I know I have come down rather harshly on sleep hygiene. And I also realize that it does most people some good trying to get to sleep, but only some help. Now I am going a step further with my criticism.
Sleep hygiene keeps you from going to sleep.
There I said it. Yes, I know I also said it can help, so why the paradox?
The problem is that the environment target isn’t stationary. It keeps moving. How about a business man or woman who is frequently on the road? They can’t control the bedroom light, and frequently can’t control the temperature, and they certainly can’t control what is going on outside, down the hall or what noises that come through the walls from the rooms next door. They have less control over what they eat. They can’t even control when they go to bed or when they have to get up. The sheets feel funny, smell funny, and the pillow doesn’t fit my head.
Sleep professionals speak as if they are always talking about someone 20 – 40 years old who stays home all the time. What about the elderly who are frequently in a retirement community and can control little of their environment?
What if you are in the mountains camping out? What if you are sleeping over at your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s place? They can sleep through anything, but you have your body and mind tuned to an ideal environment. You’ll never get to sleep.
But here is the biggest problem with sleep hygiene. By telling you that sleep hygiene practices are the only way you will be able to improve your chances of getting to sleep, when you can’t control your environment, they have sabotaged you. They have conditioned you to believe that you cannot sleep anywhere but your own bed.
It also appears that sleep experts know nothing about electrochemical deafferentation, which occurs during sleep onset (hypnagogia). Deafferentation minimizes inputs from the five physical senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) and allows you to get to sleep regardless of your environment, within reason of course. Deafferentation isn’t my invention. Sleep researchers are well aware of this phenomenon, and it happens naturally. We don’t have to do anything to get deafferentation to take over, provided of course that we don’t allow ourselves to be overcome by hypnagogic distractions. But the “experts” who are trying to educate us on how to get to sleep know nothing about deafferentation. They are in fact clueless about sleep onset.
All this is explained in detail in In Pursuit of Sleep. It also provides a method, called the Transition Trek, which tells you how to deal with sleep onset, even if you are a homeless person sleeping on the street.