Please note, we are proudly supported by our readers. The product links are referral based and if you purchase an item we make a small commission. For more information please see our disclosure page.
Want to “Sleep Like A Baby?” You may want to rethink that idea…
Anyone who’s ever watched an infant fall asleep knows it is a charming process to witness: the eyes start drooping in between spoons full of mashed pears, the head begins to sag a bit further between bites and, very soon, …out, like the proverbial light. But that’s probably not a good sequence for adults. Flopping face down into your filet mignon, and filling your pants a minute later, won’t get you many repeat dinner invitations.
However, the desire to collapse onto a mattress and instantly descend into an untroubled sleep is something most adults can identify with – it just doesn’t work that way for most people. And it is probably understandable when we look at the early history of our species.
Our Stone-Age ancestors undoubtedly lay low during the hours of darkness. Night was when animals with big teeth and sharp claws browsed around for filet human. A family or group of families might be sheltering under a covering of branches, or if they were lucky, in a cave or crevice, but they were still vulnerable. If the adults in the group were light-sleepers, or insomniacs, it probably increased the chances they would be alert enough to toss a rock or to shout loud enough to cause a prowling threat to slink away.
It was likely an advantage to those adult sentries that they didn’t have today’s mattresses to sleep on. Their bedding would most likely have been a pile of branches, a dead animal pelt with live lice, or maybe just the smoothest area of rock on the floor of the cave. Made it easier to stay awake I’m guessing. Those light sleepers might have felt ragged the next morning, but everyone would still be alive. More importantly, their children, who were probably the only group members who slept through the incidents, were alive. That’s how our race survived.
Yes, Saber-Tooths left the earth 12,000 years ago, but humans still have trouble sleeping. And most of us now have sleeping spaces that are safe from predators, human or otherwise, but we’re still programmed to be somewhat alert at night. Unfortunately, light sleeping is no longer an advantage.
We deeper sleepers wake up feeling better, live longer, and are less likely to gain weight than lighter-sleeping folks. Also, our partners are the ones who hear the baby demanding to be fed at 3AM. All pluses, but that doesn’t mean our partner’s sleep is unimportant, especially if you value the relationship. I know. I was once married to a woman (a very nice woman) who had great difficulty falling asleep. The process was agonizingly slow.
In those days I could hop into bed and fall asleep in a couple of minutes. But if I did that when she was only halfway to her own destination, seeing me fall unconscious in an instant would piss her off so furiously that she’d have to start her own entire procedure all over from the beginning. Not surprisingly, we didn’t make it as a married couple – though we’d likely do better now that I am old enough that sleep doesn’t come quite so easily. Oh well.
But light sleepers can mitigate, or even eliminate the problem. The solution begins with good pre-sleep habits, and ends with a good mattress. Like a baby, sleep routines become ingrained into our habits and eventually “teach” us to sleep. Effective pre-sleep routines of course vary by individual, but there are some widely shared elements.
A consistent work-eat-sleep sequence is, for most folks, a good start. And unless we are forced to work irregular hours – such as rotating shifts, or round-the-clock shifts (like firefighters) we can usually keep things within a rough timetable. (If you doubt your body’s unconscious response to schedules, just think of all the times you woke up one minute before your alarm went off.) Adopt whatever routine works best to deliver sleep for you. The important thing is that you have one.
You may think that sleeping like a baby means eating like a baby. At a young age most babies are ready to sleep once the satisfaction that can only come from a full belly sets in. However, as adults, this may not be the case.
Diet and eating schedules also play roles in our ability to sleep. For instance, you can probably eat too much pizza for lunch without having it effect your night’s sleep; eating too much pizza an hour before bedtime is very likely to have a bad effect on your sleep.
Conversely, lack of sleep can result in a bad diet. Studies have shown that when we are sleep-deprived we tend to crave high-fat, high-salt, highly processed foods. Most of us know what nutritionists recommend, and what our own bodies tell us – the problem is that we often don’t listen. Start listening!
A complex subject that doesn’t need to be all that complex. I was a personal trainer. I made my living designing custom exercise routines for my clients – I still do, part time. But let me start by offering the best simple, life-saving, sleep-inducing, feeling-good recommendation I can give; get in motion for at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
I will talk about exercise in future blog entries, and I hope I can offer some good ideas, but if you start by following the 30-minute advice, you’ll already be half-way home to sleeping like a baby.
Even bad mattresses are a lot more sleep-friendly than what our primitive ancestors slept on, but good mattresses are really, really good. Just not the same “really, really good” for everyone. If you sleep alone, or with just the occasional invited guest, you can choose anything you like. I won’t presume to make recommendations, other than to say you should obviously buy whatever gives you the best sleep.
You likely have some preferences already, and Our Sleep Guide can help you zero in. If you have a regular co-pilot, I’ll assume you give them some say in the matter. In that case listen to the old saying, “ The Perfect is the enemy of the Good.” Don’t worry about compromising, just a bit. You’ll find one that is satisfactory for both of you. Have fun shopping, (and please avoid products that were once alive.)
Now that you know how, it’s time to practice the simplicities in life that ensure good sleep. Just like a baby, all you really need is a proper diet, enough activity and a good routine. If it was really only that simple!
For most adults you may need a bit more help, which is where you can find a few more suggestions in our Guide to Fall Asleep Fast and in our Guide To Better Sleep. Otherwise, always feel free to Contact Us, and we can help you first hand too!
This article was written by Our Sleep Guide’s outstanding contributing writer, Uncle CT!