed, anxious, or even suicidal. Even the possibility of developing serious illness such as cancer and your overall mortality risk is increased.

Some research suggests that sleeping pills can help restore normal sleeping patterns if used for a short period of time, and perhaps they can in some cases. But are these few alleged successes really worth the countless horror stories of side effects and addiction? The experiences of those who have tried sleeping pills leads me to believe that the prescribing of sleeping pills for anyone is risky, at best. At worst, it is irresponsible verging on negligent. If you have, or know of a single person who has had a fully positive experience with sleeping pills, please e-mail me with the details.

Besides the more obvious negatives, sleeping pills can have an insidious yet devastating effect on your beliefs about sleep. So that far from curing insomnia, taking sleeping pills can actually worsen the problem. This is because when you take a pill for insomnia, you make two powerful and negative assumptions:

There is something wrong with me.

There is something external that can make me better.

This means that every night that you take a pill, you are reinforcing these two negative and erroneous beliefs. It’s simple: when you swallow a pill, you say to yourself ‘I can’t sleep unaided’ while at the same time investing that little tablet with the power to make you sleep. This means that any success in sleeping is attributed not to you, but to the pills. In basic terms, your belief is not in yourself, but in the medication. Thus your belief in your own ability to sleep is diminished. This negative reinforcement is one reason why, besides any physical addiction, sleeping medications are so powerfully psychologically addictive.

Many insomniacs prefer to self-medicate using alcohol. Because alcohol has a relaxing effect on the body, it can help you to nod off. For some people it can also mask the effects of sleep deprivation, making an evening engagement tolerable when they have missed the previous night’s sleep. But alcohol also dehydrates, depresses and can cause you to waken early with a full bladder, an adrenaline rush, and a pounding heart, as the chemicals leave your bloodstream. And of course there is almost always a degree of hangover when you wake after drinking alcohol which makes it unacceptable as a sleeping remedy.

There are also countless ‘natural’ remedies such as Valerian or over-the-counter medications such as Nytol. But just like prescribed medication, the only ones that have any effect will almost certainly leave you with some degree of drowsiness in the morning. And even ‘natural’ remedies hold a hidden danger: with all artificial sleep-inducing remedies, just as with prescription medication, you can come to trust and rely on the effect, making it impossible to rediscover and nurture your own natural ability to sleep unaided. Can you see how every time you take a prescribed sleeping pill, or self-medicate with ‘natural’ remedies or alcohol, you weaken your belief and so sabotage your natural sleeping capacity, pushing it further and further away? When you go to bed, instead of trusting in your own ability to sleep naturally, you, in effect, hand over ‘responsibility’ to the drug. Your belief in yourself and consequently your own ability to sleep is diminished every time you take any artificial remedy. This is why artificial sleeping aids cannot ever help even a moderate insomnia problem. The message is simple: when it comes to sleep-onset or maintenance insomnia, drugs don’t work.

Tips for recording sound effects

Sound effects or the acronym SFX, is non-dialogue sound that is recorded simultaneously or separate from a video recording.

1. Simultaneous SFX could be audience applause, natural background sounds from sporting and action events, or even generic “room tones” used in post-production.

2. Separate SFX is either recorded on-camera or with an audio recorder and will be added later in post. These sound effects can range from natural sounds out in the field to home-made, do-it-yourself foley created sounds that will enhance a video or film, but the actual sound cannot be recorded live. Sound effects also includes background noises that may not be wanted.

Raindrops and footsteps — unwanted SFX:

Raindrops: Have you ever watched a movie where the scene is in a rainstorm, yet the dialogue is clear with little interference from the sound of the rain? How do they do that? There are a few options; if you have the budget and your subjects have the talent, you can ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) the noisy takes; where the talent watches the recorded scene and voices over a new dialogue and the rain sound effect is added in later.

If this is not an option, just because the scene calls for rain doesn’t necessarily mean you need to shoot in the rain. In movies, you may notice that though it is raining all around the subjects, and they are not getting wet. That’s because production will hire a water truck to not only wet down the area, but to direct water falling raindrops around the talent so it looks like they are standing in the rain.

Obviously, hiring a water truck (and don’t forget the teamster) can be cost prohibitive. However, you can simulate this scenario by wetting down the talent, and with a garden hose provide a well spread, spray of water. Nevertheless, that is not what this article is about — it’s about audio.

You can use wireless microphones, but remember to waterproof them correctly from stray water sprays. However, the sound may not be just right; because of the omni-direction of a wireless lavaliere, the simulated rainfall may be a little overbearing to quiet dialogue. So remember to adjust for that.

Better would be a boom shotgun microphone boomed from below, to minimize the sound of raindrops splashing in water puddles. By booming from below, there must not be an umbrella in use, because this will pick up the sound beating against it.

If there is no room for a boom microphone under the umbrella, without being in the shot, there are water diffusers that can be wrapped around the shotgun microphone (available at most audio houses) which diminishes raindrops falling on the microphone itself. To get a clearer sound while booming above the umbrella, bring the boom a little more out in front — instead of overhead to capture the sound signal as it leaves the cover of the umbrella.


Have you ever noticed in a crowded movie scene, where the subjects are either in a crowded city setting or trampling through the jungle, yet you hardly hear any footsteps? This is accomplished in a couple of ways:

1) See ADR above.

2) In a crowded indoor or city scene, use a rubberized shoe foam (available at audio houses); cut and adhere to the soles of shoes on the moving subjects. This may reduce ALL footsteps, so use wisely, or capture footsteps later to layer in during post.

Pre-cut foot foam

3) If the scene is not head-to-toe, have them take their shoes off. If the talent is wearing a “floppy” shoe and they can’t take them off, use double-sided tape to bind the shoe to their feet and tell them to walk gingerly.

4) In jungle or forested scenes, try to boom from below to minimize the footsteps (this is why you use a microphone with a polar pattern that rejects sound from behind the microphone element).

5) If possible, clear the path of foreign objects that the talent will be walking on before you start shooting. This will eliminate the unwanted branch cracks or rock stumbles.

6) Use wireless microphones judiciously. If there is an ensemble of talent, not only will their footstep be heard, but also anyone who is involved in the shooting process (camera operator, lighting person, director, boom operator, etc.). It could get quite crowded and noisy.

The importance of point of view when creating sound effects

Creating sound effects can be as simple as a room tone used for editing transitions, or something much more complex, as one sound either created or recorded to supplant an original sound source.

An example of the latter was when I was given a finished commercial that was shot at a fishing dock with no sound other than the voice-over announcer.

I didn’t have enough time to record or create any sound effects, but by going through my existing library of previous audio recordings, I found noise that wasn’t necessarily associated to the location, but added the feel of being on location with a variety of clangs, squeaks, thuds, and creaks. The commercial went onto win a local award for commercial excellence.

Room tone: This is the natural sound recorded on the set without ANYONE talking for about 30 seconds. This is used for transitional editing, or if the dialogue is too bare of background ambience, the room tone will be added in post to give a natural ambience to an unnatural way of shooting. Use the same microphones that were used on the subject, hopefully in the same position.

Recording sound effects: When recording general sound effects and not environmental ambient, use a high-quality, wind protected, stereo microphone or shotgun microphone and an external recorder. Using a camera microphone will do in a pinch, but be careful of any camera movement or touching the camera, which will produce noise from the camera body. Avoid using the camera while recording — place it on a tripod and walk away. Also, wind protection is a must on camera mounted microphones, even if it is only a large piece of microphone windscreen foam taped around the microphone element.

By using a shotgun microphone, you will be able to hone in on the sound effects (e.g., birds) without picking up unwanted ambience. Use a stereo microphone for a sound effect from a wider sound source (e.g., crowd at a sporting event).

Once while on a Coca-Cola commercial, the director requested that I record a variety of sound ‘noises’ that will be chopped and ‘auto-tuned’ to fit the commercial’s jingle. Along with these recorded wild sound effects, the director wanted me to go back to the hotel and record the talent swimming in the pool, capturing the splashes.

Well, first of all, I knew the swimming pool wouldn’t work because of the proximity of getting the microphone close enough to the talent and avoiding all the unwanted noise from the other guests (and kids) around the pool. But of course, I told the director okay and proceeded to go home.

At home, my boom operator and I set up a makeshift foley studio in a spare room and proceeded to record every type of water sound we could make. As we made our way back to the set, we recorded anything of interest, with the boom operator sticking the microphone out the vehicle’s window.

When we got back to the set, I played what I had recorded for the director, who especially loved the water sound of swimming; he believed I had gone to the hotel to record the sound, when instead I actually filled a trashcan full of water and rhythmically scooped and splashed the water as if I was swimming with the microphone just a few inches away.

When I saw the commercial, I noticed they used the swimming sound, but none of the wild sound effects. Instead, they went with just the music-only jingle. Oh well, I got paid and it made for a fun day!

Be creative in recording sound effects. Strap on a microphone and run through the jungle, start up a motor and listen to the various noises it produces, take usual items and use them in unusual ways, like “punching a piece of meat” for a punch to the body. Just place the microphone in close to hear every nuance, and record it in place as quiet as possible.

Gunshots and explosions

One type of SFX that is treated differently from general SFX recordings is capturing gunshots and explosions. The dynamics of these types of sound effects are very similar: an extreme peak of sound from the explosion or firing, a slower trailing or fading of the compressed sound expanding, and the reverberation off hillsides and buildings.

In recording these effects, keep the limiter or compression OFF, and the levels lower to handle the quick peak without distorting or being overly compressed. If you are able to ride levels, gradually raise the gain through the different stages — carefully monitoring the sound to avoid any drastic “jump” changes in the audio level. Most explosions are a “one-shot deal”, there is no second chance. Keep your explosion levels lower than anticipated. The levels can easily be raised in post compared to a distorted mess that is unusable, needing to then research and buy pre-recorded sound effects.

Things to do in a lucid dream

How much can you dream? If you are a lucid dreamer, then you probably already have ideas about what you want to do. There are no limits to lucid dreams. In lucid dreams, you can have skills and talents you may not have when you are awake. You can perform physical feats you never have tried, or never could accomplish when awake. Go sky diving, sing to a large crowd, ice skate at the Olympics (and win the gold!), deep sea dive, fly without wings, swim across the ocean, pilot a plane, captain a ship, or whatever your heart desires and you can dream up.

Positions only play a small part in the actual dream. You have to take into consideration all the other factors such as the amount of sleep you have, supplements you are taking, room temperature, comfort, uninterrupted sleep, and the ability to perform reality checks, stabilizing exercises, lucid dream inducing techniques, etc.

Dream control

Lucid dreaming comes in different “states” with the first state being recognition. Once you are aware you are in a dream, then you can discover the rules that control the dreamscape. Learning how to do this is not like having to go to school and learn a boring subject — this is fun. It is fun because in a lucid dream there are not many barriers to cross. In other words, what does your heart desire to do? You can probably do them in a lucid dream.

Speaking to your subconscious

Being in a lucid dream means you have direct access to your subconscious mind. You can receive a better grasp on how you really see the world and how your childhood affected you through your subconscious mind. When you are ingrained in your lucid dream, you can get to know yourself a lot better.

Picture your subconscious as a separate person, one with whom you can communicate. Place your subconscious into something that can talk with you, i.e. another person, a pet, etc. You can talk to them just as you would to a friend, using the same respect as you would in talking with a friend. But knowing it is really you, you can ask some pertinent questions without worrying about being offensive. They may or may not speak back to you — if they do not, and you still wish to speak to your subconscious, keep looking for another being that will embody this part of your mind.

Take off and fly

Flying is one of the favourite things people do when they first learn how to have lucid dreams. Flying is not something a human can do without being in a plane. Sometimes it may be difficult to accomplish simply because the conscious mind is also in control here. Flying at first may a few inches off the ground. You have to learn how to work with the dreamscape and in realizing the laws of physics are different than they are in real life. Once you overcome the restrictions you face in reality, you can let go and soar through the air, unencumbered. You can also use objects to help you fly, whatever you feel your mind will accept.

Finding objects

Perhaps you wish to visualize a certain object in your dream — you may find it a difficult task. While you have some control over the dream, normally the dreamscape is what it is, and you have to work with that. If you are looking for something, conduct a search with the object in your mind, and look in hiding spots. Your aware mind needs to do something that makes sense — so look behind other objects, under things, in your pockets, or just around your general vicinity to find it.


A lucid dream makes it possible to travel through time and space. You can travel both ways — to the past and to the future. You can fly to get to a completely different dreamscape. You can use objects to help you travel.

If you wish to change where you are, you can employ a few of these techniques to make the change occur: Go through a door. Just like in Alice in Wonderland, you can make an exit through a door lead to another world. Use your imagination and conjure the place you wish to be to be behind you. Think about it, turn around, and see it there. Conjure a portal from thin air. Imagine you have the power to make a portal wherever you wish, whenever you wish. Sometimes doing something as simple as spinning in circles will cause the dreamscape to change into what you want it to be.

Final thoughts on dream control

Just like everything you master in life, learning how to have and work within a lucid dream takes time and practice. You may not accomplish all of these things the first few times you dream, but with awareness, you can practice and master the techniques over time.


Before you lie down to sleep, think about what it is you wish to accomplish in your lucid dream. Find an objective to think about as you fall asleep. This is called lucid dream intention. Whatever it is, decide with clearness what you want — be it to see and speak with someone, accomplish a task, fly through space, travel through time, or whatever your heart desires.

Lucid dreams need planning in order to stay with you! Lucid dreams will have you focused on what is going on at the present — and in order to be successful, you need to think laterally. By planning what it is you wish to accomplish in your dream, you will be able to reach this goal, and will be able to move on to greater dream feats. Lucid dreams are an opportunity to become more enlightened. Do not waste it by doing self-gratifying things.

First, you must think about what you wish to accomplish in the lucid dream, should one occur. Second, once you enter the dream, do a reality check to make sure you are actually in the dreamscape and not in reality. Third, do something to stabilize your dream. Fourth, call up to your mind your lucid dream intention (which should be easy if you were focusing on it as you were falling asleep).

Set a firm intention before falling asleep

Make a decision of the details about the dream before you fall asleep. Think about how you will arrive to your destination by visualizing this. Think in extreme detail about this part so you can easily fall into this the minute you enter into the lucid dreamscape. Prepare your mind for the possibilities. If you are going to fly, for example, think about how you will fly. Will you have an object that will help this (jetpack or grow wings, for example), or will you just be able to soar through the air? One thing you should prepare for is in having a dream that is not lucid, a scenario occurs in which you are doing exactly what you thought about prior to falling asleep. This is okay, and this is normal. Eventually you will fall into the lucid dream and then you can set about making your intentions real in the dreamscape.

Realize not all lucid dreams need complete detail planning

Sometimes, the subconscious mind has some fun surprises in store for you if you allow it to unfold in your dreamscape. Planning a dream is like planning a trip. You have a map and you can see the roads on the map. What you cannot see is the beautiful scenery on one route or the flat boring terrain on another route. You just see the lines. One thing is certain; the map helps you to go from where you are to where you want to be. The route you take determines the type of journey you have getting there.

Sometimes even if you follow a roadmap, you may get lost anyway. The same applies with lucid dream intentions. You may have planned for a certain dream but find in the dream you have lost the intention. If this is the case, just enjoy the journey, whatever it is. Sometimes you may not be able to move to the place you want to be. Instead of fretting over this, look around at what the dreamscape has set before you and try to have a good time discovering the unknown in the here and now.

Set your dream intentions to being that of allowing the unknown to come in and help you with discovering new things. Lucid dreaming allows you to discover and explore new worlds, so do not miss out on this adventure by crying over lost intentions! Instead, embrace the intention of discovery and see where it leads. Keep your cool, practice your reality checks; make good use of your self-awareness during the dream. You may find yourself on the edge of an abyss that leads to exciting new places to allow you to experience wonderful new things. Maybe your subconscious mind has things to teach you.

Experiences to explore

Lucid dreaming means you are able to try new things with self-awareness. You will feel as if it is really happening and you will remember it. Knowing this, you have nothing but your imagination to stop you from exploring anything your heart desires. Your desires will probably change from day to day. While at first you may wish to perform some incredible feats, later you may wish to do more simple things. Let your imagination run wild. Below are some experiences worth exploring...


Of all the things we enjoy trying, flying is probably at the very top of the desires list, and the imagination will not be satisfied until this happens. There is nothing more freeing than to take off and soar through the open air, feeling the wind blow past your face, the feeling of floating above the grounded earth (or whatever planet you happen to be visiting). Most people find that flying in lucid dreams comes easy. Some will find it is difficult and may take some practice to do it right. The logical mind knows that in real life you cannot fly. Your self-awareness has a strong connection to this logical side and may ‘ground' you in the process. Some people find they can barely lift off the ground and may fly feeling the pull of gravity instead of the desired soar. If this is you, then you must “learn” how to fly in lucid dreams. This then becomes an experience to explore.

Sometimes flying will be like bobbing up and down, from being airborne to touching the ground. No matter how high you may soar, remember you cannot be harmed, because it is just a dream. The more you practice it, the higher you will go — and the longer you may fly. You will find after a while you are flying over lands and oceans. You will be able to take daring feats, such as jumping from the tops of tall buildings and high mountain ledges without worry of getting hurt.

Passing through walls and doors

Another favourite in the dreamscape is the ability to walk through walls and closed doors. This is an activity you can do in a reality check — if you can pass right through a solid wall; you know you are in a dream. If you have never done it, you can work up to it. Take your hand and just try to push through to the other side. If it does not, try imagining it doing so, or set an intention to do so. You will find after a while that the laws of physics do not apply in the dreamscape — and not only will your hand pass through, but your whole body. You will be able to fly to the ceiling and pass right through the roof to soar in the sky! It's fun stuff.

Change the time or the season

It can be fun to turn the night into day, or vice versa. It can also be fun to change from summer to a raging snowstorm in an instant, all with the control of your lucid dream experience. You need to visualize it happening. Turn around and believe that when you get back to your starting place, it will be so, the change in time or season. It is fun to turn the dreamscape into night, dot the sky with stars and galaxies, take off in flight, and soar through them.

Do things you can normally do

Maybe you have a favourite food that you have not been able to eat in a while. Conjure up that delicious Chicago pizza or that decadent chocolate cake that can only be bought at a bakery in Miami, Florida. Think about the foods you enjoy but do not get to eat because you are not around the restaurants or stores that sell them. Or maybe you want a fruit that is not in season. You can smell the food, your mouth will water as you bring the first bite to your mouth, then you can taste it. Your stomach will even feel full and satisfied when you do. Mmmm. Am I making you hungry? More importantly, are you in a dream right now? Do a reality check and find out!

Can't sleep? Get up and do stuff!

So, what do you do when sleep just doesn’t come? Well, the one thing you shouldn’t do is to continue to lie there, not sleeping. If you can’t sleep, you should get out of bed. There are two different reasons for this. Firstly, like the other sleep hygiene rules, every minute that you lie in bed, wide awake, reinforces the connection between bed and anxiety, and weakens the connection between bed and sleep. But secondly, the fact is, you are more likely to fall asleep very shortly after getting into bed, when the ‘sleepy feeling’ appears. If you lie awake once that feeling has come and gone, it can take a very long time lying there for it to return. In some cases it simply will not return until you get up and change your surroundings.

If you are not asleep within 20, or in some cases, 15 minutes, you should get out of bed and do something boring until you feel ready to fall asleep. This is an effective rule, but in most cases, the rule does not need to be so strict. I don’t now, and never did, even as a child, fall asleep within 20 minutes. Perhaps this is another example of a rule being written by someone who has never missed a night’s sleep in their lives. If you have lain comfortably in bed for 20 minutes but still feel drowsy and sleepy, there is often a very good chance that you will still fall asleep quite soon.

So, don’t be too concerned with the actual number of minutes that you have lain awake. It's better to get up and do something when you can’t sleep.

So what exactly does this mean? Well, if you are like most insomniacs, then a bad night goes something like this — You close your eyes and begin to become sleepy and drowsy and less aware of your surroundings, just like any normal sleeper. You may be on the verge of sleep when, suddenly, you awake with a jolt. Or, you may just slowly become aware of the fact that you have been in bed for some time but aren‘t asleep. At this point you probably start to become more awake and the ‘sleepy feeling’ begins to diminish. You are waking up, not getting sleepier. When it is unmistakeable to you that this is happening, this is the time to get out of bed. This may be after five minutes or an hour, it doesn’t much matter.

But what to do when you do get up? Many experts advise you to do something boring when you get up, like reading the phone book. You can do something boring if it helps; any change in focus is usually enough, whether it’s having a hot bath or shower, doing some housework or taking the dog out for a walk. But what is very important is that you have worked out what you will do should you wake up before you lie down to sleep. This will make it much easier to drag yourself out of the warmth and comfort of your bed. Have a jigsaw puzzle ready on the table, have in mind to clean the skirting boards, or a particular bit of studying to do. Many great writers were night owls, writing some of their best work in the small hours when the rest of the world was asleep. So perhaps have a piece of creative writing in mind. As long as the activity is not extremely stimulating, such as vigorous activity which can make it difficult to fall asleep quickly afterwards, it doesn’t much matter what it is. Most people complain of not having enough time in the day to get everything done. If you are an insomniac, don’t ever let this be the case. Fill those night-time waking hours with meaningful activity and feel the satisfaction at having got so much more done. Going to bed with a plan for what you will do if you need to get up can also lessen your anxieties because the pressure to sleep is less: if you sleep —- great! If you don’t -— you’ll do the ironing. Simple as that. Some examples of ideal things to do are:

- Jigsaws
- Cleaning out the fridge
- Cleaning out kitchen cupboards
- Having a hot bath or shower
- Doing a crossword or Sudoku
- Performing some of these relaxation techniques

If you really cannot summon the willpower to get out of bed and undertake some activity in the middle of the night, then there is a compromise move you can try, although it is probably not a good idea if you are elderly or have circulation problems. Instead of carrying out an activity, get out of bed and lie on the cold hard floor in your bedroom or in another room. Do not snuggle up with a blanket. The idea is not to be comfortable enough to fall asleep. Lie there for at least 20 minutes and then go back to bed. Try counting to 60 on each finger, twice. This is particularly effective if you have an electric blanket to return to when your bed will seem so warm and inviting. Sleep will be much easier to find.

The other important thing about any night-time activity is that whatever you decide to do, it should be a job which can be finished in between 30 minutes to an hour. If you get up and just ‘do some cleaning’ with no thought of what you might do, you may find yourself idly dusting until it feels like about 30 minutes has gone by. The idea is that your focus is taken away from clock-watching, away from the fact that you are not asleep. It could have a negative effect if you are constantly focussed on the fact that you are doing an ‘insomnia activity’. So don’t get up and ‘do some cleaning’, get up and clean out the fridge or dust every skirting board in the house. In this way, your focus is on the activity, not on whether it has been 30 minutes since you got up. It needs to be just long enough so that when you get back into bed, it feels relaxing and fresh, and that you can start the ‘falling asleep’ process all over again. Then the sleepy feeling will come over you anew, and you will have a much better chance of falling asleep this time.

Do not give up on this method of relieving insomnia just because it doesn’t work the first few times you try it. In the early days, doing this is likely to interfere with your sleep and you may have a few sleepless nights because of it. But I recommend that you persevere. This guideline is designed to break a negative association; it is not an insomnia cure in itself.

If you are in bed, you should be asleep. If not, get up.

Q: My doctor said I need to stop drinking energy drinks and instead have water, should I listen to him?

Asked by Byron

Karen's thoughts:

Tell your doctor your body's already like 60% water (NOT ENERGY DRINK), and then tell him he's an idiot.

Q: What is the best form of punishment for criminals?

Asked by Gregory

Karen's thoughts:

Make them google “grandmas eating barbecue” with safesearch disabled.

Q: How do I turn my gay friend straight?

Asked by Mattias

Karen's thoughts:

You can use the power of Jesus to turn gay friends straight. Jesus can also be used to turn straight friends gay, if you're a trick priest.

Q: Is it illegal for babies to grow mustaches longer than seven inches?

Asked by Lance

Karen's thoughts:


Q: How can society prevent abortion?

Asked by Patricia

Karen's thoughts:

Trap pregnant women in enormous hedge mazes for approximately nine months.

Q: What is the worst way to compliment a friend's baby?

Asked by Ashton

Karen's thoughts:

Probably by saying, “Wow, she's going to be really sexy some day.”

Q: How do we end all gun violence?

Asked by Lucas

Karen's thoughts:

Stab people before they get the chance to shoot someone.

Q: Dear Karen, has this ever happened to you? I was washing the dishes when AAAGAAGHHGGG IT'S HAPPENING TO ME AGAIN WHAT DO I DO HELP

Asked by Kenneth

Karen's thoughts:

This has never happened to me before.

My wife wants to watch “Twilight” with our 6-year-old daughter. Is this a good idea?

Asked by Garry

Karen's thoughts:

No. You should report her for child abuse.

Don't just lie awake in bed!

This is a good rule of thumb if you have insomnia. All insomniacs have had the experience of lying awake for hours, fidgeting, and becoming more and more frustrated. This often happens when you have gone to bed before you are really sleepy. Insomniacs often make the mistake of going to bed “because it’s late” or “because it’s midnight”, whether or not they feel remotely tired. Unsurprisingly, sleep does not come quickly. Others may find it relatively easy to fall asleep, but will wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to get back to sleep. As you lie there, desperate for sleep, you become tense and anxious. The tension you feel makes it impossible to relax, and the bed seems to feel less and less comfortable as you toss and turn, trying to find a comfortable position. Your bed has now gone from being a sanctuary of peace and escape, to a place of misery and sleepless anxiety.

Remember: Every hour you lie awake in bed weakens the association of bed and sleep. Every hour you lie awake and frustrated reinforces the association of bed with lying awake and being frustrated!

Do nothing in bed except sleep and make love

I am 100% serious. The main reason for all sleep hygiene rules is to create such a strong connection between your bed and sleep, that just the act of getting into bed and lying down triggers the falling asleep process. It is true that for many normal sleepers, reading or watching television in bed may not cause a problem. But if you have insomnia, avoid doing anything in bed other than sleeping or making love. From now on, these are the only two activities which are to take place in your bed.

So why is sex okay? If you really wanted to be strict about the rules, you could make sure that sex took place in another room, and never in your bed. However, unlike other activities, sex is unique in that it is a relaxing, de-stressing activity which often happens in bed, just before falling asleep. When it is over, it is time to sleep. Thus it already has an inbuilt association with sleep. Sex also releases endorphins, giving you a happy, warm and glowing feeling when you lie down to sleep. And best of all, unlike reading or watching television, which can go on indefinitely, sex has a finite duration. It is for all these reasons that many people find sex can almost instantly send them to sleep (and hence why women often complain that “he just rolls over and falls asleep”). This is why you must implement a “sleep and sex only” rule.

The idea is to create an association of bed/sleep which is so strong, it will overcome all the stresses and fears you may have which are preventing you from sleeping. That association will eventually become so strong that you will be starting to nod off almost before you put your head on the pillow. That sleepy feeling will come over you at the very thought of your soft, warm, comfortable bed. Your bed means sleep — simple as that.

When in the throes of severe insomnia, your bed can become a place of misery and fear. But because of these combined sleep hygiene rules, the time in your bed will be rationed to only those hours when you are asleep or falling asleep. The result is that going to bed will become a treat you can look forward to all evening. Before long, you won’t be able to wait to get into your delicious bed, between the crisp, white sheets, put your head on your soft downy pillow and pull up your warm, snugly duvet. Your bed will go from being a place of tension and misery to a sanctuary of peace, your own special little place in which you can curl up at the end of the day. Bed = sleep or sex only!

Q: How do I teach my baby to self-soothe back to sleep?

Asked by Sabrina

Karen's thoughts:

From about six weeks onwards, when your baby wakes up at night, try not to rush to her side, but give her a little space and the opportunity to settle down by herself. Your baby could be sleeping in a crib within monitoring distance of your bed, and you will have begun to distinguish your baby’s different cries and will be able to tell when she is hungry, in distress, or just “complaining” a little. When she is hungry or in distress, you should meet your baby’s needs. If you think she is just complaining a little as she tries to make herself comfortable, you may want to leave her a bit to see if she can settle down back to sleep on her own. This delay gives her the opportunity to figure out how to calm and self-soothe. My sister, mother of two, chose to not pick up her six-week-old baby immediately when she awoke during the night, but stood by her crib and watched to see what her daughter would do. The very first time she tried this, to her amazement and delight, after some shuffling around and making a few noises, her baby fell back to a deep sleep without any intervention, and slept longer.

Some parents choose to move their older babies into a separate room close by, once the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has lessened at six months. They can listen for any signs of distress in their babies, but not be disturbed by any minor noises they make through the self-soothing process.

Other moms sometimes have a baby that happens to be a particularly noisy sleeper. The baby would be sleeping soundly while the mother was kept awake listening to her. When the mother moves the baby into a nearby room, with doors left open and still within monitoring distance, they are more able to sleep better.

If you are sharing the same room as your baby, one strategy that may help is to pretend to be asleep yourself, modeling what you would like your baby to do. Of course, if her complaints turn into signals of greater distress, you may wish to attend to them.

Learn the differences between your baby’s cries

As you bond with your baby, and through some trial and error interactions during caring for your child, you will learn to distinguish differences in your baby’s cries and body language. Babies cannot talk but use different cries to communicate their needs. You will learn that not all cries mean hunger. There will be cries for tiredness, pain, discomfort, or simply “I want to be held,” and, of course, you should respond accordingly. One cry may be a “complaining” sort of cry, as she grouses about something that may be difficult for her.

Understanding your baby’s different cries will help you in meeting her needs appropriately and in deciding how to handle different situations. Some cries do not signal a need for an immediate response. Pay particular attention to the sounds your baby makes when put to bed and while learning to self-soothe.

History of dream interpretation

In his dream book “Oneirocritica”, Artemidorus outlined some early rules for decoding dreams, adapted from Greek, Assyrian and Egyptian records.

The Jews also believed dreams to be “symbolic” and they would go to interpreters to have their dreams explained. This could be a lengthy process, as the interpreter would first of all determine how symbolic the dream might be. The more symbolic, the more personal questions he would ask of the dreamer in order to form a personal analysis. Dream interpreters were held in high esteem during the first five centuries of the Christian era, and the Jews of Palestine and Babylon would consult them just as we would consult a doctor. A third century Babylonian Jew explained this by admitting, “A dream not interpreted is like a letter not read.”

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, native Americans, and early Christians all believed in dream symbolism and many interpretations offered in the dream dictionaries on our shelves have their roots in these ancient beliefs.

Prolonging the lucid state

When you first discover you can have lucid dreams, they will be short and fleeting moments. You may be thrilled at first by these quick passing dream moments, but if you really want to dive into the fascinating world of vivid and intense lucid dreams, you will want to learn how to make the dream world last longer. This is typical for beginners in the quest for lucid dreams. The goal then becomes to prolong the lucid dream state. In doing this you turn fleeting moments into long, memorable episodes. If you have ever only achieved lucid dreams that last mere moments, don't fret — some people never have a lucid dream that they can remember. You have at least had the experience!

Now you know you can turn those moments into longer minutes and dive deeper into the lucid dream state. The thing you need to remember is that when you first discover you can indeed lucid dream, you will become excited — and this may stop the process. Perhaps you should practice your reaction to this before you go to sleep. Imagine you are dreaming and imagine you are entering into a lucid dream. Control your reaction to this moment, so you will not cause it to flee from you. Below are some tips in helping you to achieve some staying power in your lucid dreams.

Lucid dream stabilizers

Expect clearness or clarity of the dreamscape. Say an affirmation to make it so, whenever you discover you are in a lucid dream, such as “I see clear” or “I am lucid”, or “I have perfect clarity” — or something equally similar.

Sometimes you can make it more real by performing something technical, like a math equation. Ask yourself what 1+2 is, or work through any mathematical equation. Make it a simple equation that you know the answer to readily.

Move about. Twirl, fall down, and jump up. Be physical, because your self-awareness will sharpen with physical movement. If you stay too still, you may wake out of the dream. Focus on something familiar on your body. Look at your hands, or your legs, or feet. See if you can see detail in these areas. Your dream body will appear differently than your real body.

Again, do something physical like clapping your hands, or scratching the back of your hand, or rubbing your hands together. This helps to pull the conscious mind into the dreamscape, which increases self-awareness.

Above all, stay calm. When you realize you are in a lucid dream, stay calm and go about the dream. If you react too excitedly about this discovery, you are at risk for waking up.

Be aware that once you realize you can launch into a lucid dream, the dreamscapes will explode with vividness and intensity. Lucid dreams give you the opportunity to see things, do things, and explore new things you have never done before. The more you seek lucid dreams and do the things to make them happen, the better you will be at making your lucid dreams last longer.

Why you should get up at the same time every day

This simple and seemingly unimportant little routine can have the most incredible effect on sleeping patterns. Without a regular getting up time, all the other obvious sleep hygiene rules have a much less chance of working. And before long, getting up at the same time at weekends will no longer bother you one jot.

When this routine is combined with spending less time in bed (no more than you actually need), the two create a powerful foundation for sleep. It is these two which lay the most important condition for sleep to occur — that you are actually tired when you get into bed! Without these, you might as well forget about all the other rules of sleep hygiene.

Decide how long you need in bed, and work out the time at which you will be able to get up — not just during the week, but during the weekend too. If you need seven hours to feel good all day, yet are still sleepy at bedtime, and you must get up at 7:30 on weekdays, then you must also get up at 7:30 on weekends. There will be no more lying in during the weekends — so try not to have too many late nights.

This might seem harsh to you if the weekends are the only time you currently get any decent sleep, but when you begin to notice the effect this has on your sleeping patterns, it will no longer be a hardship. Insomnia often sets in during self-employment, university, illness or unemployment — in other words, at a period in one’s life when there is no necessary compulsion to get out of bed at the same time every day.

Besides the fact that you are actually tired when you lie down to sleep, the psychological effect of knowing that you didn’t sleep late in bed in the morning will provide comfort and increase your motivation to develop a healthy sleep routine. It won’t be long before you will begin to enjoy getting up at a good hour on the weekends. You will have more of the weekend to enjoy, and will get a really positive boost from knowing that there is every chance that you will sleep well again the next night.

Good sleep loves routine. Keep to yours and good sleep will become a habit.

Q: Is taking naps good or bad?

Asked by Charles

Karen's thoughts:

Studies have shown that napping is good for older people above the age of 60.

And polyphasic napping, if you can master it (I have never been able to), will give you much more free time in your endeavours.

But if you're an adult with insomnia, napping is bad — and napping will exacerbate your sleeplessness. Plan instead to get a full night's sleep. Avoid napping in the day at all costs. If napping in the day is the only decent sleep you get, it will undoubtedly be at the expense of a proper full night’s sleep. Sacrifice the nap, not the night.

You should never plan to get a nap on the train, but don’t get into a panic if you do. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, use it as a reason to give yourself a little pep-talk to bolster your confidence. ‘Look how well I slept on the train!’ tell yourself, ‘I never used to be able to sleep like that’, ‘I must be getting better’, ‘I should be able to sleep like that at home too’.

But don’t let the naps become the norm — or they will begin to drastically affect your chances of sleeping at night. If you consistently find it impossible to stay awake on the train or bus, lengthen your time in bed by half an hour and see if this helps. Sacrifice the nap for the sake of a full night’s sleep.

Alternative therapies for insomnia

Insomnia resulting from an anxious, stressed, or worried mind can often be addressed by learning ways to release physical tension, reduce arousal, and by effective relaxation. Relaxation techniques should be undertaken outside the bedroom, prior to going to bed, to avoid actively “trying” to relax, which can interfere with sleep.

Meditation therapies

As a holistic and complimentary medical treatment, meditation is being used effectively in the fight against many types of ailments and diseases, including insomnia. Regular practitioners of meditation believe earnestly in the mind-body unity and that the ability to overcome physical problems is in one’s own hands. Meditation when practiced correctly has been successful at quieting the thought process and physically relaxing the body, the two conditions required before we can be receptive to sleep.

A variety of meditation techniques may be successfully used to stave off insomnia, and insomnia sufferers are advised to find one that works best for each of them as individuals. It is a good idea to locate a meditation class in your local community so that you can be advised by the class leader or therapist as to which techniques would best suit a particular condition.

There are many types of meditation that can reduce stress and help relaxation just before bedtime. The specifics vary, but key steps typically include the following:

1) Sit somewhere quiet in comfortable, loose clothing.

2) Close the eyes, allow the hands to rest on the legs, and relax the muscles.

3) Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

4) Choose a simple word such as “relax” or “easy”, a religious word or phrase (if you're religious), or a meaningless word like the mantra “om” (my favourite!). As you breathe, repeat the word aloud or in your mind.

5) Continue breathing regularly with muscles relaxed. It may help to count our breaths, starting over with every five breaths.

Yoga therapies

I regularly practice Yoga. Even though I don't believe in the more “new age” aspects of it, I find that yoga helps tremendously with sleep. Yoga practice actually provides two therapies in one: exercise and focused meditation. As in meditation therapies, the best advice is to find a yoga group or class in the local community, and ask the leader what are the best techniques and positions to use for bringing on calming sleep inducement. Two types of yoga therapies that may help are described below:

Kundalini yoga, which addresses posture, meditation, breathing, and fosters increased healing and consciousness. Through meditation, you learn to connect with your breath as you learn about yoga breathing in the correct manner. This also helps to sweep away the worries and troubles of the day so that you become mentally prepared for sleep. If you become distracted, you just need to re-focus on your breathing.

Shabad Kriya, a version of Kundalini yoga, involves gradually slowing your pace before bedtime, releasing problems, and remembering the things for which you are grateful. When practicing this type of yoga, you should refrain from food intake for the few hours before it's time to go to sleep. By using only the left nostril for breathing, you gradually begin to wind down. During this time, a mantra can be recited.

As yoga is a form of physical exercise, care should be taken that the movements are carried out correctly — as injury can occur when practiced without prior instruction.

Controlled breathing

One very good insomnia treatment that results from alternative therapies is breath control. Breath control consists of simple exercises and does not require anything complicated; when you retire to bed, you should try to relax all the muscles in your body. As tension leaves the muscles, you should focus on the rhythm of your breathing, beginning with a long deep breath, followed by a pause, and then a long exhalation. Though it may take a few minutes to find it comfortable, controlled breathing helps shift your focus from daily problems, enabling your brain to enter the alpha state — the first phase before sleep induction.

Deep breathing that involves the diaphragm can help relaxation. You can teach yourself this technique, but it does require a little practice. When you breathe in, your stomach should be expanding outward. When you breathe out, your stomach should flatten out. This type of breathing admits a lot more oxygen into the body.

Deep breathing

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this technique slows respiration — leading to relaxation, and then sleep. The idea is to replicate the rhythm of breathing which is evident when sleeping (slow and predominantly from the diaphragm — the muscle between the abdomen and the chest), rather than that when fully awake (faster and using the diaphragm and chest muscles). Follow these steps:

1) Begin by finding a place where you can lie flat on your back with your feet slightly apart. Lightly rest one hand on your abdomen, just near your navel, and rest your other hand on your chest.

2) Inhale through the nose and calmly exhale through the mouth until most of the air is emptied from the lungs. Focus on the breathing and identify which hand is moving. Ideally the hand on the chest should remain still, or follow after the hand on the abdomen.

3) Gently inhale, slightly distending your abdomen to make it rise. Imagine warmth flowing into your lungs and all parts of your body. Pause for one second. Then, as you slowly count to four, gently exhale, allowing the diaphragm to relax and the abdomen to slowly fall. Pause for another second.

4) Repeat this process five to ten times.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This technique allows us to relax the entire body by tensing and relaxing a series of muscles. Follow these steps:

1) Find a place to sit or lie down and get into a comfortable position. Put a pillow under your head, or place one under your knees to relax your back. Rest your arms, with palms up, slightly apart from your body.

2) Take several slow, deep breaths through the nose. Exhale with a long sigh to release tension.

3) Begin to focus on your feet and ankles. Tighten the muscles briefly (five to ten seconds), and then relax them. Let them fall from your consciousness.

4) Slowly move your attention up through different parts of your body: your calves, thighs, lower back, hips, and pelvic area; your middle back, abdomen, upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands; your neck, jaw, tongue, forehead, and scalp.

5) If your thoughts distract you, try to ignore them and return your attention to the breathing.

Sleep restriction

This treatment should only be undertaken under the advice and supervision from a doctor or health professional. I tried it several years ago, and it worked for several months before I could sleep without the regimen.

Firstly, you'll be asked to keep a sleep diary which will be analyzed by your health professional. You may then be advised to restrict the hours you spend in bed each night to the length of time you actually sleep. Your “get-up” time will be set to the time you usually arise.

You'll be asked to maintain your sleep diary, and weekly adjustments will be made to the length of time you are allowed to spend in bed in relation to the period of actual sleep. These adjustments are made each week until you are sleeping for longer periods of time. It must again be stressed that this procedure is only undertaken with the supervision of a health professional.

Q: How do I produce melatonin at the right times?

Asked by Allan

Karen's thoughts:

The quickest and easiest way to produce melatonin at the right time is to take a melatonin supplement. These supplements are much healthier than taking prescribed sleeping medications. Supplements are a great way to kick-start a healthy sleep pattern. In North America, you can buy melatonin supplements at any pharmacy. However, they aren't available in all countries.

Reduce caffeine

Usually, melatonin levels begin to increase two hours before you fall asleep, reach their peak between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and then begin to decline in preparation for you waking up. Stanford University found that coffee drinking halved the melatonin levels that were produced. The reduction lasted 10 hours. This is a powerful finding, because that reduction is definitely going to cause delays in falling asleep. If at all possible, give up caffeine completely if you have insomnia. Or, the second best thing would be to limit your tea and coffee consumption to just in the morning. Especially if you have ADHD, as people with ADHD often have very sensitive systems — so caffeine could be affecting you much more than you realize.

Light, and blue light

Sunlight is a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, and when it hits the earth, it can be divided into 5 groups. Ultraviolet A, B, C, visible range, and infrared range. The visible range spectrum is visible to the human eye, and blue light is part of this spectrum. Light is important because it can both help and hinder your sleep. Our eyes need to be exposed to light daily, as it regulates our sleep pattern. But blue light suppresses melatonin and is bad for sleep. If we go from one man-made environment to the next, house to car to office to car to house, our melatonin levels don’t change and our body doesn’t know when to sleep or when to be alert. You can help your body by spending time outdoors (and without your shades) every day. Here are a few examples:

- Go for a walk during your lunch break
- Do your exercise outside rather than inside
- Run errands on foot rather than driving

Conversely, you might be getting blue light when you don’t want it. TV and computers can give off blue light, which keeps you awake. So it’s important not to engage in these activities two hours before bedtime.

As well as staying away from TV and computers, you can take extra measures. There is something called “blue light blocking glasses” which have been found to be highly effective for treating sleep disorders. You wear them for two hours before bed, so that melatonin can be released, and you feel sleepy by the time you go to bed.

Their lenses are orange, and a quick Google search for “blue light blocking glasses” brings up pages of suppliers so you can find them in the country you live in. If you wear prescription glasses, you can get lenses that fit over your glasses.

A melatonin-friendly bedroom

Your bedroom needs to be completely dark when it’s time to sleep, as even just a pinch of light will interfere with melatonin release.

Here are some strategies on to do this:

1) Purchase some blackout curtains or blinds. These will completely block out the light, even at the seams. Carol from Virginia e-mailed me saying she would routinely wake up at 5 a.m. However, from the very first night she slept with blackout curtains, she was able to sleep all the way through to 7 a.m.

2) Keep your bedroom cool. While you don't want it to be an ice box, you do want it on the cool side — because this also lets the pineal gland know that it’s time to produce melatonin. Personally, this is why I freaking love air conditioners.

3) Don't have any electrical gadgets that produce light in your bedroom. The obvious items are TVs and computers. Less obvious are alarm clocks that have a digital light, or a cell phone that lights up when you get a text or e-mail.

The most important prerequisites for sleeping well

The physiological mechanisms involved are complex, but in a nutshell, bad sleep hygiene disrupts normal hormonal patterns that need to be reset at night. Insulin, growth hormones, melatonin, and thyroid hormones can be affected negatively by poor sleep.

A house built on shifting sands... well, you know the saying. We need a solid sleep foundation, and this article will go over each and every step that you need to incorporate into your life as soon as possible. Because if you don't, you'll go nuts.

Here are several sleep hygiene suggestions, all of which I can personally attest were helpful to me in licking insomnia. Let's dive right into each of these so that you can begin applying them immediately in your life.

Avoid liquids

Let's start with the basics. You want to avoid all liquids a minimum of two hours prior to bedtime. And I don't just mean alcohol. That's a given, but we will address more on that later.

The last thing you want to happen, when you're trying to put an end to insomnia, is unnecessary getting up in the middle of the night.

This is common sense, along with avoiding any type of caffeine. Remember that caffeine is not just found in tea and coffee; it is also found in food items such as candy, especially chocolate, although to a much lesser extent. Some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies are high in caffeine, so check with your pharmacist if you are using items such as these.

Avoid heavy meals

You definitely want to avoid eating or drinking anything close to bedtime that could disturb your sleep. Eating a big meal within two hours of bedtime is simply not good for your health and not good for your sleep hygiene. Nor do you want your stomach to be growling while you're lying in bed. So, clearly we want to be somewhere in the middle — and that is not difficult to accomplish on a daily basis, as long as one just eats dinner at a regular hour and keeps snacks to a minimum. Your body weight, cholesterol, and overall health will thank you for it.

Limit napping

Resist napping if you can. At the most, keep it to a 10 or 15 minute power nap earlier in the day. Anything more than that runs the risk of disrupting your sleep that evening.

Move that clock

One of the problems I quickly identified when I had insomnia was seeing the clock throughout the night. I would have to get up, usually due to my severe restlessness. Consequently, I couldn't avoid seeing the big LCD display on my clock.

“1:15 a.m.! Are you kidding me?” I would say to myself, lying there in the dark, extremely frustrated. “I've only been asleep two hours, and now I'm wide awake and not going back to sleep. This can't be happening again.”

This was a regular routine for me, and it was seriously impacting any chance I had to relax and get back to sleep.

Of course, I still needed a clock. I had to get up to work on my sound projects — at some point in the morning — and get ready for the day.

Accomplishing that task each morning, during my bout with insomnia, was a tremendous struggle.

The solution was to move the clock 90 degrees and out of plain sight. I did the same for my husband's clock, which had been positioned just so, that depending on where his head was, I might accidently see his clock. His clock had to be re-positioned as well. It was a simple change, but it helped me tremendously.

Assess your environment

Are you comfortable in your current sleep environment? What can you do to improve the situation? How is your mattress? Is your pillow a good fit? Ask yourself all the relevant questions.

For starters, you want everything to be extremely comfortable. The temperature of the room is critical. Make sure the room is dark and the temperature just right for you. Most people prefer a room that is more on the cool end. You may be different, but you surely know what the right temperature is.

I like a room that is slightly cooler than the other rooms in the home, and I also prefer to have a ceiling fan running during the night to keep the air flowing. I used to employ another fan that served as white noise because I liked the humming sound which would block out other noises. I have long since gotten away from relying on that fan, and use stereo speakers with a beefy subwoofer now. When I'm traveling, I use headphones — I especially recommend the Sennheiser HD 380 PRO because they're perfect for sleeping on your side.

Sleep masks, earplugs, and blackout curtains are among the tools that people rely on to make their bedroom most compatible for their sleep preferences.

Now make sure your bed is comfortable. Ideally, you are spending one-third of your entire day on that mattress and pillow. Despite that, few people put much research or time into finding the right mattress and pillow for them. If you have ever slept in a hotel or someone else's house, then you know very well that there are great variations in these items. Make sure yours are the best you can afford.

A mattress pad is one great way to make your bed much more comfy without spending a fortune. Wal-Mart, for example, sells mattress pads that mimic down feathers for a fraction of the cost found at high-end stores.

How about noise and lighting? Make sure the room is dark enough, and that there are no internal noises which are disturbing to you during the night.

If you have a spouse or loved one, ask yourself if that person is an issue. Many a snorer, for example, has ruined someone else's sleep. This can be remedied by listening to white noise through a side-sleeper friendly pair of headphones, such as the Sennheiser HD 380 PRO. If not, you may have to sleep alone if the other person does present a deterrent. After you've defeated your insomnia, you can likely return to your original sleep arrangements.


Try to get into a routine of exercising each day. It is doubly good if you can do it outside during the day, where you will be able to get some sunlight and, consequently, some vitamin D.

Even if the weather is bad, you can still get your cardiovascular activity in by doing it at home. Find some space in your house, purchase a DVD of an aerobics class, and accomplish your cardiovascular exercise on a daily basis.

Other forms of exercise that can be done in the house include yoga, jump rope, jogging or walking on a treadmill, etc.

Make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime. You don't want your body stimulated in the hours when you should be shutting down for the night.

Eat well

In addition to avoiding heavy meals and liquids close to bedtime, it just makes common sense that you should immediately get into a daily routine of eating well. By keeping a good diet, you will maintain a more ideal weight and just feel better overall.

Avoid evening meals which are high in fat. Also, avoid any foods which are likely to cause you heartburn or indigestion. The effects of spicy food, for example, worsen as you lie down. Avoid foods high in protein. Foods rich in protein contain an amino acid known as tyrosine. Tyrosine is believed to stimulate brain activity, the last thing you need late in the evening.

As for foods that are believed to aid the sleep process, look towards milk (and other items containing calcium), honey and bananas.

Use technology to your advantage

Don't want to miss that favourite television show that starts at 10:00 p.m.? Well, that is what Tivos, DVRs, and VCRs are for. Tivos and DVRs are wonderful in that you can set up a regular, scheduled taping every time your favourite show airs. You can also easily record the remainder of a show if you find yourself getting sleepy. Use modern technology to your advantage. Your sleep is too important.

Write down your problems

I am a firm believer that by putting your thoughts to paper, it helps release them from your mind. It allows you to wake up the next day and, at that time, begin to address the issue(s). Another benefit of doing this is that you will not lose that great idea that you just had while lying in bed!

Make sure you do not go to bed with your mind racing or with problems still pending. Put them “to bed” for the night, and then you will be able to put yourself to bed — peacefully.

Putting goals in perspective

What are your main goals in life? Psychologists Richard Ryan and Tim Kasser performed a series of studies a few years back that drew the conclusion that people who made the pursuit of money and materialism a top goal in life have lower well-being. The studies found that these individuals had a variety of personal problems, such as higher anxiety and depressive symptoms.

If you are not happy in your life, make sure you are setting the right goals. If the main pursuits in your life have no real meaning, then you'll never be satisfied. Consequently, you will worry more — and that can seriously affect your sleeping.

Assess your priorities and make the needed adjustments.

Evaluate your mental state

If you suffer from any form of depression, you may not sleep well — at least not on a regular basis. If you believe you have clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, seek your physician's advice immediately. If for some reason you do not have a general practitioner, ask around. Inquire with people you know and trust and ask them if there is a doctor they recommend. It does not have to be a doctor who specializes in this field, as many doctors can recognize and treat depression. One way or another, seek help and do it pronto!

Stop obsessing

Lots of us obsess about various things in our lives. Obsessive thoughts can negatively impact our sleep. If we are an obsessive personality, it is important to turn this trait into a positive.

“I will sleep great tonight.” If you need to obsess with any type of thought, make it this one. Repeat this to yourself throughout the day if any negative thought enters your mind. Then, when you are lying in bed, repeat this statement three times... and believe it!

Avoid stimulation

Many people may not realize that this includes the internet. Don't be surfing the web shortly before bedtime. In my opinion this is much worse than television, which many experts commonly mention as a contributing cause of insomnia.

The light from the computer screen can certainly mess with your body's internal clock, much more so than a television parked 10 feet or more further away.

Don't be checking your work e-mail one final time before bed, either. I know I have been guilty of that on too many occasions. There is nothing that can't wait until the morning. Just think: if it is a problem, do you really want to handle it at this late hour, or if you can't, do you want to go to bed having to worry about it? It's a lose-lose situation. Avoid it.

It can be difficult at first to make this disconnect from technology, but it is well worth it.

Mitigate stress

Sit down and spend some time analyzing what exactly is causing stress in your life. Are there things that are regularly causing stress which you have control over? When you really analyze the situations, you will be surprised to find how many issues you actually do have control over. In other words, you can make changes to eliminate or reduce the stress that is brought on by these issues.

In my particular situation a few years ago, my husband and I were running a small business on the side. I was managing the e-mails and orders that would come in and was basically serving as a customer service representative. Many times I would deal with this immediately after a long day at my regular, full-time job or shortly before bedtime. Other times I would ignore the business for a day or two and then try to play “catch up”. Neither situation was good. And both choices were creating unnecessary stress in my life. I told my husband that we would have to shut down the business, because it simply wasn't a healthy thing for me. We found a solution, was able to keep the side business going, but most importantly, I got that stress removed from my busy lifestyle. This didn't cure my insomnia, but it certainly alleviated a burden and helped me beat it quicker.

Find a good read

You want to go to bed with the right frame of mind. Our mental state is key to our success.

I highly recommend finding a good book or two to read, and find one that is an inspirational work. There are many great self-help books from Tony Robbins, the late Norman Vincent Peale, and others. If that type of “stuff” doesn't keep you interested, then specifically find a book that has a positive message. You do not want a book that presents any type of suspense. Save that for when your sleep disorder is ancient history. Besides, it won't be long.


I know this was quite a bit to take in, especially in one reading. Begin making changes immediately. You likely will not get it all right in one day, so go back and read this article so that you don't overlook anything. Keep notes for yourself, if necessary, and make sure you get on the path to a solid sleep hygiene foundation as soon as possible.

You should take a moment to ask yourself: Which “sleep hygiene” items am I failing at right now? Note all areas where you can make improvements. After one week, go back and ask yourself: Am I fully committed to each of the items presented in this article?

Q: My wish came true in a dream. What does it mean?

Asked by Robert and others

Karen's thoughts:

Wish fulfilment dreams are often the most easy to interpret. What these dreams often reflect is a strong desire in the dreamer for something they can't have in their waking lives. Robert from Germany was bold enough to send me an e-mail of his dream which (although heavily edited by me) is a wonderful example of a wish coming true in a dream.

“In my dream, I am ill in hospital and I wake to see a nurse's kindly face watching over me. She takes my temperature and blood pressure and tells me not to worry anymore. I am in good hands. I notice that her uniform is short and she is wearing black stockings. I like her legs and I feel sexually attracted to her. She feeds me grapes and then asks if I want a bed-bath. Then she gets into bed with me...”

The nurse, as well as being a kindly, womanly figure — someone to look after him and take care of his every need — also satisfies his hunger in other directions.

Personality in opposite

It is not unusual for a poor man to dream of living in a mansion and enjoy a life of luxury, or for the office junior to dream of being the boss. In another e-mail, Umberto asked:

“I am generally shy in company and it takes me a long time to make friends. Why did I dream that I was performing in a pantomime of all things?”

Often, dreams compensate for aspects of the personality which we might feel we lack. In this case, the dream over-compensates — for it is unlikely the dreamer would ever wish to perform in a pantomime.

Annette wrote:

“My husband has been very ill due to his heart. We have not slept in the same room for nearly six months. I love him very much but sometimes, at night, I do feel lonely. I am disturbed that sometimes in my dreams I see myself with a man I work with. We are making mad passionate love and so far this has been under a table in the office where I work, in a cave, in a lift and in a barn in the middle of the countryside. This man is happily married and the incredible thing is, I don't even fancy him. Why am I having such lurid dreams?

And why shouldn't she? Dreams compensate for what is missing from waking life, and these dreams fulfil a need within the dreamer. There is safety in the fact that she isn't attracted to the man concerned because in real life, there would be no temptation to turn these dreams into reality. They're just a harmless way of feeding an unconscious need while remaining faithful to her husband.

And feeding needs seems to be a common theme in these types of dreams when another example was sent to me by Kimberly from Utah. She is on a diet and is proud of the weight she has so far lost. However, in her dream, “I seemed to have stepped back in time. I was at a mediaeval banquet. The table was groaning under the weight of all the food and I really made a pig of myself, tasting everything that was on offer.” Although no specific food was mentioned in the above dream, it is interesting to note some of the meanings traditionally given to different types of food in dreams. Here are a few:

Red apples are symbolic of happy friendships and true love, while green apples suggest possible disappointment in love.

Cherries are symbolic of good health and fertility. Grapes, of financial success. Pears suggest possible illness, prunes indicate good health. Tomatoes signify possible short-term happiness and both potatoes and peas are symbolic of career success and profits.

Carrots hint at a forthcoming marriage and rice suggests pleasing friendships. Cheese is indication of sorrow and disappointment, while parsnips suggest career success but misfortune in love.

The importance of audio monitoring for videographers

What videographers don’t realize, professional and consumer alike, is that monitoring audio is as critical as looking in the viewfinder. As manufacturers improve the audio capabilities on their consumer-oriented cameras, the process of recording and monitoring audio has become better. But to acknowledge quality audio, the videographer must earnestly monitor the audio whether it is the camera, a camera interface, a second external recorder, or if you are using a sound person or not.

Until a futuristic, personal implant recorder with in-brain monitoring is created, today’s sound monitoring comes in 2 formats: headphones and speakers.

As of this time, digital technology has not permeated this sound group. There may be some audiophile or upper-end sound reinforcement speakers with digital audio connections, but the sound you hear is still the push and pull of analogue air waves.


If you're a videographer who wants to record high quality location audio, a pair of headphones becomes your dearest friend. Be sure to find a pair that you will be comfortable wearing for a long period. For better audio monitoring, they should have over-the-ear cups to isolate from the outside noise. They should have a relatively flat frequency response and be sturdy and durable enough to handle all weather conditions. I recommend a 1/8 inch mini stereo connector that’s adaptable to 1/4 inch stereo. After you find the one you like that meets these requirements, buy at least two and a few extra adapters — you won’t be sorry.

Many videographers wear “earbuds” for audio monitoring because the larger headphones get in the way from looking into the lens. With most camera shots now being viewed on a LCD screen, there is no excuse for wearing a proper set of headphones that enables you to hear full-fidelity and less background noise.

A good quality pair of headphones should run in the price range of $75-$125 — if you treat them right, they will last many years.

Tip: If your headphones have a coiled cable, DO NOT wrap the cable around the earmuffs when storing away. This will stretch the coiled cable and will eventually become a long tangled mess.

Tip: When using headphones on location, they become “weathered” where the black plastic covering the earmuff will start to deteriorate. Instead of re-purchasing new headphones or the over-priced replacement earmuffs, cover the earmuffs with women’s ankle high stockings — which are cheap, durable and easily replaceable.

If you're serious about film, by not monitoring the audio from your camera, the chance you are taking is that 95% of the time the audio will be good; it is the other 5% that can break your career.

Q: How much do babies sleep?

Asked by Rosanna

Karen's thoughts:

Below is an overview of how sleep patterns develop in a healthy full-term infant, and approximate ages when they may occur. Keep in mind, however, each baby is unique: some may take a little longer to enter the next stage. Babies who are breast-fed often have shorter time between feeds at first, and may take a little longer to stretch that time.

Newborn infants to three months

Newborns sleep about 16 to 18 hours per 24 hours, waking up every one to four hours to feed. Sleep periods are equally divided between day and night. Breast-fed babies usually go shorter stretches between feedings than those who are formula-fed, because breast milk contains less fat than cow’s milk and tends to be digested more quickly than formula. The newborn baby will often fall asleep while feeding. Always lay babies down for sleep on their backs.

Newborns should be attended to whenever they demand it. Doing this for about the first three months has been found to minimize fussing and crying. More importantly, you are also building a close bond and pattern of trust between you and your child.

From six weeks of age onwards, I recommend laying your baby down for sleep while she is sleepy, but still a little bit awake, so she may begin to develop her own special way to self-soothe herself to sleep. You may start this when you notice she is still awake after feeding.

Newborn circadian rhythms (biological day/night body clock) are immature, so their sleep patterns are erratic at first, but the circadian rhythm will develop over the first three months.

At around two months, sleep patterns begin to shift with periods of sleep becoming longer. A preference for nighttime sleep begins to develop.

About one in five infants will develop colic between two and four weeks of age. Colic is excessive crying for prolonged periods of time with no apparent cause. The baby is regarded as “very fussy.” See a pediatrician if you think your baby may have colic.

Colicky babies are healthy and gaining weight. Some babies with colic seem to be fussy all the time, while others may have crying concentrated around the late afternoon or evening hours, beginning about the same time each day. This latter colic crying pattern is similar to the crying pattern of non-colicky infants, as there is a tendency for many babies around the age of two months to be “fussy” during the late afternoon or early evening periods. The big difference between the two groups is the length of the crying bouts.

Three to four months

At three months of age, infants’ sleep develops a more mature rhythm. The total length of time for daily sleep will decrease to an average of about 13-15 hours per day, as they have longer awake periods and longer sleep stretches too. Until the first birthday, 13-15 hours in a 24-hour period is most likely all the sleep needed. This amount of sleep is just an average, and there are some infants who will sleep more and some who will sleep less. Again, each child is different with varying sleep needs.

By three months of age, many infants will have sleep cycles lasting about three to four hours. If you have already begun laying your baby down to sleep while sleepy but still awake, she may have already learned to self-soothe and is linking two sleep cycles together, sleeping a stretch of about six to eight hours at night.

Four to six months

At four months, infants are more capable of putting two sleep cycles together, sleeping about six to eight hour stretches often between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Even though breast milk is quicker to digest than formula, many breast-fed babies are able to reach this milestone at this age too.

By this age, a baby should be laid down to sleep while drowsy but still awake. If the baby always falls asleep while being fed or rocked, she will develop a dependency for that and only be able to fall asleep, or go back to sleep after waking in the night, while being fed, rocked or soothed by a parent. If she doesn’t learn to self-soothe, she will cry for help to be soothed back down to a deeper stage when she wakes in the middle of the night, rather than soothe herself to sleep.

Rocking and holding your baby for songs, stories, comfort and loving is a very important and special thing to do with your child and is a major part of the bedtime routine. Just make sure she is snug in her bed before she closes her eyes for the night. If your baby falls asleep in your arms, you may even gently nudge her a little awake before laying her down.

When babies are four months old, it is time for parents to set the long-term sleep habits they want their children to have if they have not already begun to do so. By doing this, parents may reduce the number of nighttime sleep interruptions in the future, as babies begin to develop particular sleep habits and associations connected with going to sleep.

Also at this age, decisions should be finalized on where the baby will be sleeping. If you have been sleeping in the same bed as your baby, discuss if this is something you and your partner want to do for the long term and consider the safety aspects. Both of you should be in agreement on this issue. For some parents, bed sharing may be an enjoyable family experience and/or part of their cultural heritage, but for other parents, babies come in bed only as a spur of the moment response to parental sleep deprivation.

This age would be a good time to transition your baby to his own crib if you do not want to continue bed sharing. After this age, the longer you wait, the harder and more upsetting it will be for the child to make the change. Parents may want to think ahead about the potential effects of bed sharing — it could lead to less time for parental intimacy; lack of parental sleep; and toddlers and preschoolers who may find it difficult to sleep without their parents, or are frightened to sleep alone.

Six to eight months

By six months, many infants are able to “sleep through the night,” or sleep for around eight hours at a stretch. For example, a baby may sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., linking two sleep cycles. If your baby goes down to sleep at about 7 or 8 p.m. and wakes up in the small hours of the morning to be fed, you could try waking him for a final feed just before you go to bed yourself, somewhere between 10 p.m. and midnight. Listen for a light sleep period as an opportunity to wake the baby with minimal disruption of sleep. This strategy may mean he will not wake up for feeding after you have just fallen asleep. A few babies may even be linking three sleep cycles together, sleeping 11 to 12 hours per night, from about 7 or 8 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m., for example.

By six months, you will have begun introducing some solid food to your baby’s diet. Check with your pediatrician on how to go about this process. Usually the first food given is iron-fortified infant cereal. When offering this first food, make sure your baby has no allergic reaction to the cereal — then you may offer some at supper time which may help your baby sleep a little longer afterward, as solid foods take longer to fully digest than milk.

Naps will still be needed during the day in infancy. Many babies will fall into a pattern of having two naps per day, one mid-morning and the other sometime in the afternoon. Of course, this will depend on how their sleep is during the night. Remember, the average sleep requirement at six months is about 13 to 15 hours in a 24-hour cycle. Some may want more, and others a little less. If they happen to sleep a good 12 hours at night, a baby may want just one nap during the day, usually taken after lunch.

Be aware that even those babies regarded as good sleepers will have occasional sleeping or settling down problems. Sickness, teething and over-tiredness can cause distress and restlessness in your baby. Times of rapid cognitive or physical growth also make it harder for your baby to self-soothe and settle. Some parents feel that these settling problems result in their babies forgetting how to self-soothe, and they have to make an effort to encourage rebuilding this skill.

Eight months to one year

When infants are first learning to crawl or walk, more frequent awakenings can occur, as they have a harder time settling themselves after entering the light phase of sleep. Some babies may even pull themselves up to a standing position, holding onto the sides of the crib, and then have a hard time figuring out how to lie back down again. They will often call their parents for help.

Two naps a day are still the norm at this age, although a few may have just one, depending on if they sleep 10 to 12 hours at night. If your child is developing well, is active during the day, and is generally in good humor, she is most likely getting enough sleep.

One year and beyond

Children from one year to about three years of age have a need for an average of 12 to 14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. Between their first birthday and 18 months of age, about 90% of children shift to just one nap a day, often taken after lunch. If these naps run past 3 or 4 p.m., they may have an effect on what time your toddler will be ready for nighttime sleep.

The “ideal” bedtime is somewhere between 7 and 8 p.m., with a morning wake-up time of about 7 a.m. That may be impossible for many households to achieve, depending on parental work hours and daily schedules. Some parents may just prefer their children to have a later bedtime as they may sleep in longer in the mornings. Naps running past 3 or 4 p.m. may be needed for some children going to bed later than 8 p.m.

There is not a right or wrong time for bedtime. Each family should develop a set time when children are put to bed and which is adhered to most of the time. Occasionally, special situations may mean that routines change for a short time. The goal is for children and their parents to be getting enough rest over a 24-hour period so their biological sleep needs are met, and all can function well and enjoy their day. Over-tiredness often causes crankiness in both children and adults. Other points to consider in establishing a bedtime for your baby are time alone for yourself and time with your partner.

Between naps and nighttime sleep, your child should meet his sleep needs. Some toddlers may drop naps altogether as early as the second birthday, but generally children are at least three years old before this happens. Some parents may substitute a “quiet time” for afternoon naps, when children are encouraged to relax, play quietly by themselves, and look at books.

Levels of lucid dreaming

The most common question a person asks, and the first question I asked, when first beginning to experience lucid dreaming, is how lucid can you get? There are levels of lucidity when dreaming. There are times when you are dreaming, that allow you the opportunity to actually realize the fact that you are dreaming. This opportunity is usually very fleeting and will slip away quickly.

There are times when you are dreaming but seem to be unable to actually control what you are dreaming. What is happening is something is missing. You have a part of you that is still struggling with the fact that you are dreaming. This is when you actually need to go to another level — take it up a notch.

It is a thin line between dreaming and lucid dreaming at times. Because a person is unable to control dream figures, they believe they are not lucid. Maybe they are unable to change the scenery, so they feel they are not lucid. Have you ever been aware that you were inside a dream world? If you have experienced this feeling, then you have had a lucid dream. Have you ever been able to control any part of your dream? Then you were in a lucid dream.

You may dream for one second or for one hour — the length of a lucid dream is variable. Dream Yoga, or apprehending the dream, means that you are becoming aware of the unreal nature of the dream state. There is a definite difference between an awareness of the world of dreams and the actual act of lucid dreaming.

A regular dream

This is a non-lucid dream, in which you are not aware of the fact that you are dreaming. With a regular dream, the person is not aware and has no control over the dream. When a person is experiencing a regular dream, they accept it as being real. These dreams are actually controlled and created by a person's subconscious side. A lot of the time a person's subconscious mind uses past experiences and memories in order to form these dreams. People often attempt to interpret their dreams to determine if they are symbolic.

Semi-lucid dream

This level is the lowest level which occurs with lucid dreaming. You actually realize that you are dreaming, but some things which are happening seem illogical. Maybe you practice meditation and have learned to be self-aware of your dream world. Maybe you still question where you are. A person's brain awakens when they finally realize they are dreaming. When a person first learns how to lucid dream, they may feel odd. Flying is not something that you can do in reality, but you are able to do it when lucid dreaming. In this level of lucid dreaming, your conscious brain thinks that you can't fly, so your brain doesn't expect your body to fly. The more you explore with lucid dreaming, the more you will notice these small inconsistencies.

Full lucid dreaming

Before you can experience a fully lucid dream, you usually must have had a number of semi-lucid dreams. Once you have accomplished the skill of lucid dreaming, it usually stays with you. If you are experiencing a full lucid dream, you are totally aware that you are in a dream world and must stay extremely focused. This dream is formed by your mind, and you can totally control it at will.

Concentrating on this fact is very important — if you start to lose focus, you can also lose lucidity in a matter of seconds. Meditation can help you to hold on to this mental skill. When you are in full lucid dreaming, you can do such things as transport yourself across the country just by thinking it — or guide the actions of the other people with you in your dream. Lucid dreaming is more than just manipulation; it is about having the intense awareness of the dream state.

Lucid dreaming can be your gateway to an alternate reality. The Tibetan Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal is to have full conscious awareness and then to dissolve the dream state. This does not mean to wake up, but to be fully aware while they remain asleep.