This wasn’t a ‘on the toilet’ thought as I was lying in bed last night on the edge between wakefulness and sleep when this thought popped into my head (annoyingly, as it woke me up). The thought was: do other people have a physical, and / or mental, routine that they follow when they fall asleep or do they just lie down and shut their eyes?
My routine is as follows:
- Stage 1: I always start on my right-hand side. It is dark so I then close my eyes. I let thoughts flow naturally through my head: memories about my day and conversations, or ideas and plans for the next day or the future. This can last from anything from one minute to twenty minutes.
- Stage 2: As soon as my thoughts get a bit bizarre (e.g. dancing goats in pink slippers jumping over pineapples) I turn over onto my left-hand side. I know that once my thoughts get bizarre I’m closer to sleep.
- Stage 3: I’m now on my left-hand side. The act of turning over wakes me slightly so my thoughts tend to return to something a little more normal (the goats have galloped away temporarily) and a couple of new ideas or funny moments from the day might pop into my head. However, I know that very soon the goats will be back (its not always goats, by the way, it could be anything). As the goats and pineapples return I feel my body relax and my brain drift in and out of blackness. Then I know sleep is coming. This stage can last anything from one minute to five minutes.
However, if I am still awake after about ten minutes and the goats haven’t returned then I know that sleep isn’t going to come as easily as I hoped. So I might turn back onto the right-hand side and start doing something really mundane in my head such as counting backwards from 300, imagining that I am on an endless escalator or listening to my husband explaining about how to write code.
Sometimes I might start off Stage 1 by playing a story in my head if my day hasn’t been especially interesting or funny. I won’t reveal in detail what my stories are but I have a bank of them to pull upon when needed. They are not rude by the way, as that would wake me up. They usually involve something nice happening to me. Sometimes I become famous and my name is in lights. However, one of my favourites used to be about me and my boys traipsing about in the woods in our wellies.
So, how do other people ‘fall’ into sleep? This is what the scientists say on the matter.