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December 4, 2022

I can make you sleep – Paul McKenna

The following is my personal review of this book. As a PT, information around training, nutrition, recovery and mindset are relevant in my providing optimal client success. I simply cherry pick parts of books that I find relevant to these topics, that I occasionally pass onto my clients. If you read this book yourself, I’m sure you will find additional relevant parts. If you find the info here useful, I encourage you to read the book in its entirety.

When you learn to do something, you store it as a program in your unconscious mind (a habit). Being unable to sleep at night is often the product of some bad habits (p18).

In many cases, sleeping better can be a major help in your healing processes. Poor sleep is often a symptom of depression. Sleeping better is one of the two most effective remedies for depression, the other is exercise (p32).

Many doctors believe in an ideal world medication to help people sleep should not be used for more than two weeks at a time. A lot of people who use sleep medication routinely can become reliant on them. The effectiveness of meds often reduces with continuous use (p33).

Scientists have used EEG (electro encephalogram) machines to monitor the brainwave activity of people sleeping and discovered we all go through 3 distinct phases of sleep several times per night.

  1. Light Sleep: When you fall asleep the 1st phase you enter is called light sleep (p44).
  2. Slow wave sleep: The second type of sleep is slow wave, where brain waves become slower and more regular. We usually go into this phase after approximately 20 mins of light sleep, and stay there for 2 hrs. In this phase our body is rejuvenated, repaired, with activated immune systems that help fight disease and restores health. These two hrs are essential for our health and even when sleeping is drastically reduced, the unconscious mind makes sure we get these two hrs (p44).
  3. REM Sleep: The third type of sleep is known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This sleep lasts approximately 20 mins and is associated with improved learning of tasks, and is the lightest type of the 3. People often wake up in the morning from REM sleep (p45).

Once this cycle is completed, the second time through the light sleep cycle is shorter. Usually a person goes through this full cycle 3-4 times per night (p46).

Now that we understand how a sleep cycle woks, we can see why some people regularly wake up after approximately 3 hrs. after their essential 2 hr slow wave sleep, then enter REM become too alert and wake up. Studies show that people who believe they never sleep a wink are getting the two essential hrs, it can often be fragmented and take a long time to get it (p48).

It takes considerable effort to keep someone awake for more than 2.5 days, as the unconscious mind insists on putting you to sleep. People attempting to exceed this limit fall into micro sleeps (a few short second to a few minutes long). At this limit, people often experience irrational fears, mood swings and even hallucinations. When someone has been awake too long, they often fall straight into slow wave sleep (p49). 

Tips for improving sleep:

  1. Get up half an hr before your usual wake up time. Clinical research shows this as one of the most effective strategies for curing insomnia. Your unconscious mind, and your body’s rhythms determine when you go to sleep, but you can control when you wake up. By moving your wakeup time, the rest of the cycle is forced to move and change, and you will feel sleepier earlier in the evening (p52).
  • Only go to bed when you are sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy, don’t go to bed. When your body is ready, it will let you know. After a few days of going to bed late and waking up ½ hr early, you will find natural sleepiness shows up earlier in the evening (p54).
  • Don’t take naps in the day. In order to build up the readiness to sleep, you must stay away all day everyday. If you nap you will disrupt the natural rhythm and build up to sleeping (p55).   

There is a strong correlation to poor sleeping patterns and being overweight, so staying at your optimum weight is a good idea (p61).

It is scientifically proven that exercise improves sleep. So get it in, it is also one of the best ways to flush out toxins that stress can create in the body (p62). Sleep researchers have found that if you finish your exercise at least 3 hrs before you go to bed, your body has enough time to reduce its temperature and metabolise all the hormones released from working out – for better sleep (p63).

In sleep apnoea, during sleep the muscle tone becomes weaker and the weight of flesh in the neck can cause the airway to collapse temporarily. Stopping breathing and air reaching the lungs. Although the person may not wake up each time this happens, multiple short interruptions reduces quality of sleep and can leave a person feeling tired after a full night of sleep (p65).

The best foods to eat to enhance sleep are fresh less processed foods. Most processed foods contain sugar, which give you a rush and overstimulation. Fresh foods have more fibre and are digested more easily, so you aren’t kept awake by your stomach (p67).

Researchers have found that an amino acid tryptophan helps you sleep. When it is broken down it produces serotonin which makes you feel good, and melatonin, which the body secretes to make you sleep as light fades in the evenings. Tryptophan is in milk, yoghurt, fish, red meat, poultry and eggs, bananas and mangos (p68). 

Avoid eat within 3 hrs of going to sleep. As the stomach sits above the intestines, digestion works better when you are vertical. Plus, you often requires minimal energy late at night, so rather than your body extracting it from food, it is likely to be stored as fat. When you need energy the next day you will likely derive that from the food you eat then rather than from the fat stored the night before (p70).

Caffeine is one of the most well-known chemical sleep disruptors, in a normal adult it takes 3-4hrs to remove half of it from your system. So try not to consume it after 2pm in your day. Women who take the contraceptive pill take twice as long to metabolize caffeine, and pregnant women take twice as long as that (p72).

Alcohol can temporarily depress the central nervous system and increase tiredness, it dehydrates the body and that system rebounds a few hrs later (p73).

Your sleep environment matters, so try to avoid engage in activities that keep you awake when you go to bed.

Go to bed to:

  • Sleep
  • Make Love
  • Read or Listen to content on sleeping

Avoid: Watching TV, Eating, Reading Novels and turn your alarm clock away from you so you avoid waking and watching it, instead rely on the alarm noise to wake you (p81).

If you are awake in bed for more than 20mins, engage in a sleeping drill or get up and do something boring until you feel tired again (p82).

Our bodies have a mechanism that adjusts our sleepiness to the hrs of darkness. According to the hypothalamus and the amount of light it receives through your eyes, it releases different hormones – cortisol which wakes us up in the morning and melatonin which sends us to sleep at night, so try to keep your bedroom really dark at night (p83).

TV programs are designed to make you excited and catch and keep your attention, so switch your TV off at least 1hr before you go to bed. This gives your mind a chance to process and absorb all he adrenaline released in response to the exciting imagery, and slow down to a pace that can synchronize you towards sleep (p100).            

The human nervous system cannot differentiate between real and vividly imagined events. So lying in bed at night imagining events that make you anxious releases stressful chemicals (p103).

There you have it, a summary of an inspiring book to help us change our crucial sleep habits. The book is definitely worth a read.

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