THE BLOG
08/15/2011 03:20 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2011

The Great Wake-Up Program: What Helps You Fall Asleep?

In the many conversations that I've had with friends, family and coworkers since starting the Great Wake-Up Program, I've learned a lot. Some of the most interesting conversations I have had revolve around people's idiosyncrasies regarding sleep. Now, I definitely have some weird sleep habits, which I will gladly share, but some of the ones I've heard recently are ... well ... see for yourself.

Bedroom temperature was a topic that came up repeatedly. According to experts, your body cools down significantly once you are asleep. However, many people, myself included, like to snuggle under the covers. To fall asleep, I like a sheet, a blanket and a comforter piled on top of me.

That means I need the room to be cool enough to accommodate all three layers. I've heard all sorts of variations of this, ranging from people having separate summer and winter blankets/quilts to keeping bedrooms at Arctic Tundra-like temperatures. I have a friend who cannot sleep unless her air conditioner is on full blast, while another friend only sleeps with the windows open, no matter what the temperature is outside.

Speaking of cool temperatures, many people brought up what I will call the "cold side of the pillow" phenomenon. Why do we all like the colder side of the pillow so much? This notion is so widely recognized, songwriters have even incorporated it into their songs (see Snow Patrol's "Crack the Shutters," for example). The only reason I can come up with is comfort -- we simply like the feel of the coolness against our faces.

As a reader of women's magazines since I was a teenager, I know the "way I sleep reveals something about my personality." According to these articles, I'm likely self-centered and bossy (in regards to sleep, that is), since I like to sprawl out in the middle of the bed. I really don't think the word self-centered is accurate; I would simply call myself bed-centered. I just like being able to move around (as evidenced by my 25+ wake-ups each night)! And bossy? Hardly. But if you're on my side of the bed, I will push you over.

About half the people I spoke with told me they sleep better when someone else is sleeping next to them, whereas the other half were more comfortable when they were alone in the bed. I found out quite a few couples use twin beds pushed together. That way, each person has their own space and can move around without disturbing the other, but they are still technically in the same bed.

There are even high-tech beds that have different firmness numbers so couples can share the same bed, even if they have different mattress preferences. This prevents one person from waking the other if they move around too much (sort of like what the Lark system accomplishes with the private un-alarm clock).

Since we spend a lot of our time in bed, it's important for us to be comfortable. It's amazing how many things we can add to the simple structure of bed frame plus mattress to make our beds so unique. Foam mattress pads add an extra layer of plushness; extra pillows could be used for decoration and/or comfort; blankets, quilts and throws could be used for warmth; and the list goes on and on. Sleep is an important part of life, so we might as well make our beds as sleep inducing as possible!

I have also been told that many people fall asleep with the television on. As I noted in my previous blog post, I've read that the use of electronics can stimulate your brain and possibly prevent you from falling asleep. That said, I couldn't fall asleep with the TV on if I tried -- not only do I have glasses that need to be taken off before I really doze off (I'm always so nervous I will break them!), but I can't sleep with noise. I also can't sleep if it's too light in my room. Thankfully, black-out curtains were invented. Many people can, and do, fall asleep to the television, though, relying on the sleep timer to shut it off a few hours after they fall asleep.

I've really been trying to pay closer attention to my sleep habits since the start of this experiment, and I'm learning a lot about myself and what my body and mind require for a restful sleep. It's really interesting to hear others' sleep preferences and habits -- please share some of yours in the comments!