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 Post subject: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:53 pm 
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Hi everyone,

For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter you have no doubt seen me talk about this a lot lately. I have a hard time falling asleep. I think some of the reasons are the following, and I'm seeking input and suggestions:

1. My mind is always running. I'm an innovative thinker, an idea guy. That is essentially what I do for work for the various companies. I come up with ideas and programs that haven't been created or implemented and then I carry them out for Vega, Forks Over Knives, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, etc. It's hard to get my mind to shut down. I lie awake for hours sometimes, even though I am exhausted and it is 2 or 3AM after a 12-hour work day.

2. I'm a bit sensitive to noise so even a space heater in my room keeps me awake and I have to use ear plugs or turn it off or otherwise manage.

3. I have a small bladder so I can't drink anything late at night or it will disrupt my sleep, so as much as I'd like to drink tea which suggests it will help with sleep, it would keep me up, disrupting sleep.

4. I tend to like to work late. I actually enjoy working as much as possible so I rarely go to bed before midnight and lately, rarely before 2AM. I figure I can be more productive by just staying awake longer.

5. I'm often in a new place every week or every few weeks with my nomadic lifestyle. I do plan to stay put for a little while when I move to Texas in 3 weeks, but I doubt I'll be there longer than a few months, and during that time, I'll still have various travel to do.

Those are some reasons I have trouble sleeping. Some of the things I've tried to help are:

1. Counting backwards from 100. Sometimes I do this dozens of times, meaning I guess I count over 1000 numbers. It helps at times, but not always.

2. Finding the most comfortable position and not moving for as long as possible.

3. Teas or other natural things said to help with sleep.

4. Working until I can't work anymore.

5. Watching educational videos or long lectures with my laptop hoping it will put me to sleep.


What other things can I do?

Lately I've been waking up a bit groggy and exhausted and it is hard to get the day off to a high energy start the way I would like.

Thanks for your ideas!

I'm sure I'll eventually find some systems that work. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Thanks!

Robert

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:15 pm 
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You and I are cut from the same cloth, Robert. Both high-output intellectuals, both stimulated by thought, getting off on ideas, both bladder-challenged (I was born with 2 1/2 kidneys, so I process liquids faster than most), both audio-sensitive foam earplug addicts. I made some easy changes to my lifestyle that put me out like a light in ten minutes every night. Take what you like.

I'll begin by skipping the nutritional stuff because you are a savvy, healthy dude who knows very well by now what stimulates your particular body and what doesn't. You've no doubt figured out just what you can get away with and what you can't. All I'll say on that subject is that it often changes over time, so check back in with yourself every year and see where you stand. You also know about stretching, yoga, etc. so we can omit that, too.

Keep the bed in the bedroom. All this means is to use the bedroom only for sleeping (nocturnal team sports notwithstanding). Keep it simple, comfortable, and relaxing in there. Get rid of the television, don't bring in any projects and spread them out on the bedspread, take all calls in another room, move your "nightstand reading" to the living room. This room is all about sleep. The reason your heart beats faster when it enters the weightroom is because it knows what's coming. Teach it to beat slower when you enter your bedroom because it knows what's coming. If you feel yourself nodding off in any other room, immediately repair to your bed and lay down. If you are on the road at a hotel, treat the hotel bed as the bedroom and don't lay on it until you are ready for sleep. Use the little desk and uncomfortable chair for paperwork and TV watching; it'll keep you from doing too much of either.

Turn down the volume. Cleanse your bedroom of everything not soothing and sleep related. Take an inventory of the colors you've got in there. Are they the same colors you wear to the gym? Don't confuse your cranium--select some muted, dark, and/or cool colors for the bedroom, instead. Change out red, yellow, orange, anything shiny or metallic or neon for blue, green, purple, grey, black, brushed metals, and wood. Ditch the Marvel comics bedspread of Spiderman springing out in a 3-D leap from the side of a building. Replace the 60 watt bulbs with 40 watts. Take down all sports and psychedelic posters. (If you really want a trip, put blue lights in your lamps. But not if this is the room you dress in for a date.) If you've got motivational messages taped around the room, put the invigorating ones on the walls and the relaxing ones on the ceiling. When you wake and sit up, you'll get pumped; when you lay back and gaze upwards, you'll wind down. Think seriously about some light blocking curtains.

Do a mental cool down. A brain like yours, getting off on going at high speeds all the time, is like an insanely valuable racehorse. It'll give you a lot of power running around the track but unless it learns the reins, it'll waste a lot of energy just trying to control itself in a hit or miss effort. I can see you've tried a lot of ways to just wear out the horse until it can't run anymore (I've tried all those, too) but trying to get yourself tired is making you tired. (wink, wink) And besides, you can get the horse to stop a lot easier than that. Brains learn through repetition, neurons that fire together wire together. So, design your own mental cool down to signal the end of the racing day and the beginning of the resting segment. DO THE SAME COOL DOWN EVERY NIGHT. Keep it simple, around twenty minutes. Look forward to it like a great program you have recorded to watch, a real treat. If you have trouble justifying this "lack of doing something," consider that the brain only stores what it's learned each day in the brain stem until it gets some good sleep (both REM and deep) during which it can file it away in the higher centers for later retrieval. Without sleep, it's like writing a masterpiece and then not saving it to disk, or doing a max day without giving muscle groups 24 hours off to repair all those microtears.

Anything that slows your heart rate and brain waves will work for a cool down, be creative. The key is to be aware of your own stimulation level and make adjustments. Here are some ingredients you can experiment with:

Visualization and Guided or Freeform Meditation
When you remove your attention from what's around you and put it on something else, you literally enter a state of self-hypnosis. You can use this to rev up or rev down. Professional athletes practice a form called Visual Motor Rehearsal where they walk themselves through an intended result before they physically perform it. This is not what I'm talking about here. If you practice VMR and other visualization prep work in your business, do it before your mental cool down.

Instead, imagine a soothing place and still position for yourself (not moving or exercising) and engage as many of your senses as you can. A favorite of mine is a high mountain lake in the Rockies that I used to sit beside, utterly quiet. It was wild and remote, the air so clean that it smelled like snow year-round. The surface of that lake was as reflective as chrome and I'd watch the clouds move over me through the blue sky by gazing down into the water. I'd sit on a slab of sun-warmed granite and allow the heat to come into my legs from below while the sun made my cheeks and forehead tingle. The wind would play with my hair gently. An eagle always flew by and let go a muted little screech like a question. Time stopped. I had no age. I had no name. I was.

If you are not a visual person, a guided meditation CD or download on your iPod is very handy. Even a piece of soothing music will work as long as the down beat is slower than your normal resting heart rate. Your heart automatically entrains to whatever beat is around it. Visualization is even more powerful if you practice the same imagery every night. Your brain will learn to associate the repeated scenario with sleep, ratcheting itself back automatically more and more each night.

Deep Breathing
A visualization like the one above usually brings the heart rate right down and deepens the breath but let's say you just got back from a stress-test-from-hell kind of a day. Better start by turning the knob to the left manually. Deep breathing is the most universal healing technique known to humankind. Every race, tribe, religion, etc. practices some form of it and for good reason. There's no learning curve, just sit or lay down and breath slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, do it again. Keep at it, making each breath a little slower and a little deeper until you've gotten up to ten breaths. Focus your attention on the sound of your breath in your ears and the feeling of your chest cavity expanding upwards and settling down again. You can tack on a visualization of bodily systems calming down, like capillaries dilating, muscle fibers lengthening, or brain waves smoothing out.

Applause, Applause
If something has a hold of you emotionally, especially worry or fear or any kind, a cure-all trick is to review everything you've ever done that made you feel proud of yourself. This shifts you immediately from disempowerment to empowerment and allows you to unclench. It helps to visit things mentally that have nothing to do with the topic of worry or fear. For instance, when I have myself in a headlock over money, I like to remind myself how many mountains I've climbed in Colorado and remember a few of those summits. If I'm sick or weak, I review all the crazy people I've met over the past year and review the times we about burst a gut laughing about something. When I'm wallowing in loneliness, I revisit projects I've built and gardens I've planted.

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby
Yeah, yeah, I know--you're supposed to be calming down not getting all fired up. But if you can't focus on a happy mountain lake and even breathing isn't cutting it, there is one way to hijack your brain in about ten seconds. No, put your hand down. You can do this mentally. Just create a delicious, easy, amazing sexual fantasy out of thin air. Don't spend too much time on it, just focus on one peripheral body part to start with and move in obvious directions from there. For instance, he or she could start sucking on your finger and then begin licking hot skin further and further up your arm. Again, engage as many senses as you can. You can either keep it short and use it as way to short circuit an unwanted thought that has you down or you can...ahem...take it all the way. We all know how relaxing that can be. But the point is that this is just another form of self-induced hypnosis that invokes an immediate change in the brain. Try this: next time you feel your anger rising in gridlock traffic, take a little side trip to the Playboy Mansion in your mind. Ten seconds and you'll forget all about the jerk who just cut you off. If you are using this technique as part of your mental cool down, tack on a little non-sexual visualization at the end of it: you may need a cool down from your cool down.

So, there's a few things off the top of my head. I have a lot more technical stuff and deeper meditations but I can already feel you getting sleepy. You're getting very, very sleepy....Zzzzzzzzzzzz

:wink:

Baby Herc

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Last edited by Baby Hercules on Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:45 pm 
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This is AWESOME!!!!

Thanks, buddy! Will take it to heart and let you know how I progress.

-Robert

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:49 pm 
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It's no wonder you have trouble winding down, what with all your varied passions and Herculean schedule. But you're one powerful mo fo: if you can do all that, you can do this.

Baby Herc

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 Post subject: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:48 am 
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Yoga, meditation and an eye mask. Job done!

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:02 am 
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ZMA supplement helped me. Also gives you pretty crazy dreams..

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 Post subject: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:06 am 
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sosso wrote:
ZMA supplement helped me. Also gives you pretty crazy dreams..


ZMA + melatonin produces the most bizarro dreams!!

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:20 am 
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robert wrote:
....
1. My mind is always running. I'm an innovative thinker, an idea guy. That is essentially what I do for work for the various companies. I come up with ideas and programs that haven't been created or implemented and then I carry them out for Vega, Forks Over Knives, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, etc. It's hard to get my mind to shut down. I lie awake for hours sometimes, even though I am exhausted and it is 2 or 3AM after a 12-hour work day.

2. I'm a bit sensitive to noise so even a space heater in my room keeps me awake and I have to use ear plugs or turn it off or otherwise manage.

3. I have a small bladder so I can't drink anything late at night or it will disrupt my sleep, so as much as I'd like to drink tea which suggests it will help with sleep, it would keep me up, disrupting sleep.

4. I tend to like to work late. I actually enjoy working as much as possible so I rarely go to bed before midnight and lately, rarely before 2AM. I figure I can be more productive by just staying awake longer.

5. I'm often in a new place every week or every few weeks with my nomadic lifestyle. I do plan to stay put for a little while when I move to Texas in 3 weeks, but I doubt I'll be there longer than a few months, and during that time, I'll still have various travel to do.
....


1. My best suggestion for this would be common meditation exercises, such as breath-focusing or mental drifting. You are someone who loves their work, and consequently, loves to take their work home. Unfortunately that makes it tough to shut work out when it comes time to sleep. I agree with Baby Herc, to try and keep everything out of the bedroom except the bed, if possible.

2. This is a tough one, especially if you are moving around a lot. Personally I sleep with covers surrounding my head, or even a pillow on each side of my head (I sleep without a pillow under my head). This helps keep out noise and for some reason also helps me feel 'cocooned' or protected.

3. Definitely no liquids in the last hour or two before bed!

4. If you work late, why don't you sleep in the next day? My work routine has shifted from 8am starting, to 9:30am, simply because I tend to stay up later and my job will allow that change. Being self-employed, is there any way you can start your days later?

5. This is also tough, simply because you can't control it very well. My only idea is to try to plan on having a good place for you to sleep when you know you are headed somewhere. If you tend to sleep better on a bed versus a cot, sleeping bag, or air mattress, try to find places with full beds. Try to find places that are quiet, that 'feel' like home, etc.

Just from my history, when I am falling asleep I begin to have thoughts that aren't quite 'right', or not quite logical and in touch with reality. This is the phase where my brain wants to dream, and it is reconciling my semi-awake state with it's own ideas. Sometimes I can recognize that I am thinking something crazy, but then I can focus on continuing to think about that crazy thing, and that helps me move into a dreaming sleep rather than refocusing my brain and keeping it awake. It's very hard to explain, so I probably just sound odd right now, but if you know what I am talking about, then that's another piece of advice I have.

Lastly, if you are ever in LA (Tarzana area), you can certainly stay at our place! It's not totally quiet (apartment), but we have a nice cot for guests and we tend to cook lots of good vegan food! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:20 am 
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sosso wrote:
ZMA supplement helped me. Also gives you pretty crazy dreams..

ZMA helped me sleep as well, but the dreams were so intense that the sleep wasn't worth it! :S

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:25 am 
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Turn the lights off 1 hour before sleep.
Serotonin turns into melatonin in the dark. If you have any lights that are remotely bright the brain will mistake it for the sun rising. Really dim lights resemble moonlight, though.

Theanine (found in green tea) is a huge sedative. Taken in decaf green tea pill form, you'll fall asleep before you notice you're getting tired (15 minutes or less, if you take 3 at once).

Bananas contain tryptophan, which is a serotonin precursor. If you're low on serotonin, you can't convert it into melatonin now can you? So do sunflower & hemp seeds.

Also, a more ancient remedy (I notice this works, personally) is amethyst in the pillowcase. It can also cause lucid dreams (where you notice you're dreaming and can control yourself).

Others here suggest ZMA. Veganessentials.com has Max Growth P.M. which contains theanine & ZMA, which will give you a deeper sleep. It doesn't contain as much theanine as would make you clunk out though.

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:23 am 
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Thanks, everyone!

Up late working again. I'll start to wind down soon. I should get into as close to a "routine" as it gets for me in February when I get settled in Texas.

I appreciate the thoughtful insight and the fact that you took time to give me some suggestions.

Night, Night!

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:28 pm 
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I would suggest taking a tiny dose of melatonin if you need to sleep when you are not tired. like 1/8 of a dose might be good enough.

I have no trouble getting to sleep if its on my own time...like on the weekends, or time off. But if I need to get to sleep early to wake up rested for work, I usually take some melatonin 30ish minutes before sleep. If I don't take some I can be laying in bed for a hour or 2 before I even start to feel tired.


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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:19 am 
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I've battled sleeping problems all my life. Some things that have consistently helped me (and I've tried it all!) have been to stop eating a few hours before bed (I am IFing right now and its GREAT), not doing anything mentally challenging that would stress me out in the slightest, turning out the lights early as someone mentioned and sometimes light a candle (LED candles work great too!) while reading or watching a relaxing movie (nothing along the lines of Terminator, lol) or listening to relaxing music, wearing ear plugs as a couple of you mentioned, and if I'm out (which I have been recently) using a fan for white noise.

I tried melatonin and it worked ok for like a week but I don't know it just wasn't strong enough for me after that. But everyone is different.

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:51 am 
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I used to have terrible problems sleeping, literally could not do it and would just lay there for hours. Though it was linked to various problems, and I now have very little problem sleeping, at the time I found something to help which was a relaxation CD. I thought "yeah..." but I tried it anyway. I swear I have never heard the end of that CD, I am always KO half way through. But, since listening to it a number of times, I just remember the initial tools for how they get you to relax, and I just think about it in my mind and have myself go through the steps - don't need a CD anymore. So any night where I have trouble, I just think it through and put my body into a relaxed state. It works 99% of the time

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 Post subject: Re: Seeking help falling asleep
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:23 am 
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Thanks everyone. Clearly, I'm not following steps properly. Though I laid down to sleep around 130AM I didn't fall asleep until after 4AM last night. That was a bummer. Waking up was tough too.

Tonight doesn't look so great either. Getting close to midnight and I'm still eating after my workout and still have to shower and have a lot of work to do.

I haven't had time to try all these steps and tricks and ideas yet, but I'll give them a go soon. I kind of have a nomadic life and sleep in a new place often, so learning some new tricks will be helpful.

Thanks!

Night, night!

Robert

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