Ways to Fall Asleep Faster: Four Methods to Ease Into Bedtime; For some people, the hardest part about getting a good night’s sleep is winding down

Ways to Fall Asleep Faster

Four Methods to Ease Into Bedtime


Jan. 13, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET


For some people, the hardest part about getting a good night’s sleep is winding down.

Plenty of products and services promise to help. Americans spent $32.4 billion in 2012 on sleep-related aids—from noise machines to specialty pillows, according to IMS Health, a marketing analytics firm in Parsippany, N.J. And according to an August study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.6 million people in the U.S. reported taking medication for better sleep in the month before.The stress of work and daily life make falling asleep and staying asleep through the night a constant struggle for us. We tried four ways to help us shut off our racing thoughts and ease into bedtime. These methods aim to teach users how to fall asleep and awake refreshed—without medication. We used an iPhone app, one of a number of new sleep apps available for mobile devices, and a CD set based on audio brain research. There was also a MP3 download that promised to teach us to fall asleep by listening to our body sensations; and a relaxation coach, a new trend popping up across the country.

The Brainwave Music System is a six-CD set created by Jeffrey Thompson, director of the Center for NeuroAcoustic Research in Carlsbad, Calif. The CDs use music embedded with tones to get you to sleep faster. The music sounds somewhat dreamlike with low humming and piano melodies. The CD booklet says the system is based on company research showing sound patterns combined with music can alter brain waves and a person’s state of consciousness.

We tried two 30-minute sleep tracks and a 30-minute relaxation track. The booklet instructed us to play the relaxation track in the background while we went about regular activities before bedtime, such as brushing our teeth, and to play the sleep CD at bedtime.

Despite a noisy spouse moving around the room and interruptions from children, we fell asleep quickly and felt surprisingly refreshed in the morning.

Next, we hired Stacy Kamala Waltman, a relaxation coach who teaches corporate workshops, yoga and meditation classes in Buckingham, Va. Ms. Waltman offers $49.99 bedtime packages in which she will create a custom recording of relaxing music with voice relaxation instructions and help you develop a “sleep ritual.”

Relaxation coaches only recently began popping up across the U.S. There isn’t a standard certification process, but the American Institute of Stress in Fort Worth, Texas, offers referrals to stress-management professionals who can offer advice on how to wind down.

Ms. Waltman began with a one-hour phone call in which she asked about our nightly habits, such as TV viewing and our worry level at bedtime. She also asked for our preference of relaxation sounds—such as wind chimes, Tibetan singing bowls or seashore sounds.

She told us to stop cleaning the house or working on the computer at night. She suggested we create a bedtime routine that brings down the level of activity, such as gentle stretching and a nighttime bath.

Ms. Waltman sent an MP3 track via email a few days later, along with instructions on how to create a sleep ritual. There were generic suggestions such as drinking warm milk and a bath with lavender oil, which was nice but made us itch.

In bed, we listened to the 27-minute relaxation track, which had Ms. Waltman’s soft, steady voice over the sound of Tibetan singing bowl music. She said to squeeze and relax muscles moving up from our legs to our eyes. Two nights in a row, we fell asleep 10 minutes into the track.

Next, we tried the SleepEasily MP3 package, a program by Denver behavioral sleep consultant Richard Shane.

Links to download the five tracks didn’t work and it took 10 days of email exchanges with the company before we could get them. The program includes a summary card of instructions and earplugs to better hear your “inner sleep breath.” These didn’t arrive by mail until two months after our order. Dr. Shane said he has since fired the fulfillment company for a string of similar problems and he updated the website to fix download problems.

The download came with a 38-page PDF of instructions, including how to use the earplugs. On the sleep track, Dr. Shane says to think about calming your jaw muscles and opening your throat for an inner sleep breath, which he says is shallow, soothing and quiet.

In the 21-minute track, Dr. Shane’s words get slower and slower as he talks about imagining sounds of seashells and lullabies. His instructions made it difficult to relax so we turned off the track midway through.

Dr. Shane said most people fall asleep using his method. If the recording didn’t work, he suggested reading the summary card’s tips before bed. The goal, he says, is to teach you how to feel the body sensations that carry you into sleep. He says he has been refining his voice tonality and tempo for 18 years. “It’s the tonality you use with someone half asleep to let them know it’s OK and to go back to sleep,” he says.

We then tested an iPhone and iPad app called “ABC of Better Sleep.” Created by British hypnotherapist Max Kirsten, this easy-to-use app includes tips on better sleep and a 23-minute hypnosis session for deep sleep. Though the idea of being hypnotized made us a little nervous, Mr. Kirsten promises you will be able to wake and be alert in case of an emergency.

First, he takes users through a 12-minute practice session in which he explains what the ABCs of his program are. “A” stands for “Are my eyelids so relaxed that I couldn’t open them if I tried?” and “B” is for breath, he said. He instructed us to take a deep breath, hold it and then release it using every muscle. “C” stands for “the sea,” in which you imagine floating underwater.

The app included a 23-minute audio clip with the main hypnosis session to be played in bed. We fell asleep at the end of it and felt great the next day. Mr. Kirsten says in the app that once you’ve used it for a week, you no longer need it. Indeed, a week later, we easily got to sleep on our own.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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