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

Space is Sexy: Let's Colonize Mars

Both known and unknown mysteries lurk in the dark crevices of countless solar systems and galaxies eager to be explored. What will we discover as we head deeper and deeper into the cosmos? Come and join me in a curious voyage through the universe and spacetime itself to discover time and time again that space is sexy.

In each blog post of the Space is Sexy series, we will ask and attempt to answer three questions to better understand the world around us — from the smallest particle to the endless domain of the ever-expanding universe. Today's blog post is all about the fourth planet in our solar system, and our immediate red neighbour, Mars. Our three questions for today are:

1. How long will it be until it's economically feasible to colonize Mars?

2. How is the Curiosity rover different from earlier Mars rovers?

3. What happens if Curiosity finds evidence of life on Mars?

How long will it be until it's economically feasible to colonize Mars?

To colonize Mars, especially when speaking economically, we first need a fantastically good reason to do so. As history has repeatedly taught us, greed is in limitless supply — while money is scarce. Humanity has not yet socially caught up to its technological level of development. We remain a heavily intertwined society of naked apes amongst technology of our own slow progressive invention. It will be quite some time before we will undergo a paradigm shift that will center science as the most important human endeavour. Both fortunately and unfortunately, a good reason to expand outside of our planet is slowly approaching at a steady pace. Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has slowly but surely dug itself into deep, deep trouble. Global warming, and overpopulation, are only two of the serious and growing issues that nobody really wants to, or is well coordinated enough, to deal with. The term “global warming” lacks the emotional charge that it desperately needs, when in fact it is violent and cataclysmic climate change that may very well usher in the extinction of the entire human race. This is a legitimate danger, and we might truly have to do our best to leave this planet in a few decades. So, where do we stand on this issue right now?

Right behind the white picket fence rests a teeming nuclear furnace, willing to vaporize the lives of many in favour of the politics of the few. Various nations are constantly on the precipice of war, deadly eager to pummel that red button into their desks without a second thought to it. In the twenty-first century, we have become so used to our artificial lifestyles that we leech off existing resources without regard for what it will do to the future. It will be dumb to blame ourselves, though. Our brains evolve to adapt to the environment with no regard for whether or not we will ever go to space or not. Our biological composition is decidedly earthbound. After all, how could it be any different? Even though some would rather forget we are standing on a gargantuan revolving ball of matter, everything eventually affects all of us. Our planet doesn't wait for opinions, and doesn't respect national borders. It is the home to every human currently alive, and must stay that way, unless we make a serious effort to expand. The only thing we have to ask ourselves now, is when? When will we be able to leave this planet, and when will we actually start doing so? Maybe it's reasonable to assume that we will take action, if the situation became too dire. But we already have been approaching that point for quite a while now. If only we weren't already ignoring the death of millions and the suffering of billions in favour of war and entertainment. Everyone sees the problem, and nobody can truly take responsibility. It's an issue that is easily ignored, due to it being too non-local. But it's out there, somewhere in the distant future. But “Oh no, it won't affect me or my children,” they say. “Why should I worry about this in particular?” And that is the crucial moment. The crucial moment where apathy takes hold, and overcomes rational thought. But we can't just close our eyes and wish it away... if only it were that simple. Our planet simply cannot support the overzealous spread of our species forever. And this is a fact. We are slowly outgrowing the support that has sustained us in the past, and are both literally and figuratively setting ourselves up for a world of hurt.

Abundance of water is sadly a wishful illusion that has become ingrained in our minds as a simple result of daily convenience. You open the tap and water begins pouring out, seemingly endless streams of it. Your unconscious mind just assumes the stream will continue on forever. Upon closer inspection and careful analysis, however, it is clear that our planet is headed towards a severe drought — possibly severe enough to incite water wars in only a few decades. Imagine oil wars with just a tinge more violence and cruelty. Consider that there is exactly as much on the planet as billions of years ago, and only a tiny fraction of this water can actually be used. The future is a crumbling forest. Billions of people already struggle with obtaining enough to drink, and the United Nations predicts that 70% of the world will suffer from drought by 2025. Eventually, populating Mars might be the only hope we have, since it is the most accessible and suitable planet for this purpose. When we reach this state in the development of our civilization, science and the space race may yet again take center stage for mankind. The general public might care once more. When things get really screwed up, those with power and wealth will be forced to actually take things seriously. But counting on anything so prematurely would be foolish, especially since very few are willing to part with their money for something so abstract and distant. Our animalistic fears and instincts are surfacing in ever more prominent ways. And we are strained under existential pressure — be it global warming, overpopulation, or otherwise.

We cannot reasonably unify humanity as a space-faring race just yet. Since our individual egos have been coated in steel and do not actively permit such thinking, we like to think of ourselves as individuals, bearing no personal responsibility for something as large as our planet. Many feel like they're a special snowflake, entitled to everything they possess and more — deserving of everything our world has to offer. Humans are fragmented, and separated into opposing groups, countries, and continents. We fight amongst ourselves. This old habit has to be overcome, or it will certainly be our downfall. As esteemed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins aptly said, “Humans are a species that heavily relies on cooperation, thriving on altruistic behaviour.” We no longer live in a world under the rule of survival of the fittest, but in a society very much reliant on others to survive. Darwinian selection no longer applies to us. In our society, people need to look out for others — or none of us will be around for much longer. But efforts to save the earth have been met with ridicule and contempt — the most powerful trump cards in any argument. The definitive “ace up the sleeves” of any businessperson is to mock their opponent and incite laughter at the idea of supporting them. When the public laughs at an idea, it might as well be dead already. How does this all tie into the Mars mission? Well, the bottom line is that nobody wants to finance the colonization of Mars, unless they have compelling economic incentives. People only invest significant amounts of money if they expect it to come back at least twofold. If it doesn't make money, it's doubtful that they will bother to invest any. Our world runs under the motto of “spend money to make money”. Human culture is a culture of hedonism in the present — the now. Future-gazing requires abstract thinking, and effort, which is too much to spare for many. Perhaps they find it disconcerting to ponder what might lie ahead. Maybe they think it's “all talk”. Our culture finds it just dandy to condemn future generations to misery and decay, and to hinder the growth and progress of science in return for short-lived hedonism.

So... to answer, when it will be economically viable to colonize Mars, is either when it becomes cheap enough to dump finances into it without thought, or when the situation on Earth becomes dire enough that there is no other choice than to get the heck out of here. Perhaps the promise of vast amounts of minerals and Martian volcanoes and impact craters will change a few financially-inclined minds. But will it be enough to convince investors to come on-board? In the present day, there are several technological obstacles that need to be overcome, in order to achieve a pleasant cost-benefit analysis for those greedy eyes. Let's just say our arguments will have to be thoroughly convincing. If, by some virtue, things should change and adequate funding is found, there isn't much to stand in the way of colonizing other planets — of which Mars would be the easiest to attend. But first, we need to figure out how to get there — which is thankfully already possible. With current technology, it takes about a year to fly a spaceship to Mars. But there are numerous life-threatening hazards to deal with — such as solar radiation, from which we would normally be shielded from by the atmosphere here on Earth. It's definitely not a cakewalk. Once we do get there, and get some form of operation up and running, one initial idea would be to create biosphere domes on Mars to see what to do from there.

Biosphere domes are large, round structures which would contain their own closed ecosystems that would be little microcosms of nature on Earth. These ecosystems could provide continuous cycles of plant life, food, breathable air, and thus create a habitable zone within it. They would be artificially-contained sealings of nature itself. It's easier to picture them as miniature rainforests in dome-shaped see-through buildings amidst the Martian desert. This is probably the most reasonable way to begin colonizing Mars. Anyone who has seen that god-awful Pauly Shore movie Biodome will immediately know what I'm talking about. The good news is that these domes could optimally be built from workable materials that are already commonly found on Mars. Not only that, but all the work could be theoretically done by robots. This would make things quite a lot easier. The skeleton of the dome could be made through the extraction of iron from iron oxide, which is very plentiful on the Martian surface, and processed in furnaces on-site. The plexiglass windows that isolate the ecosystem from the harsh climate of Mars could be provided by bacteria. These bacteria would be genetically engineered to secrete viable forms of plastic for this explicit purpose. This would allow settlers to expand their Martian cities without the expensive and prohibitively difficult transport of materials from Earth. Creating such bacteria is already possible with today's technology. It's clear that we have finally reached the point where this is no longer limited to the works of science fiction. While we are 99% there, it certainly wouldn't hurt to improve the efficiency of solar panels first, before an attempt is made. Solar power is notoriously in need of more development, since even the best panels today capture only a tiny amount of solar energy. Another method would be a long-term solution, which might take years, decades, or even centuries — depending on the approach. This method is referred to as “terraforming”.

Terraforming involves altering the ground and atmosphere of another planet in order to create an Earth-like environment. It might sound completely out of reach, but most of the technology needed already exists — today. First, it would be necessary to increase the density of the atmosphere by several magnitudes, insure that it stays warm, and prevent it from escaping into outer space. Currently, the atmosphere on Mars is extremely thin, and would not support life regardless of whether or not there is breathable air and water. Second, we would need to melt the glaciers on Mars to provide water. And finally, we would need to introduce simple plant life capable of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

So, in order to turn Mars into an Earth-like environment, it would be necessary to:

1. Thicken the atmosphere — possibly by releasing greenhouse gas-inducing substances into the atmosphere. These are banned from use on Earth, because they contribute thousands of times more to global warming than CO2. But this would prove quite useful on Mars.

2. Keep the atmosphere warm, and prevent it from escaping into space. This could be done using huge orbiting mirrors, by creating an artificial magnetosphere. Or, by bombarding the surface with ammonia bombs — small asteroids rich in ammonia.

3. And finally, introduce simple plant life such as algae. These resistant plants could flourish in a harsh environment and provide breathable air through photosynthesis, much like trees do on Earth. But unless you happen to have a few billion to spare, and were really inspired by this blog post to spend them, we will just have to wait and see what happens. And if we don't manage to get all of our eggs in one basket anytime soon, China will get there first — and we will all be speaking Chinese on Mars. So to answer when it will be economically viable to colonize Mars, is when people in charge feel like it. Tough luck, eh?

How is the Curiosity rover different from earlier Mars rovers?

Well, for starters, the Curiosity obviously carries the most advanced equipment to date that has roamed the Martian surface. Since the last rover was sent in 1996, think about the difference between computers and digital cameras then — and now. We've come a long way as a species. Anyway, the goal of the Curiosity rover is to investigate whether Mars could have ever supported life, whether it can become habitable, and to research the role of water on the red planet — perhaps, even find life. Another amazing fact about Curiosity is that it is in fact powered by a nuclear reactor with enough plutonium to last one Martian year, or roughly two Earth years. Being powered by nuclear power solves all problems encountered by previous rovers, such as needing to heat batteries in order not to freeze, relying on solar panels for power, and navigating dark landscapes. It's smooth sailing from here on out. Something immediately noticeable is that Curiosity is about the size of a car, which is far larger than the previous rovers while still staying lightweight in comparison. It only weighs about 2,000 pounds — which is 700 less than a Honda Civic.

The rover is extremely maneuverable, using advanced collision detection and artificial intelligence that allows it to navigate effectively on its own. Not only that, but it can be controlled from Earth using something that looks somewhat like an extremely elaborate video game. Using this interface, NASA can send low-level commands (such as rotating the motor in certain amounts of revolutions) or high-level commands (such as finding the best path and staying safe). The rover is also built for rugged terrain, because the previous models kept getting stuck — and had to be handled with great care so that they wouldn't flip over. Curiosity can move about with little or no regard for terrain, violent temperature changes, and lack of sunlight. And that's the point — not much on the Martian surface can stop it. Curiosity also has a percussive drill that can bore through rock in order to take samples before filtering them for analysis. If the drill is used up, the rover can easily replace it with a new one. As if that weren't enough, Curiosity also carries an extremely powerful laser for cutting off pieces of rock. If you were to stick your arm into the beam, it would be cut clean off — much like a lightsaber. It uses this laser to slice pieces of rock from up to twenty-three feet away. Then it uses its ChemCam system, to spectroscopically find the best sample to pick up for further analysis. This means that it can easily shoot apart rock into small pieces, scan them at a distance, and then decide which piece to use for more in-depth research. The rover uses several stereoscopic cameras — meaning that it can see and map the landscape fully, in three dimensions. This allows the rover to have more depth perception and create high-resolution 3D images of its surroundings. The most pivotal difference is, that while the previous Rovers were only equipped to look for the presence of ice and water, the Curiosity rover is actually a complete rolling laboratory, with a huge amount of features. This is why it has been dubbed the MSL — the Mars Science Laboratory. Among countless other biochemical research equipment, it carries a full gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer — a machine that allows it to fully analyze samples right then and there, on Mars. It also has sensors for atmospheric temperature, pressure, humidity, radiation, UV levels, and many, many more. This makes sending physical samples back to Earth pretty much obsolete. In essence, the Curiosity rover is a huge automatized chemistry lab equipped with robot arms, 3D cameras, lightsabers, drills, and countless sensors — to aid in the search on Mars for water, and signs of life past and present. Roll along, you sexy beast!

What happens if Curiosity discovers evidence of life on Mars?

Life on Mars? That's just a conspiracy theory, right? Nope. Not at all. In fact, many scientists believe that very resistant micro-organisms might be plentiful on the Martian surface, and definitely out there somewhere in space. They might not be green men with big heads with a penchant for inspecting our butts and mutilating cattle, but they certainly do qualify as extraterrestrial life. These organisms might just be single cells moving about with little intelligence to speak of — yet they are life, nonetheless. Previously unknown micro-organisms have already been found on meteors that have impacted our planet, so why should it be such a far stretch that such lifeforms could exist on Mars? Considering the sheer amount of Earth-like planets discovered, life in some shape or form is sure to exist somewhere in the vast reaches of the cosmos. In fact, it is incredibly unlikely that there is no other life except that on Earth. So unlikely, that it is better to say that it is certain that there is life outside of our own planet. To fully understand the likelihood of life, it is important not to narrow your definition to carbon-based lifeforms such as that on Earth. Since methane-based bacteria have been discovered, and even some that thrive on nuclear radiation — yes, nuclear radiation! — there might even be more exotic life out there that would be impossible for the mind to even conceive. The fact is, that there is definitely other life out there somewhere. Statistically speaking, it would be ridiculous to assume there wasn't. The only question remaining is how advanced it is — and whether it will ever be in our reach. A theory known as “panspermia” even suggests that life on Earth may have originated from another planet and was brought here by meteor impacts — thus planting a seed, that would, over millions of years, grow into the ecosystem we are part of today. Everything on Earth might be the eventual offspring of a particularly resilient extraterrestrial organism — an alien, if you will — from a distant planet somewhere in the outer reaches of space. It is very probable that we are the offspring of aliens, millions of years in the making.

What will happen if the Curiosity rover discovers life on Mars? First, scientists worldwide will celebrate. Next, the deeply religious might flip their lids completely. Religion is built from the ground up with geocentrism in mind — with the Earth and humans always smack in the center of importance. That is why the discovery of alien life would put serious strain on the dogma of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism alike — and rightfully so, if I might add. It would be incredibly difficult for theology to justify life outside of Earth — which is by those circles believed to be God's domain and home to his children. How could extraterrestrials have occurred in the religious world view? Did God accidentally spill some magic dust on Mars while he was working on Earth? Or, is it an attempt by the dark lord Satan to confuse and mislead people into disbelief? These are the deep theological dilemmas we can look forward to hearing about from followers of such Bronze Age mythology. And as soon as prayer gets a man on the moon, we might be actually willing to listen to what they have to say. When churches reach a similar patient recovery rate as medical facilities, it will be worth a look. Until then, we should try and avoid needless fiction — lest we lose sight of the facts completely.

It's a bit embarrassing to think that we have a car-sized robot equipped with death lasers and a full chemical laboratory on freaking Mars, and all that the orthodox is concerned with is whether the musings of the semi-literate goat-herders from two millennia ago could account for bacteria that could possibly be found there. We have much better explanations for the world around us by now. Hey, it's only been what... 2000 years of progress? At least the church will give extraterrestrial life more publicity, since it's doubtful that much will change. The general public seems to care more about Paris Hilton's farts than science nowadays. We might get a few more quality sci-fi flicks on the big screen for a while, but a paradigm shift it does not make. If there is life discovered on Mars, the red planet might actually be the birthplace of life on Earth itself. There are hundreds of thousands of Martian meteors scattered all across our planet's surface — and one or more of these meteors could have brought the first microbes to our planet, and ceded all further growth and evolution. We might actually have been Martians all along. Sounds like a plot to an M. Night Shyamalan movie, doesn't it? One thing we can say for sure, is that if Curiosity finds life — or any evidence of previous life — on Mars, I will definitely have a lot of material to write future blog posts about. Sadly, our journey must now come to an end. I hope you've enjoyed this blog post, and wish you a good morning. And in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night. Take care, and remember to look for future blog posts of the Space is Sexy series.

Best wishes,
Karen

Not all relaxation techniques help you sleep

If your busy, active mind is stopping you from sleeping, it is important to have some way of switching off the obsessive thinking and worrying which can keep you awake. Thus, you should find a ‘relaxation technique’ designed to meet your needs.

For many people, especially long-term insomniacs, a new technique will only work once it has become established as a part of their bedtime routine. So pick a relaxation technique that appeals to you and commit to using it every night until it ceases to feel new. Start using it on a low-stress night, not on a night where there is great pressure on you to sleep. Continue to use it every night until it begins to feel normal and familiar, even if to start with it seems to make your sleeping a bit worse.

It is recommended that you use either a scientifically proven method, or use a technique that caters to your particular circumstance. You may need to try a few to find one that suits you, as not all will have the same effect on each person. For example, I find progressive body relaxation useless; others swear by it. But in each case, do not reject something until you have used it nightly for at least a fortnight. In this way, when a high-pressure night comes along, it will be so familiar that it will act as a comfort, rather than a disturbance.

This may seem to contradict everything I say about sleep crutches, and the way people can come to depend on them. But there is nothing intrinsically harmful about using something to help you sleep, as long as it is harmless, is reliable, and most importantly, that it is used alongside attention to faulty beliefs. Ultimately speaking, the only sleep crutch worth having is belief in your own ability to sleep. But for some, this is too big a jump to make. And for those, a relaxation CD or white noise MP3 or technique is a fine intermediate stage. This is why it is recommended that you find a relaxation method that works for you. If at some point you feel the technique has become a crutch, then it is up to you when and if you should eliminate it. If you do decide to eliminate it, then it is essential to believe in your instrinsic ability to sleep well at night. For now, you simply need to remember:

Relaxation techniques, music, and recordings will usually only work once they have become familiar.

Why obsess about time?

I do not advocate sleep diaries where every detail of one’s sleeping and waking hours is recorded in term of hours and minutes. For people who are trying to stop obsessing about sleep, this is a terrible reinforcing behaviour. Clock-watching and box-ticking can create a horrible obsession with:

- time spent asleep

- time spent awake

- time spent before falling asleep

- time spent trying to fall asleep

- time spent waiting to feel sleepy after having got up after being unable to sleep.

Hence, one can feel tense and anxious in the morning, not because of sleep deprivation, but because of worries about the number of hours one has spent asleep. It actually doesn’t much matter how many hours one spends asleep or waking because not all sleep is the same. All that matters is how one feels, and how well one functions in the daytime. We have all had perfectly happy and productive days in the past after only a few hours’ sleep. Obsessing about the number of hours we ought to be sleeping makes the possibility of these carefree days more unlikely. Clock-watching creates an unhealthy obsession with time.

Never try hard to fall asleep

Think about it: trying implies effort, and unsuccessful effort implies frustration and tension — neither of which is conducive to falling asleep. Good sleepers don’t ‘try’ to do anything, and one thing is certain: if you try to fall asleep, you will not succeed. This is because sleeping is not something you have to ‘do’. If you can't sleep at night nowadays, think back to a time when you did fall asleep easily. What did you do? The answer is that you didn’t do anything. It might be more accurate to describe falling asleep as something you do not do.

Trying to fall asleep is a little like pushing really hard against a door which needs to be pulled — it’s never going to open until you stop pushing.

The harder you try to fall asleep, the harder it will be to do so.

Let your baby learn to sleep through the night

The ideal that many parents would like to achieve could unfold like this: After a relaxing bedtime routine, you lay your baby in his bed while he is still awake. After a moment, you tiptoe from the room, hearing familiar noises as he soothes himself to sleep. He moves from a light sleep into a deep sleep. After about three hours, he surfaces to a lighter sleep that may last about an hour, then self-soothes back down for another round of deep sleep. By linking sleep cycles, he sleeps for eight hours, or right through the night.

Infant sleep cycles

Infant sleep occurs in cycles, which alternate between periods of light and deep sleep. A baby will develop a sleep cycle lasting approximately four hours; about an hour of light sleep will be followed by two hours of deep sleep, followed by about another hour of light sleep. During deep sleep, the baby is hard to wake and has no eye or body movement. During light sleep, the baby is in a semi-alert state and easily aroused. His eyes, muscles, and head may move. When babies wake up at night, it is generally from a light sleep, and, at first, it is usually because they are hungry. Their stomachs (about the size of their fists) need to grow large enough to hold more milk so they can sleep longer periods.

It is when your infant has learned to handle the light-sleep periods and can self-soothe back down to a deeper stage of sleep without parental help (not being fed or held) that two, and eventually three, sleep cycles may be linked together — forming longer periods of sleep.

To self-sooth after waking between sleep cycles, your baby may suck his fingers, make noise, cry out, or self-rock in order to calm himself to the next sleep cycle.

Self-soothing, the ability to calm and relax oneself, is a wonderful and important developmental skill for your baby to learn, and is used throughout life.

Tips for sleep if you have ADHD

I have ADHD myself, and because of it I used to have problems sleeping. Here are some tips that will help you to minimize your negative ADHD symptoms so that you can sleep at night. In this sleep guide, I am going to provide a foundation not just to help your ADHD, but also to help you sleep.

Omega 3

Omega 3 is one of the most important nutrients for your brain to function to its optimum capacity because it increases your neurotransmitters. One of the key neurotransmitters for an adult with ADHD is dopamine. When dopamine levels are reduced, your attention span is also reduced. By consuming more Omega 3 through diet and with a supplement, you can increase your attention capacity.

I talk about the importance of Omega 3 with my friends a lot. However, it’s with good reason. Taking Omega 3 is the easiest thing you can do to help your ADHD. If you start taking Omega 3 today, all the other actions I suggest in this guide will be much easier to carry out. Also, if you are sleep deprived, there is a high chance you will feel a bit low or blue. Taking Omega 3 will help with that too, as it also gives you a feel good factor.

AHDD diet

A healthy ADHD diet is one with three meals and two snacks spread evenly throughout the day. Each meal needs to include some good quality protein such as fish, eggs, or lean meat. This steady supply of nutritious food allows the ADHD brain to function at its peak. This ensures there is never a time when you feel starving. That’s important because being over-hungry plays havoc with your energy, focus, and concentration. These same diet principles also help you to sleep at night. While we are asleep, we only burn 50 less calories an hour than when we are awake. This means our diet is vital for healthy sleep. When your blood sugar is stable, it promotes sleep all night long. These foods are all high in tryptophan, which is used to make melatonin.

Healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables, brown rice, brown pasta, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are good for sleep because they stimulate insulin production. Insulin helps the body get rid of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan.

Remember to pick healthy whole grains — not refined carbs such as white bread, white pasta, deserts, and chocolate. Refined carbs have the opposite effect. They lower your blood sugar, which causes cortisol (stress hormone) to be released and keep you awake. If your body is low in calcium and magnesium, this will cause you to wake up after a few hours of sleep and have trouble going back to sleep. By taking a calcium and a magnesium supplement daily, this problem will be resolved. Calcium also has a calming effect and will help you with anxiety.

Foods to avoid

Bacon, cheese, eggplant, ham, sugar (or dessert), sausages, spinach, and tomatoes have tyramine — and this causes norepinephrine (a stimulant) to be released. Eating a meal high in protein with no carbohydrates should also be avoided before sleep, as protein-rich foods contain tyrosine, which awakens the brain.

Daily exercise

As an adult with ADHD, you may already have made the connection between exercise and feeling great. This is because when you perform aerobic exercise (running, biking, rowing, fast walking, and swimming), there is an increase in the blood and oxygen levels in the brain. This increases endorphin and acetylcoholine levels, which help ease ADHD symptoms. This in turn helps you focus, experience greater mental alertness, and have a sense of calm. Exercise also helps you to have a good night’s sleep.

The best time of day to exercise is late afternoon or early evening. This is due to your body temperature. When you exercise, your body temperature increases, and then, it starts to fall around bedtime. All this is connected to melatonin because your body temperature affects when melatonin is released. So pick an exercise that is fun and enjoyable for you, then, do it for 30 minutes every day.

Meditation

Meditation may seem like a contradiction in terms for someone who has ADHD. However, meditation is very beneficial as it quiets and focuses the mind.

Meditation helps to increase concentration, decrease impulsivity, and increase cognitive functioning. Meditation promotes healthy sleep by reducing the stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Even just five minutes a day of meditation will help you to sleep.

Here are my eight steps to meditating:

1) Find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed.

2) Sit down. You don’t have to sit in a lotus position; it’s fine to sit in a chair, with your feet on the ground and your hands in a comfortable position on your lap.

3) Close your eyes.

4) Inhale slowly and deeply.

5) Exhale slowly and deeply.

6) Think about different parts of your body — from your toes up to the top of your head — and concentrate on letting each of them relax fully.

7) Clear your mind of your thoughts. It’s hard to think of absolutely nothing, so think of a word such as “peace” or “love” and repeat that word slowly during your meditation.

8) When other thoughts intrude, don't get upset, just let them float away and gently bring yourself back to your focal point.

What is double-system recording?

Double-system recording is the process of using two audio recording mediums at the same time for film. On newer professional digital cameras, their audio circuitry has come along way. The primary audio is recorded directly onto the camera with a backup recorder used just in case.

On lower-end video cameras and HDSLR cameras, you must record on a second recording medium to get the best quality audio. Commonly used now are the Portable Digital Recorders or PDR. Besides being a backup or main audio recorder, they work great as a stand-alone recorder for narration, sound effects, or that voice-over your daughter needs for her class project.

When using the double system, whether the camera audio is the main audio or a “scratch track”, you need to sync up the audio. The easiest way is to go back to the old film days (well, not that old) and use a slate between each scene.

How to slate

1. Get both recording mediums going.

2. Put the slate in focus, in front of the camera, call out the scene number, take number and any other information you would like to record (e.g., which channel is the lavaliere microphone and which one is the boom microphone).

3. “Clap” the slate and start shooting. That’s it.

Clap the slate hard enough to be heard by the microphones. In post you will see the clap on the video, hear the clap on the audio tracks and match the two together. Simple.

If you don’t have a slate, a brisk hand-clap will do — just make sure the hands are visible on camera.

The hypnagogic state

Most people have never heard of the hypnagogic state. First of all, sleep is essential for our good health and a good night's rest can help combat stress, nervous exhaustion, headaches and irritability. As we sleep, we dream — and dreams can be restorative. People who are deprived of sleep for long periods, such as junior doctors, have admitted to worrying that they may not be considering all perspectives when making important decisions. In sleep-deprivation experiments, people have hallucinated (imagined seeing things and hearing voices), become paranoid, and they could not function properly on a mental level. Once they had caught up on their sleep, their health returned to normal.

It is also estimated that two-thirds of all long-distance drivers' near-misses are caused by the driver falling asleep at the wheel.

We need to sleep, and we need to dream.

As we fall asleep, we enter a hypnagogic state. This is a strange time when we are neither fully asleep, nor fully awake. If you have ever found yourself suddenly jerking into wakefulness (also known as a hypnic jerk), it is usually while in the beginning phase of the hypnagogic state. While in the hypnagogic state, it is often difficult to distinguish between thoughts and reality. We might hear voices, see visions and all sorts of strange thoughts and sights come into our head.

The hypnagogic state leads into sleep and then, as we leave sleep, we once again enter this strange half-awake, half-asleep state. We see scenes before our eyes — such as someone cooking a meal, people dancing, a crowded airport. We hear sounds: the telephone ringing, your partner talking, the dog barking. And then we come into full wakefulness, sometimes feeling confused as to what was, and what was not, real!

Using an out of body experience to enter a lucid dream

An OBE or out of body experience is when we feel as if we are leaving our physical body, and are conscious, aware, and can move about into other areas and even other lands. An OBE is one aspect of lucid dreaming, though not everyone experiences it. It is something to challenge yourself to try, and many find it to be an enjoyable and enlightening experience.

How to have an obe

Having an OBE means you must be so relaxed that your body will fall asleep before you conscious mind does. This means it will not fight against the “exit” of one's self from one's body. If your body is asleep, your eyes are closed, you are fully aware that you are lying in your bed, surrounded by the things in your bedroom — but you will feel detached from your body. When you feel this sensation, you must realize that while you are asleep in your own bed and in your own bedroom, you actually are asleep for real. In other words, your dream is that you are lying in your bed with your body fully relaxed.

You must cross the threshold from being consciously awake to being asleep and dreaming that you are conscious. You must be convinced that you are awake and aware. Perhaps you have self-awareness, and think you are awake with an extremely relaxed body, but you have crossed on over to the land of lucid dreams and are set up for an out of body experience. But it is the realization that you “know” you are dreaming — yet you feel awake — that will help this to happen.

Awareness of the dream

This is a delicate time in which you must retain hold of the awareness you have of your body, though it is sleeping. During an out of body experience, you are paralyzed (known as sleep paralysis), so you will be unable to move your body. You may feel as if your entire body is numb, void of feeling, or you may feel as if your covers are extremely heavy and you will be unable to move because of this weight. Do not fret over this feeling because it is normal. Just relax and be glad because it will enable you to move on to the next steps of having a true out of body experience and diving into your lucid dream.

Many people admit to having a sensation of vibrations and or a loud buzzing in the ears just prior to the dream body leaving the physical body. It may feel like electricity is surging through your veins. Your head may feel as if it is vibrating and the hissing becomes quite loud in the ears. This is normal and is not a sign of something wrong. If you experience this, relax and rejoice, because it means you are about to enjoy an exciting out of body experience.

Sometimes going through these processes may seem scary. Some believe that by having an out of body experience you may inadvertently “invite” other beings into your dreamscape. Sometimes these other beings are not so nice, and other times they are warm and friendly. Are these beings real? This is all a perception of your imagination. Remind yourself that is it “just” a dream and do not fear if someone or something else seems to be present with you during this.

The true out of body experience

If you can move past the physical sensations, and if you can realize that an out of body experience is just another aspect of a lucid dream, you can easily go into this mode. Your surroundings during this may seem real. You may feel as if you are moving about your room or home, or beyond. You may be convinced that you really are “out of your body.” The facts are that your mind remembers what these places look like, so you are moving about in a dream room or home, based on the memories in your mind.

The most confusing thing about having an OBE is that you may feel as if you have woken up instead of stepping into a dream. This feeling can be quite convincing, and you may conduct yourself until your physical body truly wakes up — then you suddenly find yourself back in your bed having been asleep after all.

Discovering yourself in a lucid dream

Lucid dreaming is the scientifically proven ability to become consciously aware while you are dreaming, and to have the ability to actively control your dreams. The experience of lucid dreaming can help you to get to know yourself better, be more peaceful, and be more confident. We live in a crazy world, so there is no shame in not knowing exactly what to do at times. Becoming more aware of yourself in general will improve your life. Dreaming is never the place to find answers to your questions, but it could potentially be beneficial to you.

When you first start experiencing lucid dreaming, you will probably have a lot of things that you want to do — such as eat amazing food, have amazing sex, meet yourself in the future, and many others things on your “to do list”. There are things that you can ask your lucid dream in a fun way to gain insights from your subconscious inner self.

“Show me myself in 10 years. Show me something funny.”

“Let me experience unconditional love. Let me feel confident.”

“Show me how to have more lucid dreams. Show me something amazing.”

“Let me feel optimal health.”

“Show me how to resolve a problem with an employee at work. Let me see my first pet when I was a child.”

This list can go on and on — sit down and make up your own list of what would be important about yourself that you would like to discover while lucid dreaming. Doing this can help provoke all kinds of results, including intuitive predictions about the future. Even memories that you thought you had forgotten can come rushing back.

The thing that surprises some people is that when answers are given by your dream self, they are not filtered by your conscious mind. The conscious mind can filter these predictions and they can often become bogged down with logical thinking — thus, the creative value can be overlooked. You always have the choice of how much you control your dreaming and how much you discover about yourself. Your ability to make these discoveries depends a lot on your confidence.

In the process of a lucid dream, you can ask things. If there is no answer to what you asked, raise your lucidity and ask again. Because of the fact that you have no expectation at this point, the outcome of the question you ask can make it special.

Dreaming about someone special can also be accomplished. The best way to do this is to think about the person as you slip into sleep. Think about the way they look, the way they feel, or the way they smell. In effect, this can cause your brain to focus on that person — and chances are you will dream about them.

Keeping a dream journal next to your bed can help you record your dreams and remember more things about yourself. If you wake up during the night and remember where your dream left off, tell yourself that when you drift back to sleep, you want to go back and continue that dream. If you are experiencing a lucid dream, be very careful about looking into a mirror. It can often help you decide if you are awake or asleep, but it can also tell you how you perceive yourself. The interesting thing with lucid dreaming is that you can solve your life problems, invent things, or train for anything.

You can ask yourself: Who are you or what will you do? What type of dream is this? What inspired you to dream about this? Asking questions like this before drifting off to sleep can help you control what you dream about.

The basics of lucid dreaming is simply to dream while you know you are dreaming. This basic definition requires nothing more than becoming aware that you are dreaming. The level of lucidity can greatly vary. The more lucid you are, the more aware you are of what is going on and the more about yourself you discover. Your ability to discover more about yourself depends a lot on your confidence.

Shut up about insomnia.

If you have insomnia, it cannot be overemphasised how negative an effect talking about your problem can have. This certainly does not mean that you should sit on your problems, keep them hidden, and never speak about the fact that you are having difficulty sleeping. If it is really relevant to the conversation at the time, and you think that it might help your problem to mention it to a particular person, then do so. But when it becomes a real habit so that it becomes a topic of light conversation, something to mention as small talk or to someone you have just met at a party, something needs to change.

Perhaps you never talk to others about your problem. You may be one of those who ‘bottles it up’. But be warned, all of the following points may still apply to you. It may just be that the only one you speak to about your problem is yourself. Monitor your inner monologue and look at the stories you tell yourself: how do you refer to yourself, what language do you use? Do the following points still apply, but only to your internal narrative?

Talking about your problem manifests in different ways in different people, but the following are particularly problematic.

Calling yourself an insomniac

Talking about your problem is particularly harmful if you are using your insomnia as a way of describing yourself — ‘letting someone know a bit more about yourself’.

“I’m an insomniac.”

Can you see how destructive and negative and harmful this little phrase is? Labelling yourself with this term creates an identity, categorising you as one who is unable to sleep. By repeating this phrase you are describing yourself, your very being, in terms of a problem and so your insomnia becomes a fundamental part of who you are. People you know begin to ask “how’s your insomnia?” when they see you, reinforcing this identity. A negative feedback loop is thus created, with the message coming both from yourself, and from others, that you are ill, broken; that you are, essentially, an insomniac.

Simply giving a name to the problem goes a long way towards ‘creating the monster’. By slapping a label on what is nothing more than a set of behaviours or events, we reify, or make real, a separate entity — insomnia. This term ‘insomnia’ implicitly suggests that an insomniac is suffering with a clearly defined medical condition, a disease one ‘comes down with’, one which requires medical attention, which must be ‘cured’ by the application of an external pill or remedy. It is none of these things.

Boasting

It’s irritating, isn’t it? Sometimes when you tell someone about your problem they claim, unjustifiably, also to be an insomniac when their problem is nothing like as bad as your own! ‘Sometimes I lie awake for an hour!’ they complain. An hour? What do they know? They know nothing about real insomnia! They don’t know what it is to have it rule your life, to go days, months, without proper sleep! You are going to tell them exactly what severe, chronic, long-term insomnia is like! After all, if anyone knows, you do!

Be really, really honest now: if someone tells you they have a sleeping problem, do you feel compelled to boast about how much worse yours is? I don’t consider this to be boasting. I do tell people how bad the problem is, but it’s only because I want people to know how serious the problem is. It is a large part of my life, a disability almost, and it is dishonest if I don’t tell them the full extent of the problem.

Of course it doesn’t feel like boasting. But exactly why is it so important to you that people know just how bad your problem is? Are you absolutely sure there is no satisfaction to be gained from seeing their horrified reactions, gaining their sympathy, and (you need to be really honest with yourself to admit to this one) showing their problem to be insignificant compared with yours?

Exaggerating

Have you ever exaggerated your problem when telling others about it? Before claiming that you are not guilty, take the time to look within and be very honest with yourself. When you tell people your story, do you tend to embellish it even a little when you tell them of the way it rules your life, or just how your problem is different?

Or do you exaggerate to yourself? Do your thoughts focus on those few really bad nights, playing them up in your mind, while ignoring the number of good nights of sleep you may have had? It’s not that you have any intention of lying, or misleading anyone, it’s just that a little exaggeration and boasting can be a very good way of making the seriousness of the situation apparent. The hitch here is that the boast eventually becomes reality, as the problem slowly begins to fit the exaggeration! At which point, a new bigger boast is needed — perhaps you now once went a fortnight without sleep. So be careful with exaggeration. Every time you exaggerate about how bad your sleeping is, you create a new possibility for yourself. You give yourself something to live up to — a new goal to achieve, a new level of insomnia to work towards!

Some people reading this page may only have had a problem for a few weeks, yet you may already be going around calling yourself ‘an insomniac’, and talking about your problem at every opportunity. The important message for all who have a problem sleeping is:

The more you talk about, boast about, exaggerate, and identify with your problem, the worse it will become.

No wonder sleep problems remain persistent. How are you ever going to change your beliefs about sleep if you are continually describing yourself as an insomniac and boasting in great detail about just how bad your problem is?

Some people will have been suffering for decades and neither boast nor exaggerate. Indeed, many suffer in total silence and never talk to others about their secret problem. If this applies to you, do not be disheartened. If you don’t do any of these things, great. Be happy that you have one fewer negative behaviour to change. But keep an eye and ear out for this tendency in yourself. It can be very insidious, and you may need to be very vigilant to spot it, particularly if the one to whom you exaggerate is yourself. In short...

The story you tell about your sleep will come true.

Don't change your lifestyle because of insomnia

It doesn’t get any worse than this. There is perhaps no piece of behaviour which will accelerate the progress of your problem as much or hold it in place so firmly. If your insomnia problem has become so all-consuming that you are willing to compromise enjoyment of life rather than risk missing sleep, then you need to take action... now.

If you are a long-term insomniac, you are likely to be making many, many compromises to your life for the sake of sleep. If your problem is recent, check if you are already making small changes which impact upon the normal running of your life. Your particular behaviours are likely to be quite specific, which makes it difficult to identify them all. Such behaviours may include special routines; avoiding coffee even in the morning, avoiding all alcohol, avoiding scary films or spicy food at night, avoiding holidays or spending nights away from home, never staying out late, avoiding making plans, demanding special behaviours from your spouse or partner, or any other behaviour or special action (and this is the important bit) intended only for the purposes of helping you sleep. Many people even change their jobs in order to fit in with a sleeping problem. Becoming self-employed is common amongst insomniacs because of the mistaken impression that the greater freedom and flexibility of working hours will improve the chances of sleeping.

Situational insomnia

This problem is particularly pernicious if you have situational insomnia like I had so chronically. It does not affect all insomniacs, but I give it a special mention because it is one of the most stubborn forms of the problem. The fear of not sleeping before important events can seem impossible to overcome.

This was the last aspect of my problem to be eliminated, lingering long after I had otherwise recovered. And even though my sleep at this point was generally very good, I was still terrified of making plans. I never invited friends to dinner, or organised a night out or a party. I wouldn’t even arrange a shopping trip or meeting someone for coffee or lunch. I stopped going on holiday and never, never stayed overnight at a friend’s house. When invited to an event, I would answer in the most disinterested way. ‘I’m not sure what I’m doing yet’, I would nonchalantly reply; ‘can I let you know on the day?’ A cast-iron plan was simply too frightening and by not committing myself to anything, I had a better chance of sleeping. To my close friends and family I even gave a set of rules: if you want to plan anything with me tell me about it on that morning. Don’t tell me beforehand. Bless them; they stuck to my ridiculous rules. Any occasional breach of the rules would result in an angry response. I remember reprimanding a friend for telling me about a future dinner party plan. ‘Don’t you know what you have done?’ I told her, ‘You have condemned me to a sleepless night! How could you be so thoughtless?’ What a nightmare I was living, and what a nightmare I was to live with.

I eventually found out that this was classic behaviour for someone with situational insomnia. I couldn’t see it then, but every time I avoided making a plan, every time I feigned indifference to a social invitation, every time I demanded people follow my rules, and every time I reacted badly when they didn’t, I was holding my problem firmly in place.

Some insomniacs simply refuse to attend social occasions or important events if they have not slept well and so begin missing out on all the good things in life, frequently cancelling or postponing engagements because they are too tired. Can you see how destructive this sort of behaviour is? Insomniacs will literally privilege the problem over their enjoyment of life. Are you beginning to compromise your normal life in order to avoid any danger of a sleepless night? In truth, there is no greater way to feed, grow and keep your insomnia monster healthy than by letting it dictate and affect your normal everyday activities.

When you start rearranging your life for insomnia, insomnia has become your life.

Sex in lucid dreams?

Lucid dreams make fulfilling your sexual fantasies seem real. Many people desire to have lucid dreams so they can fulfill such desires. They want to know if beginners can jump into a dream of lucid sex, and then they wonder if the sex in the dreams is as good as real life.

Not always good

Sexual dreams are easy to conjure, even if they are not lucid. Sometimes when you set your intentions to be a lucid dream as a sexual fantasy, you may find it to be disappointing. You may discover the object of your passion is not what you once thought it was.

Making your image to be attractive

Some people who feel they are unattractive in real life may have a lucid dream where they have the perfect body and are quite sexy to all who see them in the dream. Your subconscious mind projects what it sees for you. You may meet up with others in the dream that are also characters conjured by your subconscious mind — people or beings you do not know in real life, but only exist to be a part of the dream scenery.

Advice to having a fulfilled sexual fantasy

Rather than launching into the dreamscape with the immediate thought of finding someone to consummate a union, try to engage in getting to know them intimately first. This only works if you are fully lucid (meaning you have full self-awareness and are in control of your actions within the dream). Remember that the beings you do come across in the dreamscape are mere reflections of your subconscious mind and what you project in your innermost self.

Physical fulfillment of lucid dream sex

Most folks want to know if lucid dream sex will produce real, physical sensations, like orgasm. Many scientific studies have researched this very topic. The experts believe that while the body experiences “some” of the sensations of arousal, it is rare for the full release of an orgasm to happen. The struggle is in the conscious mind, and holding on to the fact that you are in a lucid dream and feeling actual physical sensations. To this end, if you wish to have lucid sex with the result in being the fruition of true physical arousal, you are better off spending your lucid dreams on other endeavours.

The ethics of lucid dream sex

Some people struggle with the whole idea of having “sex” with someone who is not their real-life partner. They may feel that even sex in a dream with a dream character is cheating on their partner. Is this a fact, or does it have more to do with personal issues?

If you feel that having sex with a dream character is cheating, but still want to try it, you should discuss this with your partner. You need to dive deep down into your own mind and the feelings you have about it as well. Would it hurt your feelings if your partner engaged in sex with a dream character? The fact is, the dream character is not “real”, but more a figment of your own subconscious mind. Really, there are no moral issues with engaging in “dream sex”, since it strictly plays out in your own mind. Of course, if you feel that even thinking about another person — be it a real, live person or a dream character — is wrong, then for you it is immoral. It's all in the perception of the individual. The issues may arise if you are attracted to a real live person and try to pull them into your lucid dreams. This may cause your affections for this person to grow, rather than keeping them at bay. You may feel it would be a good release to be with them in the confines of your own lucid dream, while still leaving them alone in real life. But this often serves to grow the endearment we have for that other person, rather than to satisfy a desire. In this case, it may be wise to make the object of your dreamscape someone you do not really know.

My thoughts on how medical professionals treat insomnia

If you are a long-term sufferer of insomnia, you will almost certainly have tried many cures and remedies, both conventional and ‘alternative’. In this article, I will describe the standard treatments for insomnia by conventional medicine. I will also suggest the reasons why these are often unsuccessful. If you are one of those people for whom ‘nothing seems to work’, then this article may be very important for you. On the other hand, if your insomnia is a recent problem, you may be bewildered by the sheer number of sleeping remedies available — and you may be thinking about asking your doctor for a sleeping pill. Be warned, the philosophy behind sleeping naturally is completely incompatible with the taking of hypnotic sleeping drugs; below, I'll show you why.

‘It takes one to know one’

I am convinced that only those who have really suffered can understand the particular psychology of insomnia. One reason for this belief is that many medical explanations and attitudes seem to shed little insight into the problem itself, particularly in terms of the consequences of insomnia and the way it can negatively affect a person’s life. Consider, for example, the following statement taken from one current, well-known sleep clinic’s online program.

“People worry unnecessarily about the effect that a night without sleep will have on the following day. Tests show that performance is hardly affected by lack of sleep, and the worst that can happen is that your mood will be affected.”

This advice is supposed to reassure us that our worst fears for the following day are unfounded. The implication seems to be that insomnia is only a problem insofar as it affects our productivity and efficiency, that mood is unimportant so long as we can still produce the same output. In other words, if your boss is satisfied, a little thing like a bad mood is irrelevant. With so little understanding of the debilitating effects of insomnia, it is statements like this that make me wonder whether their authors have ever known the utter misery of a missed night’s sleep. Could anyone who has experienced the waking hell of sleep deprivation suggest that mood is a minor consideration? Mood is not a small thing — mood is everything.

But when it comes to treating the condition, this lack of understanding is even more apparent. This article is devoted to the subject of sleeping pills, and if you can't get any sleep at night, I advise you to read it thoroughly. Even if you think you have heard all there is to know on the matter, you may well learn something new. I am not a medical doctor, but in my opinion, nothing reveals the misunderstanding of sleep problems as much as the prescribing of hypnotic sleeping pills for long-term insomnia.

‘Can’t you give me something to make me sleep?’

Medical knowledge in many areas of human health is truly awe-inspiring, and some members of my immediate family certainly would not be alive today without the quick and brilliant actions of doctors. However, the more incredible doctors become at treating severe illness, the greater becomes our expectation that they should be able to cure any problem which may affect our lives. We often imagine that there must be a medical solution — in other words, a drug solution — to every problem. The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, insomnia does not have any ‘physical’ cause. This means that going to a medical doctor with a sleeping problem is a little like going with a broken heart — and any drug treatment is hardly likely to be effective!

My feeling is that the medical profession in Canada, America, Britain, Europe, and the western world in general has not always adequately acknowledged the significance of belief in cases of insomnia. Of course the placebo effect is well-recognised by doctors, but when it comes to insomnia, this goes way beyond the usual ‘positive-thinking-aids-recovery’ effect. Sleep can be such a fragile and elusive thing that belief can literally make the difference between sleeping and not. When treating insomnia, it is vital to instil a natural trust in one’s own ability to sleep. It is because of this fact that I now feel that any doctor who prescribes a drug for moderate to long-term insomnia has not fully understood the condition.

My absolute conviction is that the drug paradigm is completely wrong for the treatment of insomnia.

Natural sleep remedies

Despite the fact that insomnia has reached epidemic proportions, especially among developing countries, it doesn’t mean that it is a modern phenomenon. More likely, we are just better able to count the millions that now battle with it. Folks have been dealing with insomnia for centuries — and common home remedies have a proven track record.

Herbs have been used for centuries in treating all types of medical conditions. Many serious medical and health problems are best treated pharmacologically, but the fact is, much of modern medicine’s power drugs were engineered or synthesized from natural plant materials.

In the treatment of insomnia we find a wide variety of herbal remedies, all-natural vitamins and supplements, and homeopathic treatments that do a fairly good job at relieving symptoms.

Back in the days when our ancestors had no artificial light, they would wake up at sunrise and sleep at sunset. This is called the circadian rhythm — or in simpler terms, the wake-sleep cycle. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological wake—sleep cycle that governs most animals and humans into a synchronized series of natural functions and responses — such as hunger, thirst, and body temperature. The wake-sleep clock is controlled by a small hypothalamus in the brain. A simple explanation of how it works is that light admitted through the retina area of the eye sends a message to the area of the brain which governs our circadian rhythm, which in turn controls the amount of melatonin that is released. So as light fades, the brain releases more melatonin — and as dawn approaches, our melatonin levels drop once again, to daytime levels. Melatonin is therefore a sleep-inducing hormone.

The use of melatonin to treat insomnia

The hormone melatonin in its natural state is a key ingredient in the sleep-wake cycle. When our biological clock is in synchronisation with the natural rhythm of the world, our melatonin levels increase and decrease throughout a 24-hour cycle and largely in response to changes in the natural light.

If we work nightshifts, or rotate shifts, many scientists observe that we never become truly accustomed to these unnatural conditions. Our biological clock senses that we are supposed to be asleep when we are actually active. For this reason, many people who work night shifts experience insomnia symptoms, which can even be chronic. Others, though, have conditioned themselves to this type of work, and may suffer circadian rhythm disorders because of it.

For many sufferers, the natural levels of melatonin seem to be either absent or irregular. When melatonin is not being produced (naturally) we are less likely to get drowsy before bedtime, leading to difficulties in falling asleep — and if this hormone level fluctuates, insomnia will ensue.

There is good news, however. Synthetic melatonin is available for the treatment of insomnia, which may be a safer alternative in many cases to prescription sleeping pills. The hormone is quite effective at helping overcome symptoms of sleep disturbance; it is especially effective in regulating sleep onset and negating difficulty falling asleep. Synthetic melatonin mimics the natural process in our brains, which can help us get the essential sleep we need — thereby re-plotting our natural sleep-wake cycle.

Advertised widely on the internet, it is believed to be an effective insomnia treatment, since it is naturally produced in the body and should trigger the body's circadian rhythm. Many people believe that as we get older, our melatonin levels decline. But its effectiveness remains to be thoroughly studied, and findings so far are mixed.

In one small study, it was found that melatonin may help night shift workers sleep during the day.

Dr. James K. Wyatt of Rush University Medical Centre and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School assigned a group of people free from sleep disorders to be put on a 20-hour sleep-wake schedule, simulating a traveller crossing four time zones eastward every day. They were asked to take 0.3 or 5 mg of melatonin — or a similar placebo pill — 30 minutes before each scheduled sleep period, which was of 7 hour duration. The study found that the people who used melatonin had longer sleep time during the day when the body doesn't naturally produce it, compared to those who took a placebo. However, when administered synthetic melatonin at night (when the body produces its own natural melatonin), no added benefits were observed.

Another factor that you must consider before buying melatonin is that its safety is not guaranteed, as its production is not closely monitored. Forms of melatonin available in health stores may contain other substances which are untested for long-term use.

Common side effects of melatonin supplementation include dizziness, daytime drowsiness, and headache. You should always consult with your doctor before beginning a course of melatonin supplementation, and discontinue use at the first sign of adverse effects.

Vitamins

These supplements can be very beneficial, and ideally, should include the vitamins B3, B6, and C, which help to relax the central nervous system — thereby resulting in improved sleep.

B vitamins assist in the stimulation of the neurotransmitters of your brain, essential for restful sleep and a quiet mood.

Vitamin B6 and magnesium present in bananas and potatoes helps transform tryptophan into serotonin, which is a sleep inducing hormone.

Vitamin B6 also helps produce melatonin and dopamine in the brain, which regulates sleep, mood, and our circadian rhythm.

Vitamin B12 helps to promote positive mood and thoughts and a healthy nervous system. Consuming orange juice, leafy green vegetables, cereals and beans is also good for alleviating insomnia. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and magnesium, which help with sleep inducement.

Aloe Vera is a rich source of minerals and vitamins, especially the B vitamins in their natural form. It also helps maintain a healthy digestive system, as well as joint and muscle function.

Herbal remedies

Historically, in the treatment of insomnia, we find a wide variety of herbal remedies that do a fairly good job at relieving insomnia symptoms. The Greeks and Romans used Valerian and St. John’s Wort to combat insomnia, and these herbal remedies are still in use today. Other common herbs used are chamomile, passion flower, lavender and lemon balm.

Herbal and natural treatments for sleeplessness are taken in a variety of forms, including teas, capsules and pills, powders added to food and drink, tinctures, serums, and even aromatics in room perfumers and bath oils.

As part of your bedtime ritual or sleep hygiene, you may include:

- Warm milk. Milk is known to contain a naturally occurring sedative known as serotonin, which has a very calming effect on the brain.

- Chamomile tea

- Valerian tea or tincture

- A hot bath, with Epsom salts or a sleep inducing essential oil added to the water

- A spoonful of honey, which can be added to the warm milk

- A little nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled in milk, and again, some added honey

- An essential oil burner in your bedroom with perhaps a few drops of lavender essential oil added. Lavender is known to have relaxation inducing properties. Remember, no naked flame after retiring!

Valerian

This all-natural remedy is derived from the valerian plant root and comes in many forms. Natural remedies containing the valerian plant have been used for centuries. It has been brewed into a medicinal tea, but is now also widely available in a pill or capsule form and manufactured from potent oils available in the plant’s roots.

There is no scientific proof of valerian’s actual neurological effects, but centuries of use continue to illustrate its effectiveness as a sleep aid and its value in relieving anxiety conditions.

Valerian may help to shorten the amount of time taken to fall asleep, and to reduce instances of middle-of-the-night wakefulness.

For most people, it is relatively free from side effects, provided that it is taken as directed. But some folks, including me, have allergic sneezing reactions to valerian. The only side effect I've noticed when taking valerian is sneezing and runny nose the next day. When buying valerian in supplement form, you should deal only with reputable companies, and use it according to package directions. If it becomes necessary to consult your doctor about insomnia concerns, and you are using a valerian product, it's advisable to disclose this. Sleep aids prescribed by your doctor should never be replaced by valerian without proper consultation. Valerian use should be discontinued at the first sign of adverse side effects.

Glossary of audio engineering terms

Here's a glossary I've compiled of the most common terms used in location audio and audio engineering.

A

Adapters — cabled or in-line audio format converters used for connecting different sound equipment

ADR — Automatic Dialog Replacement; the process of replacing dialog that is unusable in its present form

AGC — automatic gain control, use very sparingly

Assisted Listening — auxiliary listening monitors, usually for directors, script supervisors, clients and producers

Audio DA — audio distribution amplifier

Audio Mults, Audio Snakes — multi-pair cables, housed in a single cable, generally used for long cable runs

B

Boom Operator — assistant who operates a microphone at the end of a boom pole

Boom Pole — a lightweight (ex. graphite) pole, used for extending microphone reach

C

Cardioid — heart-shaped microphone pickup pattern

Condenser — a type of microphone that requires power

D

dBFS — means “decibels relative to full scale”. An abbreviation for decibel amplitude levels in digital systems which have a maximum available peak level. 0 dBFS is assigned to the maximum possible level.

F

Feedback — a high-pitched sound that occurs when a microphone “hears” itself from a PA speaker or headset

Frame Delay — an audio processor that delays the audio signal so the final video and audio will be in sync

G

Gaff tape — Gaffers tape; a cloth tape that is used extensively on productions for their light-tack quality

H

Headroom — the maximum audio signal level before distortion

Headset — microphones worn over the head; with or without earpiece

Hypercardioid — a polar pattern similar to the cardioid except there is more sound pickup in the rear

L

Lavaliere — tiny microphones (wired or wireless); may be visible for announcers and newscasters

M

Micro-Cat - a small “furry” windscreen used on lavaliere microphones

Monitors, Audio — speakers

MOS — acronym for “mitt out sound”; meaning no sound on the next shot

O

Omni — circular microphone pickup pattern

P

Phantom Power — low-wattage power for condenser microphones

Plant Mic — hidden microphone for dialogue or sound effects pickup

Playback — audio or video replay of pre-recorded material

Polar Pattern — microphone pickup pattern

Plug-in Transmitter — wireless transmitter that plugs into any adaptable microphone

Q

Q-Box — troubleshooting listening device made by Whirlwind™.

R

RF — acronym for “radio frequency”

S

Saddlebag — a metal or fabric “saddlebag” that holds wireless receivers on a video camera

Shark Fin — flat-sided RF antenna; “bat-wing”

Shotgun — a long-tube type microphone with a supercardioid polar pattern that is predominately used on production sets

Stick — handheld microphone used for announcer stand-ups

Supercardioid — microphone polar pattern usually associated with “shotgun” microphones

T

TRS — acronym for tip, ring, sleeve; used in balanced audio connectors

T-Power — terminology for 12 volt microphone power

W

Weatherproofing — process of protecting against inclement weather

Whip — a standard rubber coated antenna

Windscreen — foam or cloth covering over microphone for wind protection; most microphones come with a built-in metal windscreen

Wireless — terminology for radio frequency equipment

“Work the mic” — when the on-camera talent maneuvers the microphone between themselves and the guest

X

XLR — acronym for a 3-pronged balanced audio connector

Z

Zeppelin — hard meshed cover for a shotgun microphone used for wind protection

Sleeping in on weekends is a bad idea

For many, the weekends are a great time to catch up on some missed sleep. Without the stress of having to get up for work, many people find that they tend to sleep much better on Friday and Saturday nights and may sleep-in for hours in the morning, until 11 or noon. This may be the only decent sleep an insomniac gets all week, and the joy of a delicious sleep-in is a temptation which few can resist. Others find that they do not sleep any better on the weekend than during the week, but even so, they usually get out of bed hours later on weekends compared with week days.

For many people, their only sleeping problem is so-called ‘Sunday night insomnia’ which means that the first day back to work on Monday is often marred by sleep deprivation. The reason for Sunday night insomnia is simply that, having overslept the previous two mornings, when you go to bed at your normal time on Sunday night, you simply are not tired. Thus it takes many hours to fall asleep.

It is also more than likely that much of the time lounging in bed was not spent sleeping, weakening the sleep/bed association. Sleep-ins are sleep thieves!

Thus, sleeping in on weekends on a frequent basis can only serve to exacerbate one's insomnia.

How to stop nightmares

Often, nightmares may help to provoke lucid dreaming. This is good news for those of us who are seeking to have lucid dreams. But for those who either do not know about lucid dreams or do not care to have them, they will have to deal with the nightmares in different ways. Our minds question the terrors of nightmares and we begin to question the reality of nightmares. This may help to change it to a lucid dream, when that self-awareness takes hold. Sometimes, within a nightmare, we are given choices and decisions once we become aware of it. We can either wake up and be out of the “dream”, or we can turn and face it — and with self-awareness, we can conquer it. Nightmares are scary at times, and it may just be easier to wake up rather than face them. But if you know how to lucid dream, then you may find it beneficial to face them and deal head-on with the fear(s) you have at the moment.

What nightmares really mean

Some groups of people believe that nightmares reveal our innermost darkest fears, which come out in symbolism in the nightmare. Everyone has nightmares at one time or another in their lives. Not everyone considers lucid dreaming as a great way to help resolve it, and instead they just try to wake up from it.

Most nightmares involve some sort of a chase, either by an evil person or some sort of a beast. To us, they are a scary thing, and we fear if caught we could die or suffer greatly. This stems from an ancient fear of being hunted by predators. Some nightmares may be more down to earth — such as losing someone we love, suffering from a catastrophic illness or injury, being immersed in spiders or snakes, or being trapped or jailed. These may be from some sort of psychological issue we may have at the moment. Other things can spark nightmares such as being ill, having high fevers, certain medications, too much stress, or post-traumatic stress disorder from some violent event that we've suffered.

How lucid dreams can stop nightmares

If you are already trying to have lucid dreams, then you already know about reality checks to bring on a great self-awareness. If you are able to do this in your dream, then you can do this in your nightmares as well. Keep telling yourself that when terror or fear comes over you, it is probably just a dream and not real. If you can grasp this from the nightmare, you will have great power to stop it. At least you have two distinctive choices with nightmares — either to wake up or to face it.

If you are seeking lucid dreams, you may as well use your nightmares as a springboard to getting there. It helps you to move beyond the fear you are harboring, and it spurs you into the wonderful world of lucid dreaming. You must grasp some reality during the dream to bring on more self-awareness.

When in the midst of the scary part, you need to pause long enough to do a reality check. Shove your hand through a wall, count your fingers, or do a math equation. When you realize you are dreaming and the terror you are experiencing is not real, you can then turn to face it. You can tell it to stop, and then imagine the dreamscape changing. Make night turn to day. Make the evil entity turn into a harmless bird and imagine it flying away.

By taking charge of your nightmares and turning them into real lucid dreamscapes, you will be able to conquer those fears you face. Sometimes you may discover the nightmare is a deep-seated fear you have of something in your life. Or it may have psychological roots in which you can better deal with once you are awake. Or you may find they are pointless, and upon this realization, the fearful scene will melt away. Conquering nightmares brings on a new feeling of bravery in real life to help you face your waking fears with much more ease.

Vitamins and foods for sleep

Looking for natural insomnia remedies? What better place to look than food itself? Here are several vitamins and foods that are amaaaaaaazingly beneficial for sleep. I always make sure to get enough “sleep vitamins” every day, especially tryptophan — it's no wonder I sleep like a baby.

Magnesium is known to relax the muscles. You can improve your diet and increase your magnesium intake without a supplement. Foods with magnesium include almonds, brown rice, swiss chard, spinach and lima beans.

The amino acid tryptophan is found in certain foods. It is used by the brain to create the hormone we all love and know as serotonin.

Here's the secret to feeding enough tryptophan to your brain so that you can sleep well at night:

Mix a carbohydrate-rich food together with a tryptophan-rich food.

Ingestion of a carbohydrate-rich meal will cause insulin to be released by your body, and many of the other amino acids will be redirected away from the brain. This results in little competition for tryptophan to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, and it effectively passes into the brain.

Foods rich in tryptophan include: salmon, cod, turkey, chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, whole grains, soy milk, sunflower and sesame seeds, and nuts such as hazelnuts and peanuts.

I hope that every person who reads this page will, hopefully, wean themselves off of all sleep medicines and unregulated supplements — and solve their insomnia naturally. And by setting a proper foundation for good sleep hygiene and cultivating healthy habits, you will do just that.

How to prevent microphone bleed

Microphone bleed occurs when two or more subjects’ voices are picked up not only by their microphone, but on others as well. This is noticeable when a loud-talking subject’s voice is heard on another microphone whose gain trim is higher than normal because they do not speak very loud. This will result in an unbalanced volume of the loud voice since it is being recorded on both channels. Solution: Good luck. Okay, you want more than that:

1. Ask the softer speaking talent to speak up, so the gain trim can be adjusted lower.

2. Ask the loud talker to speak softer.

3. If possible, separate the subjects from each other — this will reduce the close-proximity bleed.

4. The best way with two or more microphones, but requires more work than a one-person operation, is to mix the audio with the soft-voiced channel fader lower until they begin to talk, then the trim is raised to normal levels while they are speaking.

5. However, the absolute best way is to use a boom shotgun microphone for all dialogue; thus not creating the “doubling” effect.

Sometimes there is an advantage to microphone bleed. If one microphone develops a noise (clothing, static, etc) use the bleeding microphone to pick up the clean audio; be aware that now, both subjects are on the same recorded channel. Of course, I don’t recommend this method for general audio, but it does get you out of a jam when you can’t stop and reposition or replace the microphone.

Sleeping pills and their side effects

Here are some facts about sleeping pills and their side effects. I haven't taken sleeping pills in a long time, and if you're currently taking any prescribed medications to help you fall or stay asleep, I recommend that you stop as soon as possible.

Sleeping pills and quality — the stages of sleep

A full night of quality sleep is a complicated issue, and the terms ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ do not fully capture or do justice to the complexity of the various levels of consciousness that are had in a single night. Sleep actually comes in at least three types, or ‘stages’, each of which is quite distinct from the others.

Stage 1 is the first level of sleep which is characterised by the brain moving from drowsy alpha waves to the beginning of theta waves. Thoughts may begin to wander and be quite bizarre. The difference between this and other dream states is that in Stage 1, you are still virtually conscious. Indeed, this ‘sleep’ is so light that in sleep tests, during this stage ‘patients often report having felt that they were awake’. A normal sleeper will only spend a few minutes in this stage before going deeper, but an insomniac can spend most of the night in this ‘half-sleep’.

Deep sleep, or ‘slow wave’ sleep is the deepest type of sleep in which no dreaming happens. It is also known as delta sleep, because it is characterised by delta brain waves. This type of sleep is the most physically refreshing, and when you have not had enough delta sleep, you may feel both physically and emotionally exhausted. If you often get up having dreamed vividly but feeling tense and unrefreshed, then you are probably not getting enough delta sleep.

REM sleep is the period of sleep in which we dream the most. REM stands for ‘rapid eye movement’. This is because during REM sleep our eyes look around while dreaming, just as if we were wide awake. REM seems to be vital for our mental rejuvenation and general emotional well-being.

Together, these stages make up one full sleep cycle. During a normal night, a normal sleeper will go through several complete cycles, and it is known that all three stages are essential for a refreshing night’s sleep. One effect of sleeping pills is the disruption of this cycle. People awaking from a night of drugged sleep often feel unrefreshed, ‘as if they hadn’t slept at all’. This is in part due to not having had a complete night’s sleep made up of all the essential stages.

The effects and side effects of sleeping pills
Hangover

Sleeping pills are known to reduce the amount of delta sleep obtained. This feeling of ‘not having had enough sleep’ associated with a lack of delta sleep makes the next day hangover all the more unpleasant. Almost every sleeping medication, including over-the-counter remedies, will leave you with a level of grogginess, thick-headedness, confusion or a ‘spaced-out’ feeling. These hangovers can be severe, affecting your reactions and ability to think, making driving or operating machinery very dangerous. In my experience, there is not a single conventional sleeping pill that does not cause some degree of hangover.

Depression and mood

Sleeping pill hangovers often seem to be associated with a very low mood. Overall, the feeling of a sleeping pill hangover can be worse than the feeling after a sleepless night. Not only is delta sleep reduced, but many prescription drugs are known to reduce the time spent in REM sleep, which means that they interfere with mental recovery and emotional well-being. Bearing this in mind, it is not surprising that sleeping pills often cause daytime anxiety and depression.

Because insomnia can cause depression, it is often thought that insomnia medication may help to treat depression, and conversely, depression is sometimes thought to be the cause of insomnia. This results in anti-depressants such as Prozac being prescribed for insomnia patients, whether or not they have actually ever claimed to be depressed.

However, recent research suggests that both these assumptions are mistaken. An analysis of data of clinical trials submitted to the FDA found that patients taking sedative hypnotics were much more likely to develop depression. In fact, the popular drugs zolpidem, zaleplon and ezopiclone, more than doubled the risks of developing depression compared with those taking placebo pills (1). Furthermore, studies have found that long-term users of sedative hypnotic drugs have a markedly raised suicide risk, particularly for men. The statistics showed that men who took a nightly sleeping pill actually had seven times the normal risk of suicide (2)! Prescribing sleeping pills in the hope that this will relieve or prevent depression would appear to be a very unwise move indeed. Far from helping depressed patients, sleeping medication may be more likely to cause depression.

Addiction

Like any other addictive drug, almost all hypnotic sleeping pills have two main ways in which they can be addictive.

1. Firstly, if you have taken sleeping pills you will be familiar with how, after a time, the medication seems to stop working. As a result, higher and higher doses are needed to obtain the same effect. A common occurrence is that the drug eventually stops working altogether.

2. In addition, almost all sleeping pills have been shown to be physically addictive which means that withdrawal symptoms can be severe, even life-threatening. This happens even though the drug may have stopped having any beneficial effect. Withdrawal symptoms may include shakiness, anxiety, panic, palpitations, epileptic fits, increased insomnia and even death.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, most sleeping pills prescribed were benzodiazepines. But these highly addictive drugs came with a whole host of negative side effects and some evidence suggests that benzodiazepine addiction can be more dangerous, and take longer to overcome, than heroin. However, while benzodiazepines are still often prescribed, these days you may be more likely to be given one of the newer ‘non-benzodiazepines’ including the ‘Z-drugs’ such as zopiclone (Imovane, Zimovane), ezopiclone (Lunesta), zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata). If you have taken sleeping pills in the last ten years, then there is a good chance that you were prescribed one of these. Zopliclone is the drug most often prescribed for insomnia by the NHS. When non-benzodiazepines first appeared, they were hailed as having few or no addictive qualities or negative side effects, and they were gratefully received by the market of eager insomniacs. Medical opinion of these drugs has now changed somewhat and it now appears that in some cases they can be as troublesome as the benzodiazepine drugs they were created to replace.

Benzodiazepines were responsible for the largest ever lawsuit against drug manufacturers in the United Kingdom, involving 14,000 patients. However, research suggests that the now ironically named ‘non-benzodiazepines’ are almost identical in effect and side effect. In particular, research suggests that they have similarly addictive qualities.

A systematic review carried out in 2004 at the University of Liverpool compared the newer Z-drugs zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone with benzodiazepines and with each other. The factors compared in the review included: sleep onset latency, total sleep duration, number of awakenings, quality of sleep, adverse events, tolerance, rebound insomnia and daytime alertness. The report’s conclusion may come as a surprise. It reports that regarding benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines “there are few clear, consistent differences between the drugs” (3). It would appear that non-benzodiazepines such as zaleplon, zolpidem, zopiclone and ezopiclone may be no less addictive than the original benzodiazepines like Valium.

Performance

One of the most important reasons for needing sleep is to allow us to function well in the morning and go about our normal day’s activities. Astonishingly, research shows that the use of sleeping pills does not increase your ability to function the next day. On the contrary, those taking sleeping pills will, according to almost all clinical studies, function worse the next day than those who miss a night’s sleep (4)!

‘A person’s hope and belief that a prescription sleeping pill will improve the person’s function on the next day is consistently betrayed.’ (5)

Tellingly, several studies show that people involved in car accidents are unusually likely to have taken sleeping pills (6) (7).

Severe impairment can occur even after taking ‘harmless’ antihistamines prescribed for insomnia. Ucerax (hydroxine) is one such antihistamine, which is taken to help sleep. It is also prescribed for anxiety when the dosage can be as high as 50mg daily. Despite being billed as ‘gentle’, for some it appears to have a more powerful effect than any hypnotic. Personal and anecdotal evidence I have collected shows that even small doses of Ucerax can turn you into a walking ‘zombie’, unable to function properly at all and without the sense to realise that you are unfit to drive.

When it comes to next day performance, you may well be better off not having had any sleep than having had a full night of drugged sleep.

Rebound insomnia

This refers to the temporary worsened insomnia which occurs when a patient attempts to give up a sleeping medication. Rebound insomnia is actually a side effect of sleeping pill addiction and anyone embarking on a course of insomnia medication should bear in mind that worse is likely to come when the time comes to give up. Many people continue to take sleeping pills, not because they are benefiting in any way, but because they cannot stand the worsened insomnia which kicks in when they try to give up.

It is often once a medication has become almost ineffectual that a patient attempts to give it up. A study of flurazepam and triazolam showed that after five weeks of use, patients were sleeping no better than those receiving placebo (8). The only reason that patients so often continue to take medication after this point is because the rebound insomnia makes it simply too painful to stop. The patient becomes completely unable to sleep with or without pills. Sadly, they may become so desperate that a common response is to increase the dosage, even though the original good intention was to eliminate it altogether.

Non-effectiveness — sleeping pills that don’t make you sleep

The desperate desire to simply ‘fall asleep’, to be unconscious can make sleeping pills a tempting prospect, even for those who know a bad day will follow. But believe it or not, in many ‘successful’ drug trials the increase in time spent sleeping is in the range of just 20-40 minutes! More astonishing are the results of trials on the non-benzodiazepine, zaleplon (Sonata). These showed that while it decreased sleep onset time by a paltry 11—12 minutes, it was not found to increase total sleep time (9)! This means that while patients were falling asleep quicker, they were getting less sleep with Sonata than without it. Despite these results, zaleplon was licensed for sale and is still widely prescribed.

Early waking

The odd effect mentioned in the last point — that some drugs decrease the time it takes to fall asleep while not increasing the time spent sleeping (10) — may have a pharmacological explanation. Many people taking triazolam (Halcion), zaleplon (Sonata), zolpidem (Ambien), zopiclone (Zimovane, Imovane) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) find that they fall asleep quite quickly but wake very early in the morning, often in an agitated state, ranging from moderate unease to a mild panic attack. These medications are supposed to be ideal for those who find it hard to fall asleep, but who, once asleep, tend to stay asleep. Quite high doses are given to produce a sudden ‘hit’, but the drugs are very short acting, leaving the bloodstream completely after only a few hours. This is supposed to make them much less likely to cause a hangover the next day. The problem is that when the dose wears off in the early hours, the body can go into instant sudden withdrawal. Research suggests that it is this ‘comedown’ which wakes you up too early and causes anxiousness the next day, not the effect of the drug still in the bloodstream.

Mortality

Perhaps the most frightening fact about sleeping pills is that they increase your chances of dying! Sleeping pills may increase your chances of heart disease, serious illnesses, accidents and cancer (11). The mortality rate refers to the percentage of people who have died in a given test group of people over a set time period. In people who regularly take sleeping pills, this percentage is much higher. If you take a sleeping pill every night for six years, you are 25% more likely to die than those who take none. Astonishingly, even those who take the occasional sleeping drug are 15% more likely to be dead in six years. Think about this: if you take a pill every night, in just six years you are 25% less likely to be here.

Summary of effects

There are three ways in which a sleeping pill may be deemed effective.

1. It increases the time spent asleep.

2. It makes you fall asleep faster.

3. It increases next-day performance.

The sad truth is that no medication succeeds on all three counts. Most are effective in one way, but at the expense of one of the others. In addition, every sleeping pill comes with one or more of the following undesirable effects:

- Decreases the time taken to fall asleep by a negligible amount

- Does not increase the time spent asleep

- May wake you earlier than if you had not taken medication

- Does not improve your function the next day

- Is highly addictive

- Leaves you with an unpleasant hangover

- Increases your chances of developing serious illness, such as cancer and heart disease

- Causes depression and anxiety

- Increases your chances of dying by 25%

- Causes rebound insomnia

- Is not as effective as behavioural treatment for the treatment of insomnia

Treating long-term chronic insomnia with hypnotic sleeping pills is somewhat like treating depression with cocaine. When sleeping pills are prescribed, the symptom of ‘being awake’ is treated completely in isolation, with no regard for the cause of the problem or the side effects of the treatment. In both cases, the patient may become addicted. Both sleeping pills and cocaine come with a host of horrible side effects and with prolonged use, whatever positive effect they may have diminishes. The ideal outcome in both cases is that a person quickly comes to realise that the costs outweigh the benefits, and is able to stop before a real problem sets in. Therefore it is not an exaggeration to say that with cocaine and sleeping pills, the effect and outcome are almost identical. There would be an outcry if doctors started prescribing cocaine to depressives, but the prescribing of sleeping medication for insomniacs is standard practice.

The truth about sleeping pill research — who pays for it?

So, if these drugs really have so many disadvantages and side effects, why are they ever licensed for sale? It is a little-known fact that almost all research into sleeping pills is not independent but is funded by drug companies. In a recent article published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (12), details were given of a systematic review of the medical literature concerning insomnia drugs. It found that over 90% of randomised controlled trials of drug treatments of insomnia are sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry itself. This means that there was almost no independent research at all. The most worrying evidence given in the article was that industry-sponsored drug trials were more than 3.5 times more likely to deem a drug effective than non- industry sponsored trials.

Some drugs were pronounced successful and effective and are now been currently prescribed, even though the test results were less than satisfactory. An increase of 11-12 minutes’ sleep has been enough for trials to be hailed as successful and consequently for a drug to be licensed for sale. Moreover, according to the review, the positive effects of a particular medication were overemphasised in the medical literature. For example, success might be reported with regard to sleep onset time, but with no discussion of associated adverse effects, such as significant increased levels of infection, cancers and increased mortality. According to the review, ‘major hypnotic trials are needed to more carefully study potential adverse effects of hypnotics such as daytime impairment, infection, cancer, death, and the resultant balance of benefits and risks.’

The extraordinary placebo effect of sleeping pills

A large study (13) was carried out on a group of chronic insomniacs who had also been succesfully taking benzodiazepines for an average of 13 years. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either Dalmane, midazolam, or to receive inactive placebo pills. Remarkably, after nine to 14 days of administration, there was no statistically-reliable increase at all in the sleep of the patients taking Dalmane or midazolam as compared with those receiving placebo. The patients had already become tolerant to the medication. Furthermore, by 14 days, both drugs were making next day performance significantly worse. Astonishingly, the patients themselves said that they thought the medication was good and that it was helping them, even when objective tests showed that the medications were making them worse.

But more interesting than this is that part of the reason that the sleeping pills showed no significant benefit was that the placebo group had also improved. Most tellingly, even the group receiving placebo reported that they rated the medication they had been given highly and would be happy to use it again. The group receiving either Dalmane or midazolam rated their pill slightly more highly than the placebo group, even although the active drugs were worse for the patients than the placebo.

‘These patients were self-deceived about the value of the medication, almost deluded, thinking the medicines made them better when they actually made them worse.’ (14)

The placebo effect is well-known with all drugs — but when dealing with insomnia, which is so powerfully affected by suggestion and belief, this effect may be even greater.

Some worrying facts about sleeping pill prescription

In a large study done in the US, around a third of people who regularly took sleeping pills reported never having had insomnia. A more worrying statistic concerns long-term chronic insomniacs. The rationale behind sleeping pills is that medication can be beneficial to people with short-term insomnia in helping to normalise sleeping patterns. However, when we look at patterns of prescription, a more complicated story emerges. While most people will only take a dozen or so doses in any one year, chronic users will take many more. It is to these chronic insomniacs, and not to the occasional sufferers, that most of the drugs are prescribed. The truth is that 65% of sleeping pills currently being taken are prescribed, not to short-term users, but to those who have been taking them every night for five years! This appalling statistic shows that the multi-million pound sleeping pill industry is ‘profiting primarily from chronic users who have become habituated or physically addicted to these medicines’ (15).

Mosquitoes — a case in point

The power of the drug companies over medical ‘knowledge’ and treatment should not be underestimated. I recently had a vivid personal illustration of this: I have suffered terribly with mosquitoes whenever I have spent time in a hot country. I have lost count of how many creams, antihistamines and cortisones I have been prescribed and sold by doctors and pharmacists over the decades. Only last year I was told of an old ‘folk remedy’ which involves applying very hot wet towels to the bites themselves. The theory is that the body can only make a certain amount of histamine in any ten hour period. By applying the hot cloth, all the histamine in that part of the body rushes to the skin at once. The body will then take up to ten hours to replenish its histamine levels, at which point the itch will start again. It works like magic! But the astonishing thing is that no medical professional ever knew of this free remedy... or, at least in all the years of my life, none has ever told me of this free remedy! After a lifetime of suffering on almost every holiday, and almost every summer, even in Canada, and after countless visits to the doctor and pharmacist, and countless amounts spent on remedies, I discovered a free and safe way to completely cure the itching from mosquito bites. And in all those years, not one healthcare professional in any country had done anything other than prescribe and sell me utterly useless pharmaceuticals. So folks, there is a safe, easy, virtually free and highly effective remedy for mosquito bite itching out there — and no doctor will ever tell you about it!

The secret no doctor will tell you — why sleeping pills can cause insomnia

Most of these negative aspects of sleeping medication are well known. But besides all these well-documented ‘medical’ dangers of sleeping pills, perhaps a greater concern are the psychological and emotional side effects of taking sleeping drugs. The remarkable but incontrovertible fact is:

Sleeping pills can make insomnia worse.

Note that this is a completely separate issue to the rebound insomnia which usually occurs when a person tries to give up. Because insomnia is treated by doctors as a medical condition, little time and consideration is given over to the emotional and psychological impact on beliefs about sleep. Consider, for a moment, the message implicit in the prescribing of a sleeping pill — ‘this pill will make you sleep.’

In the short term, this thought can be comforting. Because responsibility is taken away, you may stop worrying enough to fall asleep. No one tells us about the unacknowledged inherent danger in this — that in giving up responsibility, you give up your power. If you need a pill to make you sleep, then the implication is that you must be unable to sleep on your own. This means that when you take a sleeping pill, any success will be attributed to the medication. The result is that you come to trust more and more in the drug and less and less in yourself until, eventually, you have lost all belief and trust in your own ability to sleep. When your self-belief becomes completely eroded, natural and effortless sleep then becomes a distant memory.

If sleeping pills always came with some form of counselling, or guidelines which would work on increasing your own trust in yourself, then perhaps their effect would be more beneficial. Instead, when insomnia patients are prescribed medication, they are given a temporary, and inherently harmful, crutch with no suggestion of how to go about overcoming their underlying problem. This is why, in addition to any physically addictive qualities, all sleeping medications can be so incredibly habit-forming. The truth is that any artificial crutch will decrease your confidence in your own ability to sleep.

This is the main reason why sleeping tablets can never really cure insomnia. The problem will still always be there, hiding under the surface and waiting to pop out again as soon as the medication is stopped, or stops working, often in a much more virulent form than before. This is why sleeping pills can actually make insomnia worse.

You should aim to restore your normal ability to sleep naturally and unaided — there is not a single drug available that can do this.

1 Kripke, D.F. 2007. ‘Greater incidence of depression with hypnotic used than with placebo’. BMC Psychiatry, 21(7): 42

2 Kripke, D.F. et al. 2002. ‘Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia’. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 59:131-136

3 Dundar, Y. et al. 2004. ‘Comparative efficacy of newer hypnotic drugs for the short-term management of insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.’ Hum Psychopharmacol. 19(5): 305 — 22

4 Johnson, L.C. et al. 1982. ‘Sedative-hypnotics and human performance.’ Psychopharmacology (Berlin). 76:101 — 113)

5 Kripke, D.F. The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills.

6 Hemmelgarn, B. et al. 1997. ‘Benzodiazepine use and the risk of motor vehicle crash in the elderly.’ JAMA. 278:27 — 31.; Betts, T.A. et al. 1982. ‘Effect of two hypnotic drugs on actual driving performance next morning.’ Br.Med.J, 25:285 — 852

7 Barbone, F., McMahon, A.D., Davey, P.G. et al. 1998. ‘Association of road-traffic accidents with benzodiazepine use’. Lancet, 352 (9137): 1331 — 6

8 Mitler, M.M. et al. 1984. ‘Comparative hypnotic effects of flurazepam, triazolam, and placebo: a long-term simultaneous night-time and daytime study’. J.Clin.Psychopharmacol, 4:2 — 15.

9 Buscemi, N., Vandermeer, B., Friesen, C., et al. 2007. ‘The efficacy and safety of drug treatments for chronic insomnia in adults: a meta-analysis of RCTs’. J Gen Intern Med, 22:1335 — 50

10 Kripke, D.F. The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills

11 Kripke, D.F. ‘Evidence that new hypnotics cause cancer.’ BMC Psychiatry, 7:42

12 Kripke, D.F. 2007. ‘Who Should Sponsor Sleep Disorders Pharmaceutical Trials?,’ J Clin Sleep Med. 3(7): 671 — 673

13 Kripke, , D.F. et al. 1990. ‘Sleep evaluation in chronic insomniacs during 14-day use of flurazepam and midazolam.’ J.Clin.Psychopharmacol. 10(Supplement 4):32S — 43S.

14 Kripke, D.F. The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills, op. cit.

15 Kripke, D.F. Ibid.

The two main types of insomnia

Transient insomnia refers to what most people experience at some point, and lasts a few days or a few weeks. If you find it impossible to sleep on Sunday nights, or before an important event, or you are experiencing a ‘bad patch’ of sleep, perhaps because you are under particular stress, then you have transient insomnia. You may have had these bad patches several times in your life and have had no way of dealing with the problem other than using prescription drugs or over-the-counter remedies.

Chronic insomnia. If, on the other hand, you have been troubled by poor sleep for many years, if your ‘bad patches’ seem to outweigh your ‘good patches’, and if you regularly spend nights getting no more than a few hours’ sleep, if it has become a major problem in your life, then you are a chronic insomniac. Chronic insomniacs typically become ‘obsessed’ by their problem and have usually tried countless prescription medicines and alternative remedies. They often report that ‘nothing works’ for them.

Within either of these divisions, people fall into two more groups. Those who find it difficult to fall asleep in the first place — sleep onset insomniacs, and those who fall asleep quite quickly but who wake too early and find it impossible to get back to sleep — sleep maintenance insomniacs. You may not know (or care) which category or subcategory of insomniac you fall into. Happily, it makes no difference which label you might feel like applying to your particular sleeping problem — practicing good sleep hygiene will cure all forms of insomnia, whether you have been suffering for two weeks or 20 years. Whichever of these sleep problems you have, cultivating healthy sleep habits will have a profoundly beneficial effect on your future slumbers.

Short-term, transient insomnia usually occurs either during a period of extreme stress, or as a result of accidental poor sleeping habits. Often, these two things go together. This is because a common response to a missed night of sleep through stress is to lie in, or try to take naps during the day, thus creating poor sleeping patterns. Usually, transient insomnia rights itself and almost every person has experienced a run of insomnia at some point in his or her life. But for some people, these bouts of insomnia become more and more frequent, even becoming the norm, and runs of good nights of sleep become the exception. Some people even get to a stage where they cannot remember the last time they had a really good period of sleep.

The scary truth is that all chronic insomniacs started out as transient insomniacs, and there is always a danger that any short spell of sleeplessness could turn into a more serious problem. Why does this happen? And why does insomnia sometimes remain long after the original stress or cause has disappeared or even been forgotten? One of the greatest frustrations for a chronic insomniac is in trying to work out why their insomnia lasts for years, while others seem able to get over a bad patch of sleep very quickly, often by using a simple remedy such as a relaxation CD or white noise MP3. It is hardly surprising that chronic insomniacs often feel ‘broken’ or different.

Learning to avoid unhealthy sleep habits is vital to getting great sleep. I've written many articles in great detail (which can be viewed here) the way that a mild patch of poor sleep can become chronic. If you are new to insomnia, the information provided from my sleeping tips will be invaluable in preventing your problem from becoming worse. If, on the other hand, your problem is already chronic, understanding such processes will be essential to your recovery. Indeed, without an understanding of the way that a few missed nights can become (and remain) a life-long problem, it is my belief that a chronic insomniac may never recover. So before tackling your problem head-on, you should fully examine the psychology of insomnia.

The theory behind my approach is that insomnia is not just about sleep; it encroaches into one’s whole life. As such, you should take a holistic approach, attending to thoughts and beliefs about sleep, and to habits and behaviours which create and reinforce the problem. In order to do this, browse through the articles that focus on the various ways in which insomniacs create and maintain the problem, in order that these may be addressed and dealt with. This may seem unnecessarily negative, but bear with it. Through learning about the classic mistakes that insomniacs make, you will see the way people give life to insomnia, how it arises and why it gets so much worse in some people. Understanding these things in a general way will allow you to go on to discover the specific ways in which you do similar things in your own life. Only then will you be in a position to begin the process of feeling refreshed and energized every day after restful nights of sleep.

There are many mistakes which people unwittingly make along the road to insomnia. How many are you guilty of?

What is sleep paralysis?

What exactly is sleep paralysis? This is the mechanism that kicks in when you are sleeping that prevents you from physically acting out your dreams. But when a person is experiencing lucid dreaming, they may become more conscious of the sleep paralysis as it takes over their body. Feelings regarding this sleep paralysis vary with the person. Some may be frightened, while others are excited — this depends on your mindset.

Sleep paralysis (REM atonia), can actually lead to lucid dreaming, and is commonly linked to wake-induced techniques, such as the hypnagogic methods. This begins when you fall asleep and blocks the brain's signals that actually tell your muscles to move. As you sleep and you start to dream, the interpretation of this signal prevents your body from physically walking around.

While sleeping, your mind is totally unconscious or focused on a dream. Most people do not notice sleep paralysis because your mind is drifting away. Typically, when you wake up at night, the sleep paralysis switches off, but sometimes the mechanism fails — and it creates a sleep disorder known as isolated sleep paralysis (ISP). ISP is an involuntary state, and lucid dreaming is not the cause of this. You will know if you already suffer from this.

What usually happens with ISP is you wake up, unable to move, and of course, panic. This is the typical reaction that would hit anyone at this time. As you panic more, your heart races and you may even see a hallucinatory figure reach towards you and try to strangle you. This type of experience has been documented for hundreds of years all over the world. If you find yourself experiencing involuntary sleep paralysis and wish to end it quickly, these are some of the things you can do:

Don't fight it.

Relax your whole body into the paralysis.

Wiggle your fingers and toes, if possible. Move your eyes around and look at the room. Focus on breathing deeply, and if possible, move your mouth. Think peaceful, relaxing thoughts, and sing in your mind.

Once your brain recognizes that your body parts are awake, it will shut off the paralysis mechanism and allow you to return to full wakefulness. Lucid dreamers do not fear sleep paralysis. The sleep paralysis is actually a transition phase that allows them to have some really amazing lucid dreams.

Lucid dreamers have the ability to use the sleep paralysis as a stepping stone to dreamland, and refuse to loiter in a place of fear or unknowing. An experienced lucid dreamer can use sleep paralysis deliberately with a specific goal in mind. This way, you are able to focus on your own internal dream world. The best thing to do if you are able to feel sleep paralysis coming on is to relax — you are about to have a lucid dream!

Once you realize that there is nothing to fight against, and that this sleep paralysis is not a problem, the more relaxed you can be. The best thing to do is to just sink into the bed and relax. The quicker you can learn to focus beyond your physical body and start to visualize your fantastic dream world, the more relaxed you will be.

There are a few people who do encounter other entities while experiencing sleep paralysis, but this is only a fraction of the population. You could potentially see a grotesque man or a devil, looming in your bedroom doorway. These hallucinations are completely unrealistic, similar to a cartoon character — but can appear very realistic. The face can rush toward you and then just disappear. There are times when these hallucinations are not always negative — some people have seen spirit guides, religious icons or ghosts, and feel they are blessed to have had a visitation.

The human brain is so complex, and is very capable of creating these. The treatment for this is to shower feelings of love toward the imagined entity. This should lift your mood, do away with your fears, and actually transform the figure into a dream figure. Once the figure reacts to your will, ask them to help you out of your body — they will free you from your paralysis or may even become your personal dream guide.

It's bad to read, watch TV, and use your laptop in bed

Many people turn to a book when they cannot sleep, or turn on the television in their bedroom. Others find the bed a comfortable place to work or study. Students, whose beds serve as both sofa and desk, often have problems sleeping. If your bed is currently serving as cinema, library and office, this is almost undoubtedly affecting your sleeping patterns.

When you do anything in bed, you are creating an association between your bed and that thing. This means that whenever you do anything in bed other than sleep, you are, in effect, weakening your ‘falling asleep response’. If you think about other associations you might have such as a biscuit with your coffee, tea in the afternoon or a snack in front of the TV, you will know how strong these feelings can be. Those of you who have tried to give up smoking will know that kicking the nicotine addiction is only part of the battle. Often much more difficult, is breaking all those strong associations of coffee — cigarette, beer — cigarette and after dinner — cigarette. If you are spending time lying in or on your bed to read, study, work or watch television, then you are weakening the bed/sleep association and creating a bed/being awake association. If your bed has become about everything but sleep, it is hardly surprising that you do not feel ready to drop off when you lie down at night.

Whatever you do in bed becomes associated with bed.

The effects of poor sleep habits

Before I go on, I need to say something about poor sleep hygiene. ‘Sleep hygiene’ is the term used for behaviour specifically associated with going to bed and sleeping. When one has ‘poor sleep hygiene’, this alone is likely to lead to insomnia — and for the majority of sufferers, is the root of their problem. While at university, I was guilty of very poor sleep hygiene. All of these things laid the perfect foundation for poor sleep to set in. Little wonder that I became an insomniac.

There are three main reasons that poor sleep hygiene can cause insomnia.

1) Anything you do in bed other than sleep weakens the bed/sleep association and reinforces the bed/awake association.

2) Too much sleeping, either in the morning, at weekends, or napping during the day, means you are not actually tired when you go to bed.

3) I explain below the third, vital reason that poor sleep hygiene is so harmful, although you are unlikely to have heard of it...

The stages of sleep and sleep quality

Sleep specialists often claim that most people actually get a lot more sleep than they think. In tests, researchers claim that patients often report having no sleep whatsoever, while EEG results show that they have actually been asleep for six or seven hours. However, what is not made clear is that ‘six or seven hours’ refers to the total number of hours slept, with no mention of the stages in which this sleep occurred. In other words, no reference is made to the quality of the sleep had. Little comfort for those whose only problem is that their quality of sleep is poor —- so that even a full night’s sleep leaves them feeling unrefreshed.

The fact is that there are at least three distinct stages of sleep, and in a normal night we spend varying amounts of time in each of them. A normal sleeper will only spend a few minutes in Stage 1 sleep before going into the deeper stages. But very often, patients in sleep clinics spend a much larger than normal proportion of the night in Stage 1.

In Stage 1, we may ‘feel’ we are still conscious even though we may dream quite readily. The rejuvenating effects of this type of sleep are minimal, and without the deep and dreamless Delta sleep, one feels little if at all refreshed. It might be more accurate to describe Stage 1 as ‘pre-sleep’ or even ‘non-sleep’. So, when you report ‘I haven’t slept for days’, this is unlikely to be true. There are some nights when we actually get no sleep at all, but this cannot happen night after night. Like the sleep clinic patients, your sleep was probably so light that you mistook it for normal consciousness.

I, personally, have made the unpleasant discovery that while a night without any sleep is rare, it is quite possible to spend the entire night in Stage 1 — to go days, weeks even, having only this type of sleep. Insomniacs learn to survive on this tiny ration of poor sleep in the same way that a famine victim may survive for years in a state of near-starvation. But while it may be possible to survive physically on Stage 1 sleep, the emotional effect is devastating —- the quality of life one has while getting only this type of sleep is wretched. In order to feel good in the morning, you must spend a reasonable proportion of the night in the third stage —- deep, Delta sleep. This is why you can spend 12, 13 hours in bed and feel worse than a night when you were only asleep for four hours. If those four hours included plenty of delta sleep, then they would have been far more beneficial than any number of Stage 1 hours.

Now, the link with this and sleep hygiene is this: when we spend too long in bed, we tend to spend a lot more time in Stage 1, and a lot less time in the refreshing delta sleep. Thus, the quality of our sleep suffers. Eventually, the amount of Stage 1 sleep can approach 100% of the time spent asleep. Even today, there is a very clear direct link between the amount of purely Stage 1 sleep I get and the amount of time I spend in bed. If your problem is not with the amount, but with the quality of your sleep, you should pay special attention at this point. In a nutshell:

The longer you spend in bed, the less chance you have of getting the deep sleep you need.

Shortening the time spent in bed increases the chance of getting the deep sleep you need.

Tips for your baby to sleep better

Here's a short summary of what you can do to maximize your baby’s ability to sleep during the night in a simple step-by-step format.

Safety first

Always lay your baby down for sleep on his back every time you put him down to rest, and tell this to everyone who may look after your baby. Discuss your baby’s sleep with your pediatrician.

Day and night

Help your baby learn the difference between daytime and nighttime. As soon as you feel able, begin taking your newborn outside everyday for walks. Be active with your baby during the day, and at night limit your interaction keeping things low-key and mellow. Develop a special nighttime routine that is soothing and involves your one-on-one attention such as reading stories and singing lullabies.

Make a decision on where your baby will sleep

Create a safe sleep environment for your baby. I recommend a crib within monitoring distance of your bed, and the Canadian Paediatric Society agrees. If you choose to bring your baby into your bed, do everything you can to minimize risk.

By the time your baby is four-months-old, think about your family’s sleep arrangements. If your baby sleeps in the same bed with you and you do not want to continue this for the long-term, make the change to a crib now, as it will only be harder if you wait.

Gradually delay feedings at night

Delay nighttime feedings perhaps by changing the diaper first. With bottle-fed babies, a delay may already be built-in to the process of preparing the bottle. Delay by only a little at first, and then gradually try and stretch the time between feedings.

Lay your baby down to sleep while she is still awake

When you notice your baby is not falling asleep during feeding, begin laying her down for sleep while she is drowsy but still a little awake. Do not always rock her to sleep. If she drifts off to sleep in your arms, you can try gently nudging your baby awake before laying her down.

Give her the space to figure out how to fall asleep on her own. Pay attention to how she reacts and what sounds she makes.

Give your baby space to fall back to sleep

Once your baby is about six-weeks-old, do not rush to pick him up when he calls for you at night. Give him a chance to self-soothe back to sleep. Learn the differences in your baby’s sounds so you know when you need to respond more quickly, and when you can let him be.

Trouble self-soothing?

If your baby has trouble self-soothing, read this article. Try staying in the room with the lights low, and gradually withdrawing your attention or pretend to sleep yourself, reinforcing the concept of bedtime. Some babies may find it more difficult to learn to self-soothe and you may need to make more of an effort.

How to do nothing before you sleep

This is my personal favourite of all the relaxation techniques that I know of, if it can be called a technique. It is more difficult than it sounds, but I thoroughly recommend that you make an effort to get the hang of it. Once mastered, it is the most valuable relaxation tool there is. After all, this is exactly what the majority of really good sleepers do every night. It is the technique I still use to this day. It seems to be the most effective when you are feeling quite sleepy and drowsy already, and seems to prevent the ‘waking’ effects of ‘trying’ to fall asleep. At first sight, it seems like another form of meditation. But the effect is very different.

Lie down, turn out the light and do nothing.

It is important not to ‘try’ to do nothing.

Do not avoid thinking about sleep, nor try to think about sleep. Do not concentrate on ‘doing nothing’, or on anything at all. If thoughts arise, let them. Don’t engage with them, or try to stop them. In other words, just ‘do’ nothing at all. Your body may respond in all sorts of ways — including relaxing and getting drowsy, or even by tensing up, jerking or thinking, but this is fine so long as you do not ‘try’ to relax or get drowsy, that you do not ‘try’ to stop tensing up or stop thinking. If you start feeling drowsy and sleepy, don’t try to hang on to that feeling, and don’t try to keep your body in that drowsy place. Leave your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body to their own devices. Let your body and mind do whatever it wants to and do not intervene, positively or negatively. Just allow everything. This is difficult and counter-intuitive at first because we are so used to ‘doing’ something in every moment of our waking lives. But persevere, and you will become better at it.

You will eventually become aware of how much you are still actively intervening with the thoughts and functioning of your body, and you will go deeper, allowing more and intervening even less. There is always less you can be doing, and when this ‘doing’ becomes as minimized as possible — profoundly small — I guarantee you will fall asleep. I describe this as profoundly doing nothing!

If you are one of those unfortunate people who find themselves beginning to wake up as soon as they become aware of becoming drowsy, then this will be an ideal technique for you. If it seems that it’s not working one night, know that sleep often comes suddenly when using this technique, without any conscious increase in relaxation. You may suddenly find yourself awake having been asleep for some time, without ever having noticed yourself becoming drowsier.

Tips for audio compression and limiting

While I do not recommend using automatic gain control, the use of compression is an invaluable tool in location audio. Use compression and limiting to prevent an over-modulated signal being passed onto your audio recorder, thus creating signal distortion.

Portable field mixers usually come with a simple compressor/limiter switch which can save you from that rogue overload, but it is best to keep your production audio lower and use these compressors sparingly since you do not have the setup controls that you would in an outboard compressor. Excessive compression will produce a “pumping” effect of the audio signal.

If a microphone compressor is working “overtime”, lower the gain structure on that individual channel to keep the compression minimal. Excessive compression will produce a “pumping” effect of the audio signal.

And as a good rule of thumb, when setting up compressed record levels, always place the compressors in the “Bypass” mode — otherwise the level settings will be incorrect.

False awakenings

There is a curious phenomenon which both lucid and non-lucid dreamers can have, and that is false awakening. These are actually extremely vivid dreams in which you are convinced that you have woken up in physical reality. These false awakenings are more likely to occur when you are having a big day tomorrow and you are very excited.

Self-awareness actually determines how in-tune you are with your consciousness. The people who do have lucid dreams tend to be very aware of themself while they are awake and while they are dreaming. This allows them to have the most lucid dreams. The modern world of today can be very distracting, and a lot of people are actually not self-aware at all. With this phenomenon, the person dreams of waking up and this is very vivid. Some people do not even realize they are having a dream at the time. They simply assume they have awakened and this is reality, but it is only a dream. The false awakening often goes unrecognized for this reason, because they assume they are in waking reality.

When having a false awakening, you may get up, have breakfast, dress yourself, and leave for work, in your dream. These are things that you do on a daily basis and is more or less on autopilot. The human brain has such a remarkable capacity to emulate reality.

As these dreams occur, you can start to perform more complex tasks while asleep. For instance, you might look in the bathroom mirror. When this is done, and you discover the fact that you are in an illusory nature of dreaming, you wake up.

There are some people who do not wake up even then. There are some who have multiple fase awakening dreams in succession. They typically do the same thing over and over. Unconsciously they keep rebooting the scenario of the waking dream. Although it does sound a bit strange, if you have one false awakening experience, you are more likely to have another one.

The false awakening experience is described well with the statement from Edgar Allan Poe, “All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.”

Here a five ways that can help turn a false awakening into a lucid dream:

Reality check

When you wake up every day, perform a reality check. This is the best way to catch a false awakening as soon as it starts.

Alarm clock

Look at your clock and then ask yourself if you are dreaming. Numbers and letters are commonly hard to read in your dreams.

Look at your reflection

Check your reflection in the mirror and make sure it is normal. See if you can push your hand into the mirror itself. If you can, then you are definitely dreaming.

Notes

Leave notes to yourself about the house.

Eating breakfast, or any meal

Even false awakenings can involve dreaming that you are eating a meal. The moment you taste food or drink, do a reality check. If the taste of the food you are eating is more intense, this is a wonderful wake-up call.

Lucid dreamers have the tendency to invite false awakenings into their already lucid dreams. There are times when a person almost gets stuck in a limbo-type dream world, unable to rationalize what's actually happening. You know there's something wrong, but you're not able to define what it is that's wrong. You pass your hand through a glass window, but the reality of this is so real that your brain refuses to accept the possibilty that your hand actually did that.

If you have any idea at all that it's possible that you might be dreaming, trust your instincts. You almost certainly are. Always perform a reality check when you wake up, and be persistent about it. The more false awakenings you have, the greater the opportunity to have more guided dreams. Just remember — when you wake up, ask yourself, “Am I dreaming now?” These false awakenings can often be hard to spot. Always remember if you feel something is not right, it probably isn't.