Science in Action: Why Did I Sleep So Well? (part 16)

A few days ago I spoke on the phone to someone who’d written me that one-legged standing improved his sleep. I mentioned this replication earlier but the new details are interesting.

He is a 35-year-old man with an office job. He now works in the Washington, D.C. area. Until about a year ago, his sleep was fine. He would sleep 7-7.5 hours no matter when he went to bed.

About a year ago he went through a tough time with a lot of stress and anxiety. After that he started waking up after only 6 hours of sleep. He’d wake up early in the morning, 3 or 4 am, still tired but unable to fall back asleep. This is exactly the problem I had when I started to self-experiment to try to sleep better.

He went to a doctor for help. (I considered seeing a doctor.)  The doctor prescribed:

1. Ambien. It worked for 1 or 2 nights.

2. Lunesta. Like Ambien, it worked for only the first few nights.

After using these two drugs, the problem got worse. Now he awoke after only 4 hours of sleep. He tried non-prescription drugs:

3. Melatonin. It made him foggy during the day.

4. Tylenol PM. It worked okay, but he would still wake up after 6 hours.

Then he decided he didn’t want to take pills of any sort — even if they worked, he’d have to take them for the rest of his life. (This is why I didn’t go to a doctor and never tried pills.) He tried conventional alternative treatments:

5. Changed his attitude about the problem. Although he was waking up very early, he wasn’t tired during the day. He had four extra hours. After this change in attitude, he began to fall back asleep a few hours after waking up. Gradually the amount of time he was awake in the middle of the night got shorter.

6. He has cold feet. He can’t fall asleep when his feet are cold. He read somewhere that if you imagine your feet are warm, they will warm up. This gave him an idea. What if he imagined going into an MRI-like machine that induces sleep? He started doing this. When he’d wake up at 2 a.m., he’d imagine himself going into this machine. This enabled him to fall back asleep with a short latency.

In August he read my posts about this and started one-legged standing, often while watching TV. He does it without stretching the other foot: puts one foot on top of the other or behind the other. He might or might not balance. Usually stands on a pillow. He does it until it hurts, twice for each leg. In the beginning it took only 5-10 minutes but now it has gotten much longer and he has started doing other things, such as wearing a backpack with books, to shorten the time.

From my point of view the main points are these: 1. He had tried several other treatments. Some were awful, some were okay, but none sustainably solved the problem. Not only did one-legged standing help, it apparently helped more than six other plausible treatments, including two powerful and expensive drugs. 2. What he did differed from what I did — verbal descriptions are always inexact and omit a lot — but still worked well right away.