Community Questions

I often answer sleep related questions on Quora. Check out The Sleep Hygienist on Quora to see all the questions I've answered. I've brought some of them over to the website, as I feel they'd be helpful. Enjoy!

Have a question of your own? Head on over to Quora and ask it, or email me directly at

When I go to bed, I take a very long time to go to sleep. How can I solve this?

I have 3 articles I have people read first when trying to improve their sleep.

  1. Develop A Bedtime Routine
  2. Things to do (and not do) While In Bed that promote sleep... and sex is one of the To Do's.
  3. 7 Ways to Make Your Room a Sleep Sanctuary

Also, if you just want a quick, bulleted tip sheet, you can download it for free here: FREE 'Sleep Better Now' Cheat Sheet

Hope this helps!

Why is it difficult to fall asleep after watching television?

Do not watch TV, play on your phone or computer, do homework, read, etc in bed. While these are all enjoyable activities, doing them in bed will hurt your sleep.

Your brain will associate repetitive activities with objects and actions. If you regularly watch TV in bed, then when you are in bed, your brain is prepared to either watch TV or sleep. If you want to sleep, and your brain wants to watch TV, you will have difficulty falling asleep.

Would your back be better off without and pillows at night?

Your spine can twist into and remain at the wrong angle without the right pillow. This misalignment during sleep can cause a host of aches and pains. You need a good pillow for proper neck support. Without it, you end up with a stiff and aching neck and stiff, painful shoulders, too.

Without the best pillow for your body, you can toss and turn and have your sleep cycle broken. It can even interfere with your blood circulation if you choose the wrong pillow.

We all have our favorite ways to sleep. Because not everyone falls asleep in the same position (some are back sleepers, while others sleep on their side or on their stomach), you need a pillow designed for your specific sleep style.

Not only should your pillow cushion your head, but it should support your neck and help keep your spine aligned straight. Having the wrong pillow can cause you to have headaches from the strain on your muscles and spine.

Pillows: if you sleep on your side, use two. If you sleep on your stomach or back, use one. Also, if you sleep on your side, try using firm pillows. On your stomach, a soft pillow. On your back, a medium to firm pillow.

I have more detailed info in my Comfortable Bedding guide. It’s free, and you can find it at the bottom of this website: Choosing the Best Bed and Pillow for a Good Night's Sleep.

Why do I keep choking in my sleep?

The short answer: you probably have sleep apnea.

The longer answer: Sleep apnea is a disorder wherein you stop breathing during the night. There are actually two forms of sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (which is what it sounds like you have) accounts for about 80% of all sleep apnea cases. (Central Sleep Apnea is the other kind, if you were curious.)

This is what happens with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Certain muscles in your throat relax while you sleep. Your airway is obstructed in the back of your throat, sometimes even shut off completely. As you can imagine, this restricted airflow causes you to gasp and choke, disrupting healthy sleep patterns.

For more information on sleep apnea, and whether or not you should seek medical help for this ask your doctor. If you are unsure, read my free guide: Is it time to see a professional? You can find it on the side of the page with my article about Sleep Apnea at The Sleep Hygienist :: Sleep Apnea.

Good luck.

Happy Zzz’s…

Will my Himalayan salt lamps disturb my sleep or enhance it?

If the lamp is bright enough to wake you, then it most certainly hurt your sleep. If you find it calming and it helps you fall asleep, then that’s a good thing.

Do you need less sleep the night after oversleeping?


I am going to make two assumptions.

Assumption #1: when you say oversleep, you mean that you sleep more than you normally do.

Assumption #2: you typically get the right amount of sleep each night.

If you are sleeping more than you typically do, then that is your body’s way of telling you that you needed that extra sleep. Whether it be that you kept waking up at night and didn’t get sufficient rest, or you were very physically active the day before, or whatever, your body required more sleep to re-energize. The easiest answer was more sleep.

My recommendation for the night after a night of oversleeping is to return to your normal sleeping schedule. This ensures that you will not become sleep deprived and then need to oversleep to compensate.

Is there any way to re-energize effectively without sleeping?

Short term, yes. Caffeine being the most popular solution. That quick jolt will keep you moving for awhile. More natural (and more effective) solutions are eating foods with fructose (like apples). This natural sugars are longer lasting than caffeine with the bonus of not crashing. Aerobic exercise also can recharge you. I recommend any of these things to extend your energy levels (within a day).

Long term, no. Your body is designed to need sleep every single day (night). Think of it like a cell phone battery. It needs to be charged overnight so you can have a full battery in the day. Turning the screen brightness down or going to airplane mode will help the battery’s longevity, but ultimately, it will still need to be charged at some point.

How do I tell my mind to sleep at night?

I like both Jon and Terri’s suggestions. I have a few methods I teach my clients as well.

The quick version: The List, The Box, and Relaxation.

The first technique is called the List:

Sometimes we can’t sleep because we are worrying about the tasks we need to complete tomorrow. What happens is, you go to bed and remember something you can’t afford to forget for tomorrow. You tell yourself, “don’t forget.” You keep this thought in your mind. So much so, that even while you sleep, you think, “don’t forget.” You keep this in the forefront of your mind instead of letting all thoughts and cares drift away.

Instead, let me recommend The List. Before bed, write down everything you need to remember for the next day. Put the list somewhere where you definitely see it (like by your keys). Now you don’t have to worry about forgetting what you need to remember. In fact, you are free TO forget it. It’s written down, waiting for you in the morning.

The Box:

Like the List, The Box is a way for you to clear your mind. It takes a little practice to get this to work, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work for you right away. Here is how it works.

Imagine a shoebox. Put all the cares and worries you have in this imaginary box. Using the example above, place your finance worries in this box. Now put the lid on. Open up a closet door in your mind, and put the box on the top shelf in the back of the closet. Now shut the door.

The worries are still there, safe and sound in the box, but you are free to forget about it. Let those concerns go. There is nothing productive you can do at night to affect those worries anyway, so you might as well (temporarily) forget about them, and get some quality sleep. (Quality sleep will also equip you to better face these worries).

In the morning, you are then free to take that box down, open it, and pick your worries back up.


There are tons of relaxation techniques out there. There is one that I like to use with my clients. This is a long enough post as it is. To detail the method would double this post’s length. If interested you can read it here. But it is basically systematically relaxing your body.

Happy Zzz’s…

Should I be concerned that I can't easily fall asleep unless I take a swig of NyQuil? Is that dangerous?

You should be concerned, yes. And depending on how much you are taking, it can also be dangerous.

What you are doing is becoming dependent on NyQuil for sleep. Like any other sleep medication, I warn against this. NyQuil (and others) are only meant to help you get to sleep once in a while when circumstances beyond your control don’t allow you to sleep. It is definitely not something you want to make as part of your normal bedtime routine.

What I recommend is going to be tough, for probably a week at least. You need to stop using NyQuil (or any sleep aid) and see how long it takes you to naturally fall asleep. This will give you a baseline, as to your sleep problems. Would you normally be up for hours? the whole night? etc without NyQuil? Or are you only up one hour? What is the quality of your sleep? Things like that.

If you practice good sleep hygiene you should be able to sleep well without the use of NyQuil (or other sleep aids). If you go “cold turkey” and employ good sleep hygiene habits, you should be sleeping better naturally in about a week or so. WARNING: you will be tired the first 3–7 days as your body adjusts to a natural sleeping pattern. Don’t give up!

If quitting cold turkey doesn’t appeal to you, try reducing your intake by half every other night. After a week or 10 days, go cold turkey. If you still need something, consider taking melatonin and only when absolutely needed. We’re not trying to trade one sleep aid for another (though melatonin is less harmful to your body). This tapering down will obviously take longer to get you to natural sleep, but it may not be as harsh. Pick what works best for you.

As a side note: NyQuil has alcohol in it (or at least it used to). If that is the case, alcohol disrupts your normal sleep cycle, and while technically you are unconscious, it doesn't mean you are getting the quality restorative sleep that you need. How do you feel in the mornings, waking up after having used NyQuil to sleep? I’m guess not very well rested.

If you have more questions let me know. You can also email me at

Happy Zzz’s…

Can I sleep 2 or 4 hour intervals in a 24 hour period opposed to one 8 hour interval in a 24 hour period?

Not all sleep is equal. There are different stages of sleep, and it is the deeper levels that you need to reach in order for your body to start restoring and recharging you. On average, it takes someone 15-45 minutes after they fall asleep to reach Stage 3 (the first of the two deep sleep stages). Then another 5-15 min to reach stage 4 (I call it Deeper Sleep). After you make it through all 4 stages, you enter REM-sleep. While the first 4 stages all last about 5-15 min, REM sleep is different. The first time you reach REM sleep it only lasts for about 10 min. REM is the most restorative stage of sleep. After each REM stage, you will go back through the other stages of sleep. They continue to last about 5-15 min in length. However, each you time you get to the REM stage, you are in it for longer and longer. Towards the end of the (sleeping) night, your REM stage could last as long as an hour.

So the longer you sleep, the longer you will be exposed to Stages 3, 4, and REM. The longer you are exposed to them, the more restored you become. An average 8 hour block of sleep means you will experience about 5 full sleep cycles.

Breaking your sleep into intervals CAN work, but you will likely need more than 8 sleeping hours to get the same benefit of the restorative hours. Taking a cue from siesta-observing cultures, sleep at night (even if it is 5-6 hours), and then take a few hour nap during mid-day.

How do I make a sleeping routine when you don't feel sleepy at night?

I completely agree with Aaron. Those are all things that should help to promote sleep at bedtime. For a more in-depth look at what may be affecting your sleep, start tracking your sleep. When you go to bed, when you fall asleep (estimate as best you can), when you wake up, when you get up, etc. Also track various activities, moods, what you eat and drink, how much, and when in relation to bed. Do this for a week or so (or longer), and you should be able to start seeing patterns. (Ex: every time I drink coffee after 3pm I have trouble sleeping that night).

There are a number of free and paid-for sleep tracking tools you can find on the internet. Or you can make your own. Really all you need is a piece of paper (or notebook) and about 10 minutes to outline your measured parameters. If you don’t want to make your own, or search all over the web for a free one, you can find my sleep tracking kit for free here.

Happy Zzz’s…

Why do I strip while sleeping?

It seems likely that you are too warm in the night and remove your clothing to cool down. Since it’s June now, consider a lighter bedspread. Or even just a sheet and a blanket.

If you are able to adjust the temperature in your bedroom, keep it between 62–72 degrees overnight. I realize that is a sizable range, but everyone has different preferences. Start at 67 and adjust as needed over the next couple of nights.

Also, what clothes are you sleeping in? Are they loose and cool, or do you bundle up in a heavy sweater and wool socks? Try wearing cooler clothes to bed if you don’t already. I hope this helps.

Can having less sleep increase cognitive efficiency?

Being sleep deprived will decrease your cognitive efficiency. I explain about it in more detail in my two-part article, Is Lack of Sleep Making You Dumb?

What are the types of sleep patterns?

I’m not quite sure what you mean by patterns. If you are talking about the different stages of a sleep cycle, I can help.

The quick rundown is this:

Stage 1 - Light Sleep (5-15 minutes in duration) -falling asleep.
Stage 2 - Base Sleep (5-15 minutes) -asleep.
Stage 3 - Deep Sleep (5-15 minutes) -begins to restore you.
Stage 4 - Deeper Sleep (5-15 minutes) - continues to restore you.
Stage 5 - REM Sleep (10-60 min, increasing with each cycle) - most restorative. this is where you dream.

You complete about 5 cycles per 8-hour sleep.

For a more detailed explanation, read this: Did You Know You Are Paralyzed Every Night, and It's a Good Thing?

Is it healthier to sleep in a hammock or a bed?

I don’t think either is unhealthy. However, I would opt for a bed. Bed technology (even a plain old mattress) is designed for long-term use (several hours a night for about 10–20 years per mattress). You are much more likely to get quality sleep in a bed.

However, a hammock is a GREAT place for a nap. It’s comfortable, you can sway a bit. Long-term, however, it will not be comfortable, and very quickly you will want your bed for overnight sleep.