Baby Girl Sleeping on Stomach

Most of you know about or are intuitively aware of the amazing healing power of sleep. It is during sleep that your immune system does most of its work in fighting disease and most of the body’s repair and maintenance work gets done.

Just think about when you have come down with a cold or the flu, getting lots of sleep and rest at the start gives you a better chance of recovering fast rather than having it linger on. The same applies to healing chronic illness and maintaining optimum long-term health, yet most of us either don’t get enough of it or don’t have good sleep ‘hygiene’.

Sleep is an essential and fundamental element in healing. It’s also something that you can do for free! Even if you have no trouble falling asleep and you generally get enough, it is still worthwhile reading on to see how you can improve your sleep and maximize the healing benefits arising from it. In fact, quality of sleep matters just as much as quantity, and sometimes you can also have too much of a good thing!

Below you can find out five important healing benefits of sleep followed by thirteen tips on how to sleep well, but first let’s look at why sleep is important.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Some people claim that they are perfectly fine with 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night, but they are most probably chronically sleep-deprived and don’t realise how much better they would feel with enough sleep. They are probably suffering from a large sleep deficit.

For adults, a healthy amount of sleep for long-term good health and well-being is 8 to 9 hours, and those healing from illness should aim for 9–10 hours per night. However, sleeping longer than necessary can also be unhealthy.

We tend to think that we have more important things to do than sleep, but proper sleep can lead to a longer, healthier, happier and more productive life.

The key is to listen to your body so that you get the right amount, not too little and not too much. The only substitute for deep restorative sleep is deep meditation and there are some meditators like Tibetan or Zen monks who can stay healthy and happy with little sleep.

Research shows that 97.5% of adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night and the amount we need ranges from 7-9 hours. The US National Sleep Foundation convened a group of 18 experts from a broad range of medical and scientific disciplines to review 300 studies on how much sleep different age groups should get each day. The results published in February 2015 are as follows:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours sleep each night
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours sleep each night
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours sleep each night
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours sleep each night
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours sleep each night
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours sleep each night
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours sleep each night
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours sleep each night
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours sleep each night

Kitten Sleeping in Blanket

Five Benefits of Sleep for Healing and Well-Being

We generally feel more irritable, moody, have difficulty concentrating and are more susceptible to getting sick when deprived of sleep. Here are just a few of the benefits of good sleep:

1. All healing, especially from chronic illness, requires quality sleep and rest.

During daily activity the body primarily functions in sympathetic nervous system mode, expending most of its energy on physical work, thinking and activities that damage body tissues.

During deep relaxation, sleep and deep meditation, the body is primarily in parasympathetic mode, where most of the energy is used for cellular repair, regeneration of the nervous system, immune system response and general maintenance.

2. Detoxification requires energy, which is freed-up during sleep and rest.

Elimination of toxins requires a considerable amount of energy. These days we live in a sea of toxins and even babies are born with hundreds of chemicals already in their bodies. These include pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals ingested in food and water, or absorbed from house-hold cleaning products, paints, glues, cosmetics, fire-retardants and so on.

The body can only eliminate these toxins when it has adequate sleep, rest and proper nutrition (especially sufficient minerals, which are often overlooked).

When the body is healthy and supplied with all the nutrients it needs, it is well-designed to detoxify itself. However, with a lifetime buildup of toxins and poor nutrition, detoxification methods are required to speed up the detoxification process, thus reducing the toxic burden on the body and conserving more energy for healing.

Detoxification methods include infra-red saunas, colon hydrotherapy, coffee enemas, bentonite clay ingestion and baths, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy and herbal detoxification.

3. The immune system requires considerable energy to do its job properly.

It is only during sleep and rest that sufficient energy is set aside for the immune system to operate at its optimum to fight and clean up pathogens like unwanted bacteria, viruses, parasites and cancer cells.

Of course, cancer cells have clever cloaking systems to prevent them being detected by the immune system so we need to do other things including taking proteolytic enzymes to facilitate detection.

4. Mental and emotional processing occurs during sleep.

We often say, “Sleep on it,” to someone who is trying to make a decision. It is during sleep that most of our brain’s repair and processing of information gathered during the day occurs. That is why the answers to problems often materialise after a good night sleep, we can perform better in intellectual tasks and we feel in a better mood and less irritable.

5. Good sleep habits support healthy melatonin levels, a super important hormone in healing, anti-ageing and fighting cancer.

Melatonin is a critical hormone for the functioning of your immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant, it scavenges free radicals, which damage body tissues and DNA, and it reduces inflammation, the real cause of nearly all disease.

Melatonin inhibits proliferation of many types of cancer cells, triggers cancer cell death (apoptosis) and can even hinder the formation of blood supplies to tumours (angiogenesis). It is far better and safer for the body to make its own melatonin than taking it as a supplement.

Woman Asleep on Sofa

How to Sleep Better and Maximise the Healing Benefits

1. Get to sleep early every night.

In the days before electricity, people tended to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier in the morning. Now, in this fast-paced technological, information age, most people are staying up late and often sleeping in when they can. This is probably one reason why we have an epidemic of chronic illness.

The hours before midnight are far more important for healing and repair than the hours after midnight. The deepest, most regenerative sleep (with predominantly Delta brainwaves) occurs from around 10 pm until 2 am, but this deep sleep only kicks in about two hours after falling asleep. So ideally, if you want to maximise your healing and regeneration, you should aim to get to sleep by 8 pm.

This is very difficult for most people, myself included, but if you are facing a serious illness, then getting to sleep early every night is one of the single most important things that you can do to maximise your healing.

If you have trouble falling asleep after 30 minutes or so in bed, it might be better to get up and do something relaxing to make you sleepy, rather than lying in bed getting stressed out about not being able to sleep. Just don’t go turning on the bright lights, TV or computer!

2. Keep to a regular sleep schedule in harmony with your body’s natural rhythm.

Thomas and Ross PocketwatchIn addition to getting early nights we should aim to stick to the same sleeping routine every day, including the weekends.

We have a natural body clock or circadian rhythm, controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain in response to light and dark signals coming in via the optic nerve. The hypothalamus signals the pineal gland in the brain to produce the hormone melatonin in response to darkness. Along with changes in body temperature and other bodily functions, it is the increased melatonin that makes us sleepy.

In the morning, with exposure to light, the hypothalamus sends signals leading to the production of hormones like cortisol and an increase in body temperature so that we wake up and become active.

Most travellers are familiar with feeling ‘under the weather’, sleepy and being unable to think clearly after long flights to different time zones. A similar disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm occurs on a daily basis if we stay awake long and irregular hours.

Obviously, many of you have social lives and will sometimes wish to stay up late, which is fine if you keep a consistent routine most of the time. If you do stay up late, it’s generally better to have a power nap during the day if possible, rather than a long sleep in. That way the body clock doesn’t get as disrupted.

For most people, the best time for a daytime nap is between 1 pm to 3 pm. This may be difficult during work hours, but a 15–20 minute power nap during your lunch break can do wonders. Don’t nap for any more than 30 minutes during daytime though, unless you work nights, as it will upset your circadian rhythm and can make it harder to sleep at night.

Aim to wake up at the same time every morning. If you get to sleep early around the same time every night, then you should awake naturally around the same time each morning. This is far better than being rudely startled awake by a loud alarm as it allows your body to finish its natural sleep cycle.

You can still set an alarm as a backup, but make sure that you are usually able to wake up before it. Make it a pleasant-sounding alarm, like a song you love or birdsong, or at least something that starts quietly and gradually gets louder. Some sound sleepers may really need a loud obnoxious alarm to wake up though!

3. Reduce your exposure to light at night.

White Cat Sleeping with Paw across Forehead
Artificial light at night, especially blue light, is bad for your health since it disrupts your sleep pattern and inhibits melatonin production.

Until the advent of electricity, humans spent their evenings in relative darkness, with perhaps a fire or oil lamps for light. Even these lights interfere much less with our body’s natural cycle as they emit light mostly at the red/orange range of the spectrum.

Energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs produce more blue light than traditional incandescent lights, so their inhibiting effect on melatonin production is much stronger.

Computer screens, TV, mobile phones and tablets also produce blue light. The more recent iPhone and iPod models with iOS 9.3 or later now have a ‘night shift’ mode option, enabling you to change the screen colour to a more yellow hue for night-time viewing.

Many studies have linked night shift work and exposure of light at night to several types of cancer (including breast and prostate), heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. This is most likely due to the disturbance of circadian rhythms and reduction of melatonin.

So how can we reduce our exposure? Avoid reading bright screens ideally for the last 2–3 hours, or at least one hour before bed. Use dim red or orange lighting at night.

Himalayan salt lamps produce a soothing light with the added benefit of producing negative ions, which purify the air and make you feel better, like being at the beach or in the mountains. Candles are good too, but take care against fire risk and don’t leave them unattended. You can also get Himalayan salt candle holders.

If you work night shifts or if you use electronic screens at night, consider investing in blue-blocking glasses to mitigate the adverse effects.

Keep your bedroom as dark as possible and avoid clock radios and night lights — even the slightest bit of light can disturb your body’s clock and melatonin production. If you need to get up in the night use dim lighting or a torch rather than bright lights. In fact, if I can see by the ambient light from outside I don’t turn on any lights at all.

If you can’t avoid light in your room, for example if you have no curtains and there is a street light or bright moon outside, consider using a sleep mask. Since I travel a lot, my sleep mask has been my saviour on countless nights.

4. Minimise your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) at night.

EMF exposure should be minimised as much as possible all the time, but at night-time it is even more important due sleep disturbance, the greater sensitivity of the body at that time and the length of time we are staying in one place.

Keep mobile phones, computers, tablets, WiFi routers and clock radios well away from your bed. Even better, turn them off at night. If you really must have your phone beside your bed for an alarm/clock, switch it to flight mode. On most phones the alarm still works even when it is switched off.

Rather than using WiFi, it is better if you use an Ethernet cable connection for your computer or laptop. A disadvantage of tablets is that they can only access the internet via a WiFi connection.

Another important thing to consider is the fields produced by electrical wiring in the wall. These can be reduced by turning off the switches on the wall near your bed, but this usually doesn’t eliminate them. If you are having trouble sleeping, you can try moving your bed away from the wall a foot or two.

If you want to be scientific about it, you can purchase a gauss meter, like the Trifield meter or a Gigahertz Solutions meter, to measure the electric and magnetic fields and work out the best position for your bed.

5. Get enough sunlight exposure during the day, especially in the morning.

Meditating near Volcano at Sunset
Just 15 minutes of bright sunlight exposure in the morning will help keep your body’s circadian rhythm in sync. The sooner after you get up, the better. You can go for an early morning walk, have breakfast outside or near a window and don’t wear sunglasses. Just don’t stare at the sun or you could damage your eyes! (I will write a post about sun-gazing at some point.).

Get some early morning sun on your face. This can be difficult during winter or bad weather, so make the most of sunshine when you can.

If you are up early enough, watch the first 5–10 minutes of the sunrise. This synchronizes the natural body clock and is also great for your mood. Take some moments for mindfulness and gratitude instead of rushing into the day.

Take regular breaks from work or indoor activities during the day and go outside into the fresh air and bright light. Go for a walk at lunchtime or after work. Let plenty of natural light into your home or office, keep curtains and blinds open and have your desk near a window if it’s not too hot.

Watch the sunset every day, maybe by taking an evening walk, as this greatly enhances melatonin secretion.

6. Get regular exercise.

This is one of the best ways to get better, deeper, more restorative sleep, not to mention all the other important benefits of exercise. More vigorous exercise leads to deeper, more restorative sleep than light exercise, but even 10 minutes of brisk walking per day improves the quality of sleep.

Just be careful not to exhaust yourself with too much exercise if you are healing from a serious illness as the immune system requires a lot of energy. Keep it moderate and regular, rather than intense and infrequent.

Also, keep in mind that the body can take 3–6 hours to fully cool down after intense, vigorous exercise so do it well before bedtime. On the other hand, gentle exercises like yoga, Pilates, tai chi or gentle stretches can help you to relax and slow down.

7. Watch what you eat and drink.

It goes without saying that caffeine keeps you awake, though some people say it doesn’t affect them. The effects of caffeine can last for up to 12 hours so try to avoid drinking coffee, caffeinated soft-drinks or black tea (green or white tea have about half the caffeine of black tea) in the afternoon and especially after dinner.
Tomato Radish and Onion Salad
Stay away from heavy meals at night, especially heavy protein like large servings of meat and fatty foods that take a lot of effort for your stomach to digest. Also avoid overly spicy or acidic foods that can upset the stomach.

Having a big breakfast or lunch and a lighter dinner, like many cultures do, is far more sensible, but failing this, try to eat dinner as early as possible.

On the other hand, it can also be difficult to sleep if you are hungry, so a small healthy snack might be necessary if you are. Avoid any sugary or high-carb snacks though, which cause blood sugar to spike and then plummet and disturb your sleep.

Avoid alcohol for the hours before bedtime. Although it might help you relax and get to sleep faster, it interferes with your sleep cycle and the quality of your sleep. If you are serious about healing I recommend avoiding alcohol altogether or reducing it to a minimum. Sometimes I treat myself to a Pinot Noir (only organic though) and I tell myself that I am getting the benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol it contains. 😉

Also avoid drinking lots of liquids in the evening, especially in the last 90 minutes before bed, as they might make you less comfortable or have to get up during the night. Some people find that a cup of relaxing herbal tea, especially those containing chamomile or Valerian, in the evening helps them sleep better.

Supplementing with magnesium either orally or using a magnesium chloride oil massaged into the skin or magnesium salt baths also aids relaxation and good sleep. Most people are deficient in magnesium.

8. Take a hot bath or infra-red sauna before bedtime.

We all know how relaxing and sleep inducing a hot bath can be. It also raises your body temperature, which then quickly drops after you get out, signalling the body that it is time for sleep. Have a hot bath an hour or two before going to sleep.

A bath has the added benefit of being able to add magnesium chloride or Epsom salts for muscle relaxation and better sleep. You absorb much more magnesium through the skin than taking it orally.

Infra-red saunas are also very relaxing and are powerful for detoxification and healing. I do them regularly before bed and I write about them in detail on my infra-red saunas page.

Three Candles

9. Relax and clear the mind before bedtime.

Wind down and relax before bed with quiet music, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, creative visualization, meditation, some gentle stretches or yoga, a foot massage (self-reflexology or by someone else if you’re lucky :-)), sitting in front of a fire watching the flames or embers, reading a book under a soft light, or anything else that you can think of.

Just avoid too much thinking, worrying, stimulating conversation or problem solving before bed. Give your mind a break and time to wind down.

10. Make sure that you have a comfortable bed and a cool room.

Koala Sleeping on Branch
Studies have shown that the optimum bedroom temperature for most people is 15–20°C (60–68°F). Many people make their rooms too warm and this interferes with the quality of sleep. Make sure you get adequate ventilation and fresh air into the room.

It is also important to have a mattress that is not too soft or too hard. Many people sleep on old unhealthy mattresses that are not only bad for the back and posture as they sag in the middle, but they also harbour dust mites, mould and mildew.

Go for organic cotton (most cotton is laden with pesticides — 25% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton crops), natural latex rubber or wool filling and stay away from the common inner-spring or coil mattresses, which have a big damp, dark space for dust mites to multiply and mould to grow in.

Most mattresses are also impregnated with toxic fire retardants, which have been linked to cancers, skin irritations, heart, lung and kidney damage, and memory problems. So check that the one you are buying is free of these chemicals. How often in your lifetime does your mattress catch fire? Yet you have to sleep on these toxic chemicals every night!

Your mattress should be washed and aired out in the sunshine about once a year. The same principles apply to buying pillows. Many people use pillows that are too thick. It is better for the spine and thus healthier to sleep using a flatter pillow, especially if you mainly sleep on your back, as long as you are comfortable.

Different people have their preferred sleeping positions that they tend to gravitate to, though we don’t stay in the same position all night. Research suggests that sleeping on the left side can relieve heartburn and is better during pregnancy as it improves circulation to the heart and baby.

11. Use Brainwave Entrainment to attain faster and deeper sleep.

Did you know that there is actually a way to supercharge your powers of healing, relaxation, meditation, creative visualization and to improve your sleep? It is kind of like brain hacking.

This involves listening to special beats and frequencies, often accompanied by music or nature sounds, which entrain your brainwaves to certain desired frequencies, such as theta, which is associated with deep meditation, healing and the first stage of sleep.

These frequencies and beats include binaural and monoaural beats, isochronic tones and Solfeggio frequencies. You can search for them on YouTube in relation to healing, sleep or meditation so that you get a taste, but the quality of YouTube recordings isn’t generally good enough for full effect. There are many excellent brainwave entrainment audio and software packages out there, which I will be discussing.

If you want to go the extra mile you can get a mind machine. These are iPod-like devices that also include glasses so you get the visual stimulation effect combined with the audio — some of the programs on them are nothing short of spectacular and you can also play any other brainwave entrainment audios through them to greatly enhance their effectiveness.

The best mind machine that I recommend for under $500 is the Kasina Mind Media System. You can see my review on these here.

12. Sleep on an Earthing sheet or pillow (use caution).

The healing power of Earthing is becoming better established as research shows the importance of our connection to the Earth’s negative ions and magnetic field for health. In our modern lifestyle we tend to isolate ourselves from this most of the time by wearing insulating shoes, travelling in cars and spending most of our time indoors.

Sleeping earthed can reduce inflammation, help to neutralise harmful free radicals in our body and facilitate sounder sleep.

However, you must be careful as grounding of electrical systems in houses is often not totally clean and may do more harm than good. You need to have it properly tested by an electrician before plugging into the earth socket on the wall. Otherwise, it is much safer to connect to the ground itself, but you will need to have a wire going out through the window to a metal stake in the ground.

13. Use a white or pink noise sound machine in your room.

We all know how soothing it can be to fall asleep to the pattering of rain on the roof, the soft chirping of crickets or the rumble of ocean surf. On a quiet night random noises, like a passing car or a barking dog, can wake you up, but a constant, full-spectrum background noise is a like a calming tonic for the brain; it provides a constant sensory stimulus, which the brain craves.

The ‘colour’ of noise is defined according to the frequencies present. White noise is comprised of random noise from the entire audible sound spectrum and is like the hiss of static on a radio. The human ear and brain can only process a limited number of sound frequencies at once, so white noise makes other random sounds fade into the background and become less noticeable, thus preventing them from disturbing your sleep.

Pink noise also comprises frequencies from the entire audible spectrum, but emphasizes certain lower frequencies to create a deeper, softer sound more like rushing water, rustling leaves, or heavy rain. This offers the same benefits as white noise, but many people prefer the deeper, softer sound.

You could have ocean or rainforest sounds playing softly or you could invest in a white noise sound machine like the Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner by Marcpac, which is a best-seller on Amazon.

Edible Dormouse Sleeping in a Ball

Hopefully, you are now more convinced of the supreme importance of sleep for healing and you have found some useful tips to help improve your sleep. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Thanks for reading.

14 Responses

  1. hillary

    All of these guidelines are fantastic. I particularly appreciate the earthing suggestion–not enough people know about it. I am an acupuncturist and many, many of our patients have insomnia. When they come in for whatever ailment they have, I often suggest we work on their sleep first, and many times the other ailments will disappear. Sleep is SO important.

    • Tim

      Thanks Hillary!

      Earthing is wonderfully healing and I want to tell people about it soon on my website. It’s great that you know about it. In fact I’m doing it right now as I write this reply. It is a beautiful, warm autumn day here in southern NZ and I am sitting outside with my bare feet on the grass and the warm sun on my bare back. So I am getting the healing energy from the Earth and the Sun at the same time, just as nature intended! 🙂

      Yes, it’s so true that sleep is absolutely fundamental and essential for healing. Insomnia is such a common complaint these days and it’s not surprising with the busy lives that people lead.

      One has to ask where all this modern technology and rushing around is getting us. Sure, there are benefits of modern technology such as being able to connect with the world through social media, forums and websites like we are doing right now. However, somehow we need to learn to control our use of technology and to use our time in a way that is more mindful, present and healing. I guess, the information age is a relatively new thing, so hopefully the human race will learn to adjust and slow down – but I wonder.

      It’s great that you suggest to your patients to work on sleep first and that so often it heals their ailments. That is further confirmation of it’s benefits. It’s the simplest things in life that can be the most healing!

      Warm regards,

  2. Axton

    Thank you for sharing such important information. I can’t agree more that we need enough quality sleep, but the problem with most of the people who do not is discipline. Work, watching tv, playing online games, hanging-out with friends, chatting online are some of the reasons keeping many of us staying up late at night. We know sleeping is important but we do not give sufficient priority to it. Thank you for reminding me again and will definitely put sleeping top of my list, again.

    • Tim

      Hi Axton,

      You are totally right there that most people struggle with the discipline to get enough sleep. I also find it difficult to discipline myself to go to bed early as I am addicted to learning and I have lots of interests so I find there are never enough hours in the day. During my illness I had the extra motivation to get to bed early, but these days I don’t always manage. Just writing this webpage is a good reminder to keep practising what I preach!

      Yes, computers, TV, smartphones and internet all conspire to keep people up late. I’ve made myself a rule now to stop reading screens (though e-book readers like Kindle are fine) and to switch off the internet by 8:00pm, though sometimes I do break that rule when there is something I have to get done before the next day. I think hanging-out with friends is a nicer excuse for it, though perhaps not when that involves large quantities of alcohol! 😉

      Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep good sleep at the top of your list after this little reminder.

      Best regards,

  3. Sarah

    I’ve been using a SOEmac machine which releases oxygen to boost sleep – have you heard of these before? As a bonus it has a slight white-noise effect too.

    • Tim

      Hi Sarah,

      I hadn’t heard of these, but I just had a look at their website and I am interested to learn more. I like healing gadgets!

      I’m sure you know this, but for the benefit of my readers here’s how they work in a nutshell: Instead of concentrating oxygen out of the air by removing nitrogen, like oxygen concentrators, they energize the ambient oxygen to produce Singlet Oxygen Energy (SOE) in the same way as the chlorophyll in plants does when it absorbs sunlight. After passing through the SOEmac the oxygen reverts from the singlet state back to the normal state, but retains the extra energy in its molecular bond. This energized oxygen is more easily absorbed by the lungs and body cells resulting in greater cellular production of energy (ATP). And it’s useful that it combines the benefit of some white noise as well.

      Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Stella

    Hi Tim,
    I have always had difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night a lot. I am not sure if this all comes from when I was young and we used to have very irregular sleeping patterns. On weekdays we would sleep relatively early at say 10pm and wake up at 7am for school but weekends when we accompanied our parents to work we would be sleeping 2-3am and waking at 12pm. Now that I have kids I find that I am sleeping a lot less or more irregularly as I can only relax and do my own things etc. after they go to bed at 9pm. I guess I could follow their routine and have my own time when they go to school. But then my spouse doesn’t come home til late so I would not see him…. Not sure what would be the solution here.

    • Tim

      Hi Stella,

      Wow! That’s a pretty tough and disrupting sleep routine that you grew up with. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is one of the main reasons why you have trouble falling and staying asleep. I’m not sure what the best solution to getting a healthy sleep routine within the constraints of your children’s sleep times and your husband coming home late is. First, I would suggest applying some of the suggestions I’ve given, such as keeping low lighting in the evening, avoiding TV and other screens for the last two hours before bed, not eating late, having a dark room or using a sleep mask, making sure your room isn’t too hot and getting some exercise during the day.

      One thing that is really worth trying is brainwave entrainment to induce a deep sleep state more quickly. I will be posting about some of my recommended audio programs later, but you can find plenty of free ones on YouTube if you search for ‘binaural beats for sleep’, for example. They are of variable quality, but some work quite well. It might take a few goes to get used to them and for it to work. The important thing is to listen through headphones to get the effect. Another thing to try, which helped me to sleep more soundly, is to use an Earthing sheet or pillowcase. I will be writing about these soon.

      Depending on what time your husband gets home, trying to get some sleep first might be counter-productive since interrupted sleep might be no better than shorter sleep and then you will probably have more trouble falling asleep again. So, it’s a tricky one to find a good solution to, but hopefully following some of the suggestions I’ve given will help.

      You might be interested to read this article by Dr Mercola: Study: Interrupted Sleep May Be as Harmful as No Sleep at All And some research published in October 2015: Sleep Interruptions Are Worse for Mood Than Overall Reduced Amount of Sleep

      Best wishes and I hope you get better sleep!

  5. Roger


    Thank you so much for your answers!

    I wondered if the sleep cycle relationship with Delta Waves had anything to do with the history of humans.

    I’m most familiar with some of the non-conscious responses to stimuli, over which I have very little direct control. And so the Delta Waves timing is illuminating.

    I no longer suffer from insomnia. I did learn a lot about sleep hygiene to improve my sleeping habits. And I’ll pass on your advice to others I know who are currently struggling!

    Thanks again!


    • Tim

      Hi Roger,

      That’s so good to hear that you no longer suffer from insomnia! And thank you for passing on my advice to others. I hope some of my suggestions will be a help to them. Thanks again for your comments.

      Best regards,

  6. Alessandro

    Wow ! What an interesting article about sleep ! I only knew about brainwaves and sleeping cycles, I couldn’t imagine that all those things could have something to do with my sleeping.
    Thank you for all the tips you’ve given to me.
    If I can suggest you something, just to give one more tip to insomniac people, whether you can’t sleep because of the amount of thoughts you have, just notice the way those thoughts move around your head and have them spin in the other way, so, if they run clockwise, make them run counterclockwise and notice the much you feel better and the easy it is to fall asleep.
    Thank you for the interesting tips you gave me,
    All the best,

    • Tim

      Hi Alessandro,

      I’m really glad that you got some useful tips from reading my article. And thank you for the great tip for insomniacs to slow down their incessant thoughts by forcing them to spin in the opposite direction! I hadn’t noticed my thoughts spinning in a certain direction or tried to reverse that, but I do often do something similar during meditation (I mention that as a technique on my meditation page), which is to imagine all thoughts and sensations in the mind as a whirlpool and just observe that spinning whirlpool in a detached way. The whirlpool then often just disappears. Great idea, thank you!

      Best regards,

  7. Roger

    Excellent article about sleep!

    When I was in my 20s, I started having issues with insomnia, and so began reading and learning about sleep hygiene. But even after decades of sleep information, you still taught me a lot!

    I remember hearing, back when I was in college (that was the 1970s!), about the Delta Waves between 10 PM and 2 AM. Do you understand why it’s these times? Why are they so specific? I figured it really just meant a couple of hours after falling asleep, you got your Delta Wave sleep. Has it to do with where the earth is in relation to the sun?

    My brother is one of those people who sleeps 5 hours a night. He never naps, says he can’t. So, after college, I decided I wanted to shift my sleep cycle to 5 hours. I was performing standup comedy (and often up till 2 AM or later), while working at a full time job! Eventually I got ill, went home for a visit, and slept for a solid week! Only got up to pee. I thought I was going to pass away. Needless to say, I ceased trying to shift my sleep cycle.

    Now I try to keep a regular cycle. But it’s not completely possible, simply because I work at a retail store, and sometimes I need to be at work at 8:00 AM (so up at 6:00 AM), and other times I need to work until 10:00 PM (so home by 10:30 PM, but can’t immediately go to sleep!). Any recommendations for those of us with those sorts of variable schedules?

    I do love to take a hot soak later in the afternoon. That really helps relax me and I always get a nice deep sleep after that.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Sleep tight!


    • Tim

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you for your excellent and engaging comment. I’m glad that you learned some new information here.

      To answer your first question, I think the reason that the deep slow-wave (with greater than 50% Delta wave activity) restorative sleep occurs between 10 pm and 2 am is because for most of human history we were daytime creatures, synchronized to the diurnal cycle of day and night. The body’s ‘biological clock’, otherwise known as the superchiasmic nucleus (SCN), which is a pair of pinhead-sized clusters of neurons in the hypothalamus, responds to the change from light to dark after receiving signals via the optic nerve from photoreceptor cells in the retina. The SCN in turn instructs the pineal gland to start making melatonin, which is what makes you feel sleepy. Typically, this should occur one to two hours after sunset, but it is disrupted by all the artificial light, computer, phone and TV screens that we expose ourselves to. The melatonin builds up until it peaks at around midnight and then it starts to drop off again. It is during the period when melatonin, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body, is highest that this deep, restorative sleep occurs, so this makes a potent healing combination. There are actually 4–5 sleep cycles per night, but with each cycle having progressively less time in the deep phase. So there tends to be a shorter period of deep sleep between about 2:30 am and 3 am, and a very short one just after 4 am. However, later in the night there is less of the beneficial, healing melatonin in the body.

      Sorry to hear about your problems with insomnia. It is frustrating not being able to sleep. There are many causes of insomnia as you probably know, including stress, anxiety, depression, eating late at night, too much light in your bedroom and so on. If you’ve tried most of the things on my list for better sleep and still can’t sleep, then a good thing to consider is some kind of emotional trauma or issue from the past that triggered it in your twenties. Many people aren’t keen on dealing with emotions, but it’s a huge part of healing and I believe the root cause of most chronic conditions. I recommend reading “The Journey” by Brandon Bays and finding a Journey practitioner near you if that resonates with you. Something else I highly recommend is transformational breathing / rebirthing. I used to think that stuff was pretty ‘out there’, but once I started reading about it and then tried it, I found it to be the single most powerful and transformational thing that I have done.

      As well as the cycle in melatonin, there is a diurnal cycle in cortisol that controls the body’s metabolism. There is a peak in the morning about 20&ndash30 minutes after waking, which is known as the ‘cortisol awakening response’, and then it progressively decreases throughout the day until it reaches a low in the evening ready for sleep. However, the body can also change the cycle of cortisol production and release, for example in those individuals who work night shifts or who travel to different time zones. Then, the timing of the release of cortisol is reversed or shifted to higher levels in the late evening and early morning, overriding the melatonin mechanism and keeping you awake.

      If you are stressed then meditation can be of huge benefit to reduce your stress and hence sleep better. Stress affects the daily cortisol cycle, with short-term stressors like an argument or accident causing a brief spike and longer term stressors like work or relationship stress or an illness leading to consistently higher cortisol levels throughout the day. However, chronic stress depletes nutrients and hormone precursors, so eventually your body isn’t able to continuing producing such high amounts of cortisol. The disruption in the diurnal cycle of cortisol production often results in evening cortisol spikes that cause insomnia.

      It isn’t surprising that you got sick on that long work schedule into the early hours of the morning that you had. The body can only take so much deprivation from the critical phase of deep healing sleep. Other animals need this too; dolphins and whales actually switch one brain hemisphere at a time into deep sleep, while keeping the other one semi-awake and alert in order float up for air and watch out for predators. While sleep deprivation can trigger the body to go into the delta sleep phase for longer when it does finally get some sleep, it still isn’t nearly as good as following a healthy, regular sleep cycle, plus you still miss out on the peak in melatonin. Long term sleep deprivation is detrimental to health and those like your brother who can get away with it for a long time have pretty resilient bodies, but it is a risky thing to do.

      It is good that you try to keep a regular cycle now, even though the shift work that you do makes it difficult. If you were dealing with a chronic or life-threatening illness, I would say to change your work hours and if that isn’t possible change jobs, as a regular sleep routine is essential for healing. At least in your case the variation in hours isn’t too extreme. I have a few suggestions. If you are able to, try to eat at the same times on both work schedules and make sure you eat at least 3 hours before bedtime. You could listen to some relaxing, soothing music on your commute from work or when you get home to help you wind down. Something that can really help you slow your brain waves down and induce a sleep state quickly after you get home is brainwave entrainment. A hot bath is a great way to relax, especially an hour or two before sleep, though of course having one after you get home at 10:30 would be too late for it. Avoid watching any TV or internet to try to relax and wind down and use soft lighting like a lamp rather than turning all the lights on at home. Otherwise, I think that anyone who has an extreme shift work regime has to seriously consider quitting or changing jobs if they want to heal, as I don’t think there is any way around the disruption that it causes to the body.

      I hope that gives you a few ideas and hasn’t just confused you! Feel free to ask me any more questions.

      Wishing you wonderful sleep and health!

      Best regards,

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