Kris Carr

Blog Post

Five Sleep Mistakes & Solutions

Hiya Sweet Friend,

Check out this super informative guest article by Dr. Frank Lipman from my blog archives.

Happy reading—take it away Dr. Lipman!
xo, Kris

Sleep Better by Breaking Bad Habits

Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors.

We stay up late or sleep in late. We eat foods that disagree with us or enjoy a drink late at night, oblivious to their disruptive impact on our sleep rhythms. Over time, we teach our body not to sleep and for relief we often turn to sleeping pills, which mask rather than solve the problem, and can lead to addiction. Ultimately for real success, with insomnia as with any chronic problem, one must look for the underlying imbalances and root causes and address those.

Here are the common sleep “mistakes” I see in my practice, and their solutions.

MISTAKE #1 Using sleeping pills to fall and stay asleep.

Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying cause of insomnia. Many sleep studies have concluded that sleeping pills, whether prescription or over the counter, over the long term, do more harm than good. They can be highly addictive and studies have found them to be potentially dangerous. (See studies below.)

For short term use, there may be indications for sleeping pills, but over time, sleeping pills can actually make insomnia worse, not better. If you have been taking them for a long time, ask our doctor to help you design a regimen to wean yourself off them.

SOLUTION Learn relaxation techniques.

Aside from physical problems, stress may be the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can lead to chronic insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Many people tell me they can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore can’t sleep.

Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation. These will calm the mind and reduce the fears and worries that trigger the stress.


MISTAKE #2 Using alcohol to fall asleep.

Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people with insomnia drink alcohol to promote sleep. Alcohol does have an initial sleep-inducing effect, but as it gets broken down by the body, it usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night leading to a reduction in overall sleep time. Habitual alcohol consumption just before bedtime can reduce its sleep-inducing effect, while its disruptive effects continue or even increase.

SOLUTION Take nutrients that calm the body and mind, getting you ready for sleep.

Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep. Look for a calming formula that has some of the following: amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, and herbs like lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile and valerian root. Taking the minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful. For some people, especially folks over 50, melatonin can be helpful too. This is because the body produces less melatonin with advancing age and may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping and respond well to melatonin.

MISTAKE #3 Watching television to fall asleep.

Because we have no trouble at all falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV many of us watch TV in bed to fall asleep. But when we fall asleep in a bed watching TV, we invariably wake up later on. This sets up a cycle or conditioning that reinforces poor sleep at night. I have had many patients over the years develop insomnia due to this type of conditioning.

SOLUTION Get the TV out of the bedroom.

Don’t watch TV in bed, the bed should be associated with sleep (and sex).

MISTAKE #4 Staying in bed hoping to fall asleep.

If you can’t fall asleep within 30-45 minutes, chances are you won’t for at least another hour, and perhaps even longer. You may have missed the open “sleep gate” or missed catching the sleep wave. A “sleep gate” is the open window of time your body will allow you to fall asleep. Researchers have found that our brain goes through several sleep cycles each night where all sleep phases are repeated. These cycles last from 90 minutes to 2 hours, and at the beginning of each cycle, the body’s “sleep gate” opens. You won’t be able to fall asleep when your sleep gate is closed.

SOLUTION Catch the sleep wave.

If you find you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and get out of the bedroom. Read a book, do a restorative yoga pose or do some other calming activity for another 1 -1½ hours before trying to sleep again. Staying in bed only causes stress over not sleeping.

It is like surfing, you need to catch that sleep wave. Haven’t you noticed that you can be exhausted and yet you avoid going to sleep and then a few hours later when you are ready for bed, you are suddenly wide awake? You missed the wave.

MISTAKE #5 Making sleep a performance issue.

Often just thinking about sleep affects your ability to fall asleep. What happens frequently is that the way you cope with the insomnia becomes as much of a problem as the insomnia itself. It often becomes a vicious cycle of worrying about not being able to sleep, which leads to worsening sleep problems. Like so many things in life, it is about letting go, going with the flow. Sleep needs to become a natural rhythm like breathing, something that comes automatically and you don’t think about.

SOLUTION Let go and go with the flow.

Use the time to practice breathing exercises or meditation and to become aware of how what you eat, what medications you take, what behaviors or certain activities can affect your sleep cycle.

Increase your awareness by paying attention to your body and becoming conscious of how you react to different foods and situations. Use this time productively, instead of getting upset that you can’t fall asleep.

One final point.

For chronic insomniacs, especially if you are heavy snorer, it is a good idea to rule out Sleep Apnea as the cause. This is a serious condition that affects at least 12 million Americans, many of whom have not been diagnosed. Usually they are heavy snorers. What happens is that the tissues at the back of the throat relax and in so doing block the airways. The brain senses oxygen deprivation, and sends wakeup signals. There is a release of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only does this interfere with sleep, it can increase blood pressure, raising your risk of heart problems and stroke. It can also interfere with insulin sensitivity, and increases your risk of diabetes.

For more of Dr. Lipman’s tips, follow him on Twitter!



1. “What’s wrong with prescribing hypnotics?”. Drug Ther Bull 42 (12): 89–93. December 2004. doi:10.1136/dtb.2004.421289. PMID 15587763.
2. D. Maiuro PhD, Roland (13 Decemember 2009). Handbook of Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Medicine: Perspectives, Practices, and Research. Springer Publishing Company. pp. 128–130. ISBN 0-8261-1094-0.
3. Lader, Malcolm Harold; P. Cardinali, Daniel; R. Pandi-Perumal, S. (22 March 2006). Sleep and sleep disorders: a neuropsychopharmacological approach. Georgetown, Tex.: Landes Bioscience/ p. 127. ISBN 0-387-27681-5.
4. Authier, N.; Boucher, A.; Lamaison, D.; Llorca, PM.; Descotes, J.; Eschalier, A. (2009). “Second Meeting of the French CEIP (Centres d’Evaluation et d’Information sur la Pharmacodépendance). Part II: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.”. Therapie 64 (6): 365–370. doi:10.2515/therapie/2009051. PMID 20025839.
5. Glass J, Lanctôt KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE (November 2005). “Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits”. BMJ 331 (7526): 1169. doi:10.1136/bmj.38623.768588.47. PMID 16284208. PMC 1285093.

Add a comment
  1. Kristen Park says:

    That’s the first I’ve heard of the sleep wave! Thanks so much – it makes sense

  2. Janis says:

    Well, it helped me to listen to nature sounds, for example this channel – Relaxing Sounds For Sleep.

  3. Pamela says:

    I love this article! Have to admit I’ve been guilty of some of these. I’ve shared this with Facebook and Twitter and I think I’ll pin the funky bed to Pinterest! By the way, I don’t think you have the right Twitter link for Dr. Lipman . . .

  4. Suy Naykheang says:

    please help me too.

  5. Nice. I’ve just started to write my own blog and it seems that I have still quite much to learn. Great to see cool blogs like this to learn from. 🙂

  6. Nice. I’ve just started to write my own blog and it seems that I have still quite much to learn. Great to see popular blogs like this to learn from. 🙂

  7. Haha.. it seems like you have a spam problem in this blog. 🙂

  8. sara says:

    great post many of us need it….

  9. Roland Carstedt says:

    I am the editor of a book that is cited. You erroneously attribute EDITOR status to someone else. This citation has made its way onto many sites.


    Carlstedt, R.A.(Ed., 2009) Handbook of integrative clinical psychology, psychiatry and behavioral medicine: Perspectives, Practices and Research. NY: Springer Publishing

  10. Aimee says:

    That bed belongs to Jek of

    She often posts her creative bed which she changes often. It’s such a fun one.

    Great tips for sleep!

  11. Marina says:

    Very valuable information.. Thank you for sharing this.. Blessings, Marina 🙂

  12. Mandi says:

    This is a really great list. I am fortunate enough to not have any problems sleeping (actually quite the opposite), but I forwarded this to my boyfriend who is quite the insomniac and has a serious problem falling asleep in front of the TV!

  13. Gabrielle says:

    I do love falling asleep to the TV, but you’re right, I always wake up later, usually when the network has sold its time to infomercials, and they seep into my subconscious – I find myself dreaming about financial success… if I purchase a certain book! But I wake up throughout the night regardless, mostly because I sleep with cats. And the solution to that, you say?

    Kick the cats out of the room!

    But they’re cuddly and cozy.

  14. Elodie says:

    Really good points, especially number 5. I have a friend with insomnia and he always tries to force it instead of developing a natural pattern.

    Slim Girl Diary

  15. Melissa says:

    I hate to admit that I am one of those people who fall asleep with the TV on at night. I am going to pratice these solutions!

    Also I love the bedroom pic too!! I would not want to get out of bed in the morning!

  16. Unrelated to the post contents — I love the bedroom in that picture!
    Doesn’t it make you want to just enjoy breakfast in bed on a sunny morning?

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