A leading expert’s tip for getting back to sleep if you’re tossing and turning

Last week I wanted to borrow British neuroscientist Matt Walker’s book “Why We Sleep” from my local library, but all copies were out on loan.

All 54 copies.

Yup, it’s a popular book, and sleep (in particular, people’s lack of it) is a headline-grabbing issue.

When Matt Walker gave a polished talk on this subject at TED last month, the compere asked what people should do if they find themselves tossing and turning in the night, unable to go back to sleep.

Walker’s advice was to get up, go into a different room, do some kind of activity (like reading), then return to sleep when feeling sleepy.

I tried this the other night and can attest to its effectiveness.

But even more than the suggestion itself, I loved Professor Walker’s analogy: “You’d never sit at the dinner table waiting to get hungry, so why would you lie in bed waiting to get sleepy?”

5 thoughts on “A leading expert’s tip for getting back to sleep if you’re tossing and turning

  1. To help get off to sleep, I’ve started drinking Cherry juice before going to bed. I’ve only been drinking it for a couple of weeks and it has certainly helped.

  2. I have read that book and it was heavy going. If i cant sleep I find sitting up in bed and doing some breathing mindfulness helps. When I feel tired I just slide down to sleep. In the UK it’s cold to get out of bed!

  3. Thank you for introducing Matt Walker to me here Jon. I’ve just watched his Ted talk and I think I may have caught him in a British Radio show earlier in the week.
    Great talk given by him – I saw a rheumatologist last year who said the fibromyalgia I have is mostly due to lack of sleep – Matt’s findings also confirm this.
    I’m struggling with the multitude of different pains throughout my body but it’s exercise and good sleep that will make me better….it’s a work in progress! 😱
    Thank you Jon.

  4. One problem is…what if you’re never sleepy? I have cfs and am exhausted but not sleepy. If I get up it just exacerbated the wakefulness.

  5. Hi Jon,
    What a very apt ‘nudge’ as I find myself dealing with a period of illness and insomnia. I have heard a lot about Matt Walker and have been recently reading about him through another professional … Dr Rangan Chatterjee who has written several books about stress and wellbeing. I find that my anxiety flares when I experience insomnia but have managed to keep it under control far better than I used too. Good quality sleep is crucial for my mental health and fortunately there are many aids and tips nowadays to help. I have recently found ‘Spacemasks’ a self heating eye mask infused with Jasmine, they are divine and would highly recommend them . Thank you again for a very useful post.

    Sweet dreams 😴

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