The 'Golden Rules' of a Good Night's Sleep

Author of "I Can Make You Sleep" shares his top tips for successful slumber.

September 15, 2009, 5:25 PM

Sept. 18, 2009— -- Denise Allen and Patrick Blindauer are two different people, living in two different homes, but they suffer with the same problem: They can't sleep. And they aren't alone. As many as 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia, according to a 2007 study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies for Sciences.

Allen, 34, is engaged to be married and has a 3-year old son. The vice president of human resources at a publishing company, her sleep issues include difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. She says she never sleeps more than two hours at a time without waking up.

"I don't remember the last time I went to bed and woke up in the morning without getting up in the middle of the night," Allen said.

When she wakes up, Allen said, she can't fall back to sleep and is often wide awake, e-mailing, playing on the computer, and staring at the ceiling. She also suffers from Lupus, so chronic joint pain contributes to her insomnia. She has tried sleep medications as her primary remedy and, while they've helped her fall asleep, they don't keep her from waking up.

Blindauer, 33, works as an editor and tester for crossword puzzles, Sudoku and other mid-flexing activities, and lives with his girlfriend, Rebecca, in New York City.

His sleep problem is waking up in the middle of the night and staying up for an hour or so before going back to bed, which makes it difficult for him to stay alert throughout the day.

He'd taken over-the-counter sleep aids when he really needed to get a good night's sleep, but essentially had just gotten used to the idea that he'd always be rest deprived.

The last hope for these two insomniacs is a new book called "I Can Make You Sleep," written by hypnotist, therapist and best-selling author Paul McKenna. His system for conquering insomnia includes a guided hypnosis CD that taps into the unconscious mind. The CD calls it a "mind programming process of trance."

Many sleep problems are related to anxiety, McKenna said on "Good Morning America" today.

"I help people to slow the busy mind, help them to relax the body ... which is conducive to sleep," he said.

McKenna said he isn't opposed to short-term use of sleep medication. "I'm pro-medication," he said. "Any questions regarding medication, consult your doctor.

"What most will agree is taking massive amounts [of medication] long-term has side effects."

The 14 Golden Rules of Sleep

McKenna's book includes his 14 Golden Rules of Sleep, which, he said, can help everyone set themselves up for a wonderful night's sleep every night.

1. Get up regularly half an hour earlier than your usual desired getting-up time.

This may sound counterintuitive but, McKenna said, "the overwhelming evidence [shows] it's one simple thing that made a huge difference to a lot of people."

2. Go to bed only when you're sleepy.

3. Don't take any naps during the day.

Naps are fine for people without sleep problems, but "if you are having disruptive sleep, [naps aren't] going to let you sleep so well at night."

4. At least three times a week, exercise for at least 20 minutes.
"Things like the exercise clean out the stress toxins," he said. It makes people tired and "resets the body clock."

5. Finish eating at least three hours before you go to bed.

6. Don't have any caffeine after 2 p.m.

"A lot of people drink caffeine too late," he said.

7. Cut out alcohol.

8. Switch off the TV one hour before you go to bed.

9. Do only three things in bed: sleep, make love and use the "I Can Make You Sleep" book or CD.

10. If you are lie awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, do one of the exercises in the book or get up and do something boring.

11. Keep your bedroom dark at night.

"The amount of light in the bedroom affects the quality of sleep," he said.

12. Have a warm, comfortable bed in a room that is not too hot.

13. Don't watch the clock.

14. Use the CD.

By following his plan, "Some people will notice a difference in the first few days," McKenna said. "I say give it about 28 days.

"When you sleep well, your health is definitely going to improve," he said, along with your mood and efficiency.

Putting Sleep Method to the Test

Allen and Blindauer each signed on to test McKenna's sleep method, and they recorded video diaries for one week as they tested the program.

"I'm hoping the techniques are going to work because I'm tired," Allen said as she started the program.

Blindauer said, "Hopefully, I will sleep through the night and, hopefully, I won't be up to record another message at 3:30 in the morning."

Following the instructions in "I Can Make You Sleep," Blindauer cut out caffeine after 2 p.m., made sure to have at least three hours between dinner and bedtime, didn't take any naps, wore a nasal strip to improve his breathing, listened to the audio CD while going to sleep, and put away his laptop to eliminate middle-of-the-night work sessions. He also made a recommended change to his bedroom, adding curtains to keep the room dark.

Allen took similar actions. When she woke up in the middle of the night one night, she listened to the CD and tried to go back to sleep. She also began exercising more.

"More exercise equals more sleep," Allen said, as she hit the gym. "All right, elliptical [machine], here I come."

The process can be a struggle. It takes practice and patience and few life changes.

"I just realized it's after 2:00 p.m. which means no more coffee," Blindauer said, pouring out a mug of coffee. "It makes me sad."

Allen can sympathize.

"I want coffee so bad, but I'm not allowed, because it's after 2 p.m.," she said.

Just a few days into the program, Allen was hopeful that her sleepless nights will be a thing of the past.

"I did wake up in the middle of the night, but used one of the techniques from Paul -- counting backward from 300 and that worked," she said. "I'm feeling pretty optimistic."

And, after one week, McKenna said they're both showing marked improvement.

"They are both now sleeping seven hours a night," he said. And, more importantly, the quality of their sleep has improved.

On a scale of one to 10, Blindauer's sleep quality went from a six to an eight, and Allen's from a two to an eight.

"A good night's sleep equals a happier, healthier life," McKenna said.

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt of "I Can Make You Sleep."