I’m speaking at SOMNEX The Sleep Show 13th/14th Oct 2018

During the writing of my NEW sleep book I was also contacted by SOMNEX The Sleep Show, and invited to speak as The Sleep Coach, and to offer one-to-one walk-in sleep clinic during the show! I will be there throughout the event, if you go to their website below you’ll be able to find out more details about the show, who all the speakers are including myself, what days they are speaking and when, I hope to see some of you there on the day. 

As a speaker I can offer you a fantastic 40% off. Visitor tickets are currently £20 but if you enter the promo code: SPK40 when you book herehttps://bit.ly/2MdFI21you can get a ticket for just £12!

Visit SOMNEX | The Sleep Show on Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 October (10am til 6pm) at The Old Truman Brewery in London.

Get exclusive access to expert advice, innovative new products, specialist exhibitors, multiple interactive workshops and immersive classes – all designed to help you understand how to improve your sleep and give you and your family a fun day out!


Visit www.somnexshow.com

Instagram: @somnexshow

Twitter: @somnexshow

Facebook: @SOMNEXshow

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/somnex-the-sleep-show


As always I wish you a great night sleep,


Blinkist interview with The Sleep Coach

Blinkist Podcast Bonus: A “How-To-Sleep” Talk with The Sleep Coach – Max Kirsten,

In this special bonus edition of the Blinkist Podcast, we talk to sleep specialist Max Kirsten. Max is a clinical hypnotherapist and an award winning sleep coach, and he’s worked with stars like Adele and Ewan McGregor.

In the podcast, Max and Ben delve into topics like the right position for optimal sleep, how one even becomes a sleep specialist, the problems some of his most difficult patients experience, and much more. This is a perfect follow-up to the first sleep-themed episode, which featured Arianna Huffington speaking about her new book The Sleep Revolution, and how we’re killing ourselves with bad sleep hygiene.

(P.S. if you don’t already know, Blinkist is an app that condenses the key ideas of 1,500+ nonfiction books — the best ones in the world, actually — into beautiful, powerful little mobile reads that help you learn more, read more, and explore more than ever).

Blinkist Podcast with Sleep Expert Max Kirsten


Max Kirsten: Hi Ben, thank you for inviting me to come on the show.

Ben Schuman-Stoler: Thanks for coming on the show, this is great. This is our second sleep expert!

MK: How’s your sleep, are we going to talk about yours or are we going to avoid that?

BSS: We can try, but I have to say, especially in the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty good. I’ve been bringing a lot of stuff home, of like, getting the cell phones out –

MK: You’re doing your sleep hygiene!

BSS: I am, I’m all about it.

MK: That’s good! And have you got any devices? We’re in the 21st century so I think devices are kind of cool to have but the people that sleep the best don’t need devices, they don’t need anything, just sleep don’t they?

BSS: Which kind of devices do you mean?

MK: Well, there’s a whole bunch of these gadgets, you know, you can be wearing your fitbits, or you can have things actually fit to the bed under all the pillows. I’m fascinated by all this stuff but I have to say I’m quite keen to keep the technology to a minimum, generally. That said, when I get some of this stuff I’ll be trying it all out and my room will be like a techno jungle.

BSS: I actually did write down, one my questions is, do you use any of the new tech for sleep? And then I wrote down besides your own app, but your app isn’t a sleep app, right? It’s for quitting smoking.

MK: Actually my sleep app — which I took down last year — I had two — I took them down and I’m re-packaging them at the moment. I also have a free one that people download which is 20 minutes to fall asleep. Really nice thing to listen to. But the real question is — I don’t listen to myself. There’s something a bit weird about listening to yourself.

BSS: You mean you don’t put yourself to sleep?

MK: I do, but I don’t listen to myself to do it.

BSS: Who do you listen to?

MK: I don’t listen to anyone. I do a sequence and you can ask me about that.

BSS: You have your own routine, right?

MK: That’s true. Before I became a sleep coach I suffered from sleep difficulties, I would hesitate to say insomnia but I certainly would say it looked like insomnia, it sounded like insomnia and probably was. It was semi-infrequent but I found that going to bed was beginning to be something that I didn’t look forward to. I treat lots of people with insomnia now, anxiety-related sleep conditions. And I would lie in bed trying to figure out how can I fall asleep? Why am I still awake? What do I need to do? So I originally set out to conquer that for myself and in the process of looking at everything, listening to everything, I was also training to become a clinical hypnotherapist and in the process of all of this I discovered how to relax at a very deep somatic level and that became a part of it. I then created a blend of techniques that I’ve distilled into something that I call the ABC of Better Sleep but is basically a sequence that you can do not to try to sleep — because that’s always the thing with people with sleep difficulties, they try to sleep, and people who sleep well never try to sleep — trying to sleep is the worst thing you could ever do. Same thing as trying to relax or even trying not to think of the color red. It’s not helpful.

You know, I used to be a person that woke up in the night. Lots of people either have trouble falling asleep, which was one of my issues — thinking too much — but I almost invariably used to wake up in the middle of the night and it would be like UGH and it can be the loneliest place in the world. You wake up in the night and you feel like everyone on this side of the planet is already unconscious. And then I now have this thing that I do and I think of it more as a game, it’s a technique but it’s a pleasurable process that feels like a game. So that even if I get out of bed if I’m not annoyed. I actually look forward to getting back into the bed, and getting comfortable. that’s the starting point of the sequence that I teach people.

BSS: So let’s break this down. You mentioned suffering. You said you were suffering, you didn’t wanna call it insomnia but it looked like insomnia. It’s an interesting word because Arianna Huffington also used that word a lot and said there’s so much unneeded suffering that we’re doing to ourselves, so why did you use that word in particular?

MK: Arianna’s great — I wish I could talk to her with you I’m a big fan of her book — but I agree. We’re doing this to ourselves. We’re not even aware of the effect of everything coming in. You know, caffeine is interesting. I like caffeine but there’s a time we should be phasing it out (and there are some people it doesn’t agree with). Towards the evening the last caffeine most of us should be having should be approximately eight hours before bed at least. Because otherwise the effects of it are going to still be there when you want to sleep. And I can think of plenty of times when I sat in a nice restaurant with some nice friends, maybe it’s Friday night after a busy week and someone says would you like to have coffee now after your meal and someone says, “Oh yeah,” and before you know it we’re all ordering espressos! I think maybe people in the US are a little bit ahead of that now but I have to say a couple of my friends quite happily have a coffee before bed. These are the things we do to ourselves, I think at our peril. I mean look, coffee and devices is only two small elements of what can lead to having sleep difficulties. But I think anxiety, the worries of all that’s happening in our ever-changing world, and I think if sleep hygiene is a new kind of subject, I think veering away from most of the national news towards bedtime is no bad thing.

BSS: So say something about what sleep hygiene really kind of is, because it’s a weird term. I don’t think everybody — or people who aren’t familiar with your work or this trend of talking about sleep — what is sleep hygiene and how do you make a good one?

MK: Well you’re right, Ben, it isn’t what everyone’s aware of. Perhaps only the people with sleep difficulties. I assume everybody’s a sleep coach or everyone is seeing one and of course there are lots of people who sleep wonderfully. They get into bed and can even sleep in a car park or in a queue — some people can sleep anywhere — and there are people who have difficulties. And the first thing is to eliminate the externals, which can be contributing to sleep issues. Sometimes it’s the last thing that people realize. I’ve just been doing a sleep clinic in London here, in Shoreditch, something called a pop-up nap station as sleep ambassador for Eve Sleep who –

BSS: You know, they sent us a mattress!

MK: Oh they did?!

BSS: Yeah we had a little nap station in the office. They’re great.

MK: So that would be one of the sleep hygiene questions: What do you sleep on? What’s the room like? What’s the light like? That’s a big one. Do you have a dark room? How dark is it? Some people have, they like the light to come through the window at dawn. Some people rise at dawn and sort of go to bed when sun sets except they don’t because they’re on devices. So you know, limiting lights — ideally black. The brain makes melatonin as the evening progresses — it’s the hormone that regulates the main sleep cycle and that’s why coming away from screens, reducing light, lowering the light down so that the eyes which really do two things, of course we see with our eyes but they’re one of two parts of the body with multiple function, the eyes are also a light meter and we’re not aware of this but the optic nerve is regulating and measuring the amount of light that’s coming through and as it senses that it’s getting dimmer and dimmer it’s telling the body that it must be the time to begin to make melatonin, more and more of it, for sleep. So winding down is important but I think having as much black or at least very darkened room — I personally go for total, extreme black I like to put on an eye mask, it has this foam edge around it so that zero light comes around the side of my eye mask. If someone opened the blinds and there’d be streaming light around me, I’d be in total black, unaware of the new day until I decide that I’m ready for the new day.

BSS: Wow, I have a colleague who says he sleeps with the curtains open because the sun wakes him up naturally, he doesn’t use an alarm –

MK: Well I think that’s actually wonderful, the romance of that is wonderful. As a parent and as a hard working adult, and I do work hard, and I struggle, and if I was to just have no curtains and be waking up at, I don’t know, at the moment sunrise in London is around 4:30–5:00 in the morning. If I’m up at that time and yeah I’m an early bird but I think I’m more of an owl. I could force myself to do it, all the things to get ready to do, my son to get to school, and then work. I’m not quite sure what happens later in the evening! I certainly can’t go to bed when the sun sets, that’s for sure, and I can’t live by the circadian rhythms of just sunrise and sunset. But there are those who can do it and if they’re sleeping well and they can get up at the sunrise, I admire that.

BSS: So what about somebody like a snoozer, someone who has trouble getting up or is always groggy, or constantly hitting the snooze button?

MK: OK, I think it’s interesting with snoozing as opposed to napping, napping is something you take in the afternoons and preferably for no longer than 30 minutes, 20 minutes tops. I’d love to talk to you about napping in a moment. But the snoozer is wanting that little more, is not quite satisfied, maybe they weren’t sleeping that well earlier and they just wanna try — the ones I see anyway — they’re the ones who kept waking in the night and lay there for extra hour, tormented, and finally when they do fall asleep they so don’t want to get up if they can help it. It’s usually a sign of an unsatisfied night’s sleep. I now have come around to the realization of just how extraordinary sleep really is so you know I’m all for napping I’m all for snoozing but you know I think napping is an area now and certainly in business, I do more and more lectures with corporations and the city and companies for their staff and this whole new era of napping — the idea of having 20 minutes at work would have been unthinkable 10–15 years ago. Bosses would’ve thought just forget it, it’s an interruption with the work day. But now that there’s some real research, people who take short naps perform at a much higher level — are you familiar with the coffee nap?

BSS: I’ve only read about it. I haven’t done one.

MK: Ok it’s something that came out of some research and this is one of the reasons why we set up the nap station in East London — although part of it was so that people could come see the various beds and things as well — but these pods, and they’re setting them up more and more and I was reading about it in Arianna’s book as well — the zeitgeist really is to make this time for staff it’s better for their overall health, you know a 30-minute nap boosts your immune system and some extraordinary things happen. It’s counterintuitive, but the idea of having a small coffee before taking a nap. I mean I wouldn’t have even thought that — it’s madness — there’s research about how if you have a little coffee and then a nap, it takes time for the caffeine to be absorbed, and during the nap your brain is having a chance to do its cleansing process — I’ll talk about that in a second — and then the caffeine sneaks it in about 20 minutes and by the time you awaken — as long as long as it’s not more than 20–30 minutes — you feel more refreshed and more able to do whatever it is you were going to do. Your cognitive function is improved. They were doing this research and the purpose of it was to see if a light sleep if you’re driving would make you a better driver, whether having a coffee and then a break would make you a better driver. It turned out that having a coffee and a short nap made you a better driver and that’s where the research comes. But it’s very interesting, and someone’s just recently coined this — I wish I had said it but I’ll say it to you first because I’ve doubt you’ve heard it: nappuccino.

Although personally I think I prefer something like a flat nap.

BSS: Right, a flat wink.

MK: Exactly and you don’t even necessarily need to nap everyday but for those who’ve been sleep deprived, let’s say you’re jet-lagged or you were up all night at a party, a nap is going to reset you. It’s a very powerful thing.

BSS: So when I mentioned to my colleagues that I was talking to a sleep coach, a sleep expert, and someone who does it professionally, they were like, that’s impossible, that’s not a real thing. And I said of course it is, you know, why not? There’s mindfulness training, there’s all sorts of training to make us better people. How did you do that? How did you end up being a sleep specialist? What do you call yourself? Do you call yourself a sleep specialist? A sleep coach?

MK: I refer to myself as a sleep coach, I’ve been called sleep expert, I mean I’ve learned how not to sleep to become expert at that. But as a sleep coach, part of my training I did here in London with the London Sleep Center with the help of Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim, the consulting psychiatrist for sleep there, and I’ve been on various courses, I looked at CBTI, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, I’ve looked at various methodologies, sleep medicine — I am generally against medications although sometimes people come to see me with all sorts of things they’ve been taking — but the goal to me in my ethos is to help people get natural sleep. To get away from all the pills and to get into a much cleaner way to approach sleep and to relax and to then enjoy it.

BSS: So you studied it. But why was it so personally interesting to you?

MK: Well because I came from a position of having had insomnia myself and then in the process of my work as a clinical hypnotherapist — I was seeing more and more people for anxiety-related sleep difficulties and insomnia that I found that just hypnotizing people to have better sleep wasn’t broad enough to help them to overcome the full issue, the full picture. So then I started to blend teaching people how to do self-hypnosis and combined it with some of the other things that I’ve discovered, autogenic sleep training, and a mindfulness-based one that I like to teach. And I developed these in the course of developing my sleep programs that are on my website. And I had several apps, the sleep programs I was developing several years ago, that have won awards both in the US and over here for helping people sleep –

BSS: I listened to The ABCs of Sleep.

MK: You did? You didn’t tell me that.

BSS: Well yeah, that’s how I got all my questions, you know?

MK: So you’ve been learning the A and the B and the C?

BSS: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about relaxing the eyelids but you know you got to let the conversation flow.

MK: Well let’s talk about it.

BSS: We can talk about it. But I’m curious about both. I like hearing about your techniques, but I’m also really interested in the patients you see — and what’s the most difficult sleeping case you’ve had? Can we talk about that, too?

MK: What was great about doing the thing at the nap station actually is that it was the first time I’ve ever had like a walk-in sleep clinic. So you know people were queuing up on the Saturdays I was there and I had people who had parasomnias, people who would wake up in the night paralyzed and terrified they couldn’t move, that was a usual one, because you know some people don’t sleep very deeply for a number of different reasons that have to be identified but when we sleep there are different phases of sleep and the REM phase, which is the dreaming and rapid eye movement phase of sleep, is also interestingly when we are the most physically disconnected, paralyzed, from hurting ourselves in bed while we’re dreaming. So you don’t knock things off the table or punch the wall. So when people are in this sleep state, this phase, it is possible, particularly if they’re not going into deep state at all in the first place, there are things like, even alcohol interferes with sleep architecture, but some people just pop up almost mid-dream. They’re still dreaming but they open their eyes and they know they’re in bed but they also find that they don’t seem to be able to move. And for some even, bits of the dream are seeping into their waking experience it’s very unusual but it can be quite alarming.

BSS: What’s this called again?

MK: This is one of the parasomnias. It’s a waking paralysis and rather than being completely alarmed by it, which is easy if you never had it happen to you, is to understand it first of all. To know am I dreaming am I awake and to know that you can go back to sleep or even — I’ve had it, it can be in a nightmare, it’s not one of the best — we’re talking about some of the more unusual and extreme ends of what I do. Another lady who’s seeing me at the moment awakes every half an hour and we’ve eliminated almost everything that it could possibly be and she’s been to see lots of people before she came to me and the only thing that we can truly identify is that she has a lot of anxiety, very low level, all of the time. And it means that she finds it almost impossible to get to deep sleep because she’s got very higher levels of adrenal stress cortisol that makes it very difficult to fully truly completely relax and let go. The autonomic nervous system is in two parts, and the sympathetic, which sounds wonderful, has all to do with stress, fight or flight and life’s challenges, and the parasympathetic is when we feel safe and relaxed. Sometimes people see me for IBS or digestive problems and they often have these problems because they’re constantly in the sympathetic stress state and teaching people how to relax and let go and to re-set the autonomic nervous system back to the middle really, because some have autonomic nervous system imbalance which is if you like why this lady was finding it so hard to sleep — because of her physiology. So she’s going through a relaxation program daily as well as at night so she can begin to create regularly, throughout the whole day, a training for her to get physical relaxation and also I’m helping her to overcome her anxious thinking, because thoughts are the ones that cause the chemicals in the first place.

BSS: So let’s take this case again. Can you use your — I wanted to talk about eyelid relaxation that you talk about in The ABCs of Sleep — so like can you use that for this kind of case, this woman? Or is it the kind of thing that’s too kind of general to help her.

MK: Absolutely, and I taught her to use the ABC technique which in its cutdown version is to relax your eyelids to the point where they feel so relaxed they won’t work and then to spread the relaxation through the B, the breath, through the body. To take her to the point where she’s beginning to feel more and more deeply calm and relaxed. That’s the first place to get to. If, on the other hand, your mind is constantly in a circular motion looking for things to be worried about, the next thing to go wrong, then it’s probably highly likely that these people take that to bed with them. If they’re already in a sort of hyper-vigilant state and dreading going to bed because of another night of waking up every half an hour — doesn’t make you want to go to bed does it — so the combination of sleep dread (or not-sleep dread actually), there need to be a re-programming. Learning how to relax is part of it. Learning mindful you know CBT, really, mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to understand and to recognize when one is thinking this stuff again and again and to observe it rather than just be in it and to see these thoughts like clouds and to be more interested in the sky between the clouds and to recognize that these thoughts are what make us feel let’s say negative and therefore anxious and the feelings that go with that.

BSS: It’s like you have to take a step back, be objective about your own thoughts?

MK: Step back, and see almost as though your thoughts are coming in a loop by habit rather than even just consciously deciding to have anxious thoughts. Half of my work is to get people to wake up and to snap out of negative loops and mind patterns, to become more present. And the other half of my work — and this is how I became a sleep coach — is helping people to let go and become unconscious. It’s the most wonderful process. It’s so undervalued, sleep, I mean I think of sleep as a spiritual experience, it’s a subjective thing, but I think of sleep as when we let go into the universe, I think of sleep as well as the letting go process about getting out of the way, it’s nothing to do, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to just release and to let go into the safety of relaxation that takes you away to let’s just say the C of dreams. I say the C of comfort that leads to the sea of dreams.

BSS: Right and it’s very calming, unfortunately I listened during the day so I couldn’t go all the way into relax mode if you know what I mean.

Well let’s see what I got. We could do a quick-fire round? You want to do a quick-fire? Let’s do five.


BSS: Alright here we go, quick-fire round, number one: what’s the most common lie about sleep that we see in our daily lives?

MK: Wow, what’s the most common lie that we see in our daily lives?

BSS: Or what do you find yourself most commonly having to debunk?

MK: Ok that’s interesting. I’m trying to think of the best way to answer the question. That somehow there’s some magic trick to sleep. Some people are ritualistic. I mean, I think routine is good, but the idea that you’ve always got to do one thing — I think sleep is effortless. There’s nothing to do!

BSS: There’s no silver bullet.

MK: There’s no silver bullet and in fact we’re all different so anyone who tells you the best way is this, it’s flawed from the moment they say it because we’re not all the same.

BSS: Number 2: is there a healthiest sleep position, like side sleeping, belly sleeping?

MK: Without a doubt the side is the very best way both for the position of the spine but also it seems that when we sleep or even nap that the side position is the side that helps for the cerebral spinal fluid in the brain to cleanse itself better.

BSS: OK — does it matter left or right?

MK: It’s an interesting question, I think it doesn’t really matter because nobody just sleeps on one side. If you look at any time-lapse photography people are on their back or side, all those things but I think predominantly that the best side to sleep on from a physiology point of view, I understand, is on the left side and that has to do with the blood pressure and the fact that your heart is slightly to the left and by sleeping on your left side predominantly, it is better for your physiology and I believe it means you’re slightly less likely to have things like heart attacks and strokes. Not to worry anybody.

BSS: All these stomachs sleepers just had a freakout.

MK: It’s interesting about stomach sleepers. Stomach and on-their-face sleepers are the ones who are most likely to grind their teeth.

BSS: Really?

MK: Yeah because they’re kind of putting their head onto their jaw, into their face. When I work with people who have you know tooth grinding, one of the techniques is to get people to sleep with their airwaves open, head slightly tilted back so the jaw naturally falls away from the teeth. It seems completely unnatural for someone who’s not used to that but between that and I like to use hypnotherapy for teeth grinding as well, I find that’s the best way of making the change so they don’t destroy their teeth.

BSS: Alright, number 3: pillows. Best pillow, does it matter?

MK: Well I think pillows are very subjective, I think if you sleep on your face, if that’s the way you have to do it, you want to have a soft pillow because you don’t want to be having your head completely tilted back if you’re sleeping on your face, but I think that side sleepers would benefit from a reasonably firm pillow — the Eve Sleep ones are unbelievably amazing, but there are others.

BSS: Alright, number 4: how does it affect us to sleep outside? Is there a difference between sleeping outside or inside?

MK: That’s a good question, I like that. I recently went camping with my son and I certainly think there’s a big difference and I was sleeping in this tent and I haven’t been camping for decades and it wasn’t quite summer yet so nights were very very cool and the coldness of the air on my face at that time of year wasn’t for me ideal but I did vaguely sleep. Honestly I couldn’t wait to get home to the luxury of my bedroom. I personally think sleep is for sleeping, the less disturbances there are, minimum light, definitely the room should become slightly cooler as the evening progresses when you fall asleep. Ideally a cooler room when you fall asleep. I mean sleeping out on the patio or on the roof if you’ve got a roof terrace, at a certain part of year in the middle of a heat wave, could be fantastic, but I wouldn’t recommend it all year.

BSS: Sub question: when you went camping did you bring your mask thing that closed out all light?

MK: Very good question. You know what? I so did.

BSS: Yeah?

MK: Here I have a sleep box with a number, not all my masks are the same. I have probably ten different kinds, not all ear plugs are the same I have more than ten. There are even ear plugs for women, different sizes and widths, you know channels are usually narrower for women or when they want to hear their kids or certain sounds but the one I like, with the foam, that one I took with me and I was definitely glad when I was in my freezing cold tent with my son. That was the one luxury, other than the fact that I like to wear sleep socks which I know is odd but I’m very tall and it helps circulation to my feet. It’s one of the things that people with sleep difficulties — and they actually have cold feet! Sometimes I go through all the different questions around the environment and physiology just to find out people have cold feet when they sleep.

BSS: There’s a Seinfeld episode with George and Jerry are in a hotel room for some reason and Jerry likes to, he’s a feet tucker, he likes to keep his feet tucked, and George likes to kick off the blankets. You can add that in your next book or do some kind of deep analysis.

MK: That’s great. I’ll have to research it. Did you say George was the feet tucker?

BSS: I think Jerry was the feet tucker.

MK: So George likes to kick his feet out, so George probably then doesn’t want to wear sleep socks either because he likes the air circulating.

BSS: Right.

MK: My wife is warmer than me, she likes to kick the covers off but I still like to keep the covers on the lower half of the bed so my feet stay warm. GOD we all have these weird variations! It’s amazing anyone can sleep the night with anyone else!

BSS: Alright so last one: what’s the one rule for sleeping? Like, Huffington has one rule: no phones in the bedroom. Hands down.

MK: Let’s just assume that’s a given. Although there are lots of people who like to have their iPhone apps measuring and Fitbits and such and I’m not sure how to reconcile that but ultimately good sleep you don’t need devices. You can use them to learn to sleep better but it’s like nobody should listen to recordings every night, it’s just learning. Once you get past all of that, and assuming there’s no phones or electronics around you then I would say the number one rule is never try to sleep. Sleep is effortless, you never try to sleep, you relax, you get out the way and by getting out of the way, that’s the way sleep happens: you relax and let go.

BSS: That’s a perfect ending!

Very Important Links

More stuff to read on Sleep, Productivity, The Future, and more over onBlinkist Magazine, and our treasure trove of 1,500+ nonfiction books-in-brief at Blinkist.com.

It seems that living in the city improves your sleep


It is hard to believe, but some new sleep research shows that many people who live in the city are getting a better night’s sleep than those who live in the wild countryside. It seems that the natural sounds of far away open spaces, the wonderful broken silence of a sleepy night by the dawn chorus at the end of a quiet twinkly starlit night, and all that fresh air, may not in fact be as good for overall sleep quality as we originally thought. Wendy Taylor, 46, who lives in rural Norfolk agreed that the countryside can be a very noisy place particularly at the break of dawn.

According to their sleep survey, urban Britain sleeps far better than those who live in rural areas and the soundest sleepers appear to live in London. The poll found that 38% of Londoners claimed to be unable to sleep for at least seven hours uninterrupted. Whereas 63% of people living around Nottingham were dissatisfied with their sleep followed by those living near Norwich, with 59% dissatisfaction, and Southampton with 50% sleep dissatisfaction. Who would have thought that the city dwellers would be leaving the way in quality Zzzz…

Apparently the early morning sound of distant cockerels, farming equipment and noisy birdsong were named as the main annoyances for those frustrated sleepers who live in the countryside.
Who would have thought that homes in cities, insulated from most street sounds, away from the fresh air and wild countryside, would be so conducive to more satisfying sleep than many dwellers living and sleeping in the countryside.

These findings contradict previous evidence about the effect and extent of emotional disruption and stress caused by living in cities. One study found that 39% of people living in an urban city environment had a 39% higher probability for mood disorders and 21% greater risk of anxiety disorders. Figures from the office of National statistics released last year also suggest that those living in the countryside were more likely to be happy, with residents of the Orkneys, West Somerset, East Devon and County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland reporting the highest levels of life satisfaction.

It is a fact that sleep is vital to not only the way we feel, but also the way we function in our personal and professional lives .If you’re struggling with sleep, get into a natural routine by setting regular sleep and wake up times and remove any distractions like electronics or outside light. Best to avoid caffeine after about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, to take regular exercise (but not at night) and to have warm bath just before going to bed are all shown to improve the quality of sleep.

The research also showed that adults between 25 and 34 were found to have the greatest ability to rest, with 71% saying that they regularly got a good night’s sleep. By contrast, only 46% of the over-55’s said that they were satisfied with their sleep.

And it seems that there is some foundation to the cliché that women are more prone to lie awake at night thinking than men. Just over a third of men said they were unhappy with their sleep compared to 46% of women. It seems that men sleep sounder than women, and most women will agree that their partner usually falls asleep almost as soon as their head hits the pillow.

However, if you are one of those who finds that sleep is difficult in a city, or living in the countryside there are many things that you can do to improve the quality of your sleep without succumbing to the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Understanding that sleep hygiene and powerful relaxation techniques, and there are many which combined with sleep routines can have a phenomenally improving effect increasing the restorative effects of natural sleep. I teach the ABC of better sleep at my clinic or you can download my iPhone iPad apps or MP3 sleep programs at http://www.maxkirsten.com/bettersleep/
I wish you a great night sleep, every night!
Max Kirsten

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6 Signs that you’re not getting enough sleep

Sleep Coach

We all know how important getting a good night sleep is. However, just yawning a lot and feeling tired all the time are only two of the most obvious signs of sleep deprivation.

Here’s my list of six more signs that you’re just not getting enough sleep.

1: You’ve just crunched your car!
It only takes a moment of distraction, and when we are tired your reactions are impaired. Research and sleep studies have shown that chronic and short-term sleep deprivation produces slower reaction times. one study at Stanford University in the US proved that sleep deprived people performed worse in reaction time tests than people who were under the influence of alcohol.

We all know that if you’re driving a car at high speed whether it’s on the motorway or dual carriageways that sleepiness causes accidents, and drifting lanes whilst drifting off is extremely dangerous. Fresh air and even a short rest before driving again is always the best short-term solution.

But it’s not just the stopping distance of your car that’s impaired by lack of sleep, it can be the simplest manoeuvres like parking or even getting out of the car, opening the door without taking proper care to see if there are any cars or cyclists about to pass before you open the door. So beware of sleep deprived drivers.

2: You shout at the children or family members!
Impatience, intolerance, irritability and rage have all been linked to sleep deprivation. This is true both of adults as well as children. It’s important that everyone in the family gets enough regular sleep, so that the kids are less likely to misbehave and you will be less likely to lose your temper.

3: You just can’t seem to lose that weight!
Hard as it is to believe, not getting enough sleep interferes with your bodies hormonal balance. HGH or human growth hormone and testosterone are to important hormones that help to regulate and maintain a strong lean healthy body. Not getting enough sleep slows down the body’s natural metabolic rate.

4: You have cravings for carbs and sugary things.
Poor sleep can cause cravings for carbohydrates and sugary snacks. Sleep balances our appetite hormones, and reduced sleep interferes with keeping to a healthy diet, and motivation to do regular exercise. Who wants to exercise if you feel tired?

5: You continuously lose things, like your keys!
Being sleep deprived, we miss out on the important REM stage of good sleep. It is thought that memory consolidation occurs during the REM phase (rapid eye movement). Memory glitches, wondering why you walked into a room? What was I looking for? Forgetting the name of even your loved one? Losing your car or house keys? These are signs that you’re probably not getting enough sleep. Long-term sleep problems have even been shown to have an association with Alzheimer’s disease. So get more sleep to improve your long-term mental health.

6: You need an alarm clock.
If you’re getting enough regular sleep, and if you’re going to bed at more or less the same time each night, you will find that you will naturally wake each morning at the desired regular time, feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. However, if you are sleep deprived, and your body hasn’t had a chance to complete its natural restorative tasks, you will feel that it is almost impossible to wake up, and feel you need the noisy unpleasant sound of an alarm clock is almost the only way to wake and then drag your weary body out of the bed. So get more sleep, go to bed earlier, enjoy being in bed more.

So watch out for these classic signs that your body and mind needs more sleep, and then do something about it! Rest is good for you, even if you’re not always asleep!

Learn how to practice better sleep hygiene.

I wish you a great night sleep, every night!
Max Kirsten

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Boosting your Melatonin hormone levels for better sleep


The pattern of waking during the day when it is light and sleeping at night when it is dark is a natural part of human life. Only recently have scientists begun to understand the alternating cycle of sleep and waking and how it is related to daylight and darkness.

A key factor in how human sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness. Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain. There a special center that initiates signals to other parts of the brain that control the key sleep hormone called melatonin, but also body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake.

If you are finding it difficult to achieve good sleep it may well be because of the fact that, as we age, our bodies seem to produce less and less amounts of this sleep hormone called melatonin (which is created in the pineal gland located in the front of the brain), or because your natural circadian body clock’s rhythm has been disturbed by either jet lag from travelling across international time zones, or you may be a shift or night worker and therefore probably not getting enough natural sunlight which also contributes to intermittent sleep problems, reduced melatonin also increases the risk of long-term health problems like cancer etc.

In the US and other parts of the world outside the EU, it’s possible to buy melatonin over the counter as a food supplement, although it’s important to note that the synthetic form of melatonin seems to work far less well than the completely natural form.

However in Europe, particularly the UK, unless you have a prescription from your doctor, it’s illegal to be able buy melatonin ‘over-the-counter’ in the chemists or health food shops unlike in the US.

However this need not be a problem. There are in fact completely natural ways of boosting your levels of melatonin production naturally. There are a number of melatonin boosting fruits and foods. Top of the fruit list is the pineapple. Amazingly researchers have found that pineapples boost melatonin by 266% and next at the top of the list are bananas that boosts melatonin by 180%, followed by oranges that increase melatonin by approximately 47%. Other foods that boost melatonin are oats, sweetcorn, tomatoes, rice and barley.

So not only can you boost your melatonin by adding these fruits and food elements to your daily diet, but you can also improve melatonin production by getting enough natural sunlight in the daytime and then by also reducing screen time from the use of computers, iPads and mobiles that emanate ‘blue light’ which interferes with the production of melatonin late night by fooling.

And when you go to bed is important of course that you have darkness, ideally complete darkness which also helps to encourage the natural production of melatonin in the pineal gland in the brain. So if your blinds let into much light, either replace them and or use a sleep mask to achieve real darkness.

It is also important to consider the fact that some prescription drugs inhibit the production of melatonin, these include beta-blockers, anti-anxiety drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and some SSRI antidepressants. If you are taking one of these medications I recommend you avoid taking them in the hours just before you go to bed if possible.

As always, I wish you a great night’s sleep.
Max Kirsten

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Practical Sleep Tips for Achieving Better Sleep


This week I thought I would try to solve some of the practical sleep tips for achieving better sleep, because some of the most recent research into the nations sleep habits shows that 45% of us are sleeping for less than six hours (which is not good). Ideally most people need between 7-9 hours sleep (although as we age though we begin to need less as our bodies produce less and less melatonin. I will cover all the issues of hormone Melatonin in a later blog).

One of the simplest things that we can do to improve the quality of our sleep is to eat and drink the right things at the right times of the day.

So firstly:

the last meal of the day should be ideally eaten at least two hours before bed, this make the digestion process easier for the body.  So make it a rule to always try to eat dinner early, and avoid heavy rich foods, spicy and acidic foods that can cause stomach trouble and heartburn. A light salad, perhaps and some chicken or steamed fish is ideal. If you are vegetarian then eat a salad more nuts, super foods and pulses etc….


for those who drink alcohol, whenever possible, avoid drinking several hours before bed. It may help you to fall asleep BUT it is more likely to wake you up in the middle of the night feeling dehydrated.


begin to reduce your intake of caffeine 6-8 hours before bed time. This can be anything from coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks. Caffeine is both a stimulant and a diuretic (which means that it encourages the body to flush out water from the body) causing both dehydration and extra unwanted trips to the toilet in the early hours of the morning. I also recommend reducing the amount of fluids water, juice, tea etc’s before bed time.


if you haven’t quit smoking already for all the usual worrying health reasons, I recommend that all insomniacs quit nicotine as soon as possible to improve the quality of their sleep. Get rid of those e-cigs! Nicotine is a stimulant (not a relaxant) causing the heart to beat faster, and if you are still smoking real tobacco –  the carbon monoxide in the smoke makes the smoker’s sleep very heavy, and feel very un-refreshing in the morning. Get free of smoking tobacco ASAP. It’s hazardous to the quality of your sleep.


taking regular exercise is proven to improve the quality of your sleep. Taking breaks at work, 5 – 10 minutes or even longer can greatly improve the quality of your sleep. And the more bright natural sunlight that you get on your face in the daytime the more balance your natural regulation of melatonin will be in the night time.

Although exercise in the evenings before bed can in fact have a negative effect. The increased heart rate and metabolic rate before bed can make it harder for the body to wind down before sleep. The only exercise should be taking the evenings is relaxing, perhaps with some yoga or stretching or deep some breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Before bed, if you’re still hungry, eating either chicken or turkey, or a bowl of whole grain cereal, or granola with low-fat milk or yoghurt, or eating a banana, or avocado helps to improve levels of the neurotransmitter Tryptophan which combined with any simple carbohydrates seems to allow for better sleep.

Above all- after creating the best environment to sleep, consuming the best foods for sleep, the most important thing about sleep is to never try to sleep. Sleep should be natural effortless and easy. Learning how to get away from the washing machine of the mind is simply annex size inputting your attention elsewhere. I recommend learning how to relax and let go… I teach the ABC of Better Sleep technique. I teach how to get out of the way so that sleep just… slowly creeps up on you without your even noticing its arrival.

As always, I wish you a great night’s sleep.


Max Kirsten

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Thanks for following me and welcome to my Sleep Coach blog


So, now the clocks have gone forward. Most people will know that when the clocks go forward we actually lose an hour of sleep time as I was saying in my previous blog. However, having spent all of last week advising people how not to get caught out by the summer solstice, beginning of British summer Time, I have tweeted, broadcasted on half a dozen radio stations, mentioned it here, there and everywhere!

But now last night as the moment of truth arrived in my own household was I ready? Authenticity, congruency, walking the talk, did I set my clocks, my watch etc an hour ahead a few hours before I went to bed? Yes I did it ….so I’m not a hypocrite! I even went to bed an hour earlier than usual (although my watch said that it was the usual time) and I have to say that I slept well and woke feeling reasonably refreshed.

One of the reasons why I practice as a sleep coach is that I have had personal experience of chronic insomnia and having overcome my own sleep difficulties naturally, helping others to learn to sleep well naturally is one of my life’s greatest passions. Addictions to Zopiclone, Ambien Valium etc etc… is just not the way!

Late Rooms

I was looking at some sleep research put together by laterooms.com who I’ve been consulting for over the last few weeks and it amazes me that 45% of us regularly sleep less than six hours per night. Learning how to go to bed an hour earlier will improve sleep times and your health.

There is real research that shows that if we are able to sleep one hour more than usual, that the improvements in overall health and well-being and cognitive and motor functions is a no-brainer.

One of the reasons why many of us have poor sleep is that our partners snore. Why suffer? Find a good pair of earplugs! Do your research as not all earplugs are the same. There are a earplugs for men and earplugs for women, who tend to have narrower ear canals. There are even earplugs that knock out almost all noise and earplugs that filter out only part of the sound spectrum. There are earplugs attenuated for fulltime parents (so that you can still hear the sounds of small children and babies, but not so much the sounds of rumbling traffic).

Another problem is light. Too much light in the bedroom can interfere with the production of melatonin. This hormone is produced naturally in the Pineal gland which helps the body in many ways to sleep, restore balance and the healing process. Get a good set of blinds/ curtains or at least purchase a good quality sleep eye mask. Again not all eye masks are equal – it’s worth shopping around and doing your eye mask research.

Considering how many hours a night we spend, or need to spend sleeping ideally well, it amazes me how few people take the time to find the right bed, pillow, bed linen, sleep mask, earplugs etc etc…

As a self-confessed sleep nut, the research needed for a great night’s sleep is worth every wonderful Zzzz…

the Sleep Coach

When I created ‘The ABC of better sleep‘ as a downloadable app I wanted to teach people to use my ABC sleep technique anywhere in the world. I also included a number of ambient recordings that are rather wonderful to drift off to sleep with but then I realised that as a sleep training programme there was still something missing. I wanted to create something that was so relaxing and delicious that will help you to drift off and fall asleep using my ABC technique that went deeper and deeper… and didn’t count you back up again to waking consciousness. Something really to fall asleep with, whether at night or just for an  afternoon nap. So that is the difference between ‘The ABC of Better Sleep‘, and my second app called ‘The Insomnia Cure.’

But ultimately, I believe in teaching how to fall asleep naturally without potions, headphones, apps or anything else. To give up trying to sleep, which is always the first mistake. Great sleepers never try to sleep, they just fall asleep naturally!

Instead of trying to sleep learned to relax. To relax your body and then your mind. To become so relaxed that, even if you’re not asleep yet, you reach a point of being so relaxed you don’t even care. And when you’re that relaxed your body is getting what it needs while you relax, and drift in and out, until you drift off…

Learn to let go of letting go.

Wishing you a great night’s sleep every night.

Max Kirsten Read more

Welcome to The Sleep Coach Blog.

Thanks for following me, and welcome to my first Sleep Coach blog.

At the end of this week/month the clocks will be going forwards (summer solstice), which means that many of us will get caught out by this, only to discover on the Sunday morning when we wake up and either our usual time (except that it’s not) and we are somehow missing a vital hour sleep leading to tiredness, grumpiness, and being more accident prone. Or we have ignored any alarm clocks etc and are now unexpectedly running late having lost an hour of precious time!

So it is my better sleep advice to those like myself for whom sleep is a very precious commodity. Whether you are a parent, an insomniac, or just someone who needs the right amount of regular sleep each night in order to function well the next day.

1. Before going to bed (ideally at least one hour before bed), set all your clocks manually an hour ahead. Then tell yourself that this new time is the real time, fully accept it, and prepared to go to bed at the correct time based on what all your clocks around you tell you the time is.

2. Accept that when the clocks go either forwards or backwards, it usually takes at least one day to completely recover from this change.

3. During the next week of adjustment, I also recommend that you reduce the late night use of computers and PDAs, iPhones iPads etc, as the light from these devices effects the pineal gland in the brain (which modulates the amount of melatonin), Bright lights, even from computer screens reduces the amount of melatonin, thus making it harder to fall asleep as the brain believes that it still daytime.

4. For those who find it difficult to go to sleep early, I recommend hot baths, carbohydrates and protein in equal balance, and eating fresh avocado. Obviously reducing caffeine, coffee, tea, chocolate.

5.  Practice ways of relaxing and unwinding before going to sleep.

Although in practice without this forward planning we will in fact be losing an hour of sleep, there is one silver lining. There is research that shows that when we get up earlier 50% of people notice that their mood improves. Although it was Abraham Lincoln who once famously said “that most people are as happy as they make their minds up to be”.

Welcome to the summer solstice.

Spring is TRULY on its way!

Max Kirsten

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