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I Can Make You Sleep is one of a series of what could be termed as 'self help' books by Paul McKenna. It is written for anyone who has problems sleeping, whatever the underlying cause of the problems may be, and is designed to help you understand how simple changes can have a significant impact on your sleep. The book comes with a free hypnosis CD, and the cover price is £10.99.
Why I Bought It
I've had trouble sleeping literally for as long as I can remember. It never mattered what time I went to bed or how tired I was, I would still invariably lie awake for at least 5 hours before finally drifting off and while an average nights' sleep for me would be around 2 or 3 hours, I would often not get any sleep at all. Surprisingly this never used to affect me physically in any way and I figured I must just not need as much sleep as most people.
It was only after working 6/7 nights a week for 3 years in a very physical job, and surviving on around 2 hours sleep in any 48 hour period, that the lack of sleep finally started to catch up with me. Over a very short period of time (and most likely accelerated by illness), I got to the point where I just felt constantly tired and I started to think I had a serious problem.
After finding my Doctor extremely unhelpful, and sleeping tablets totally ineffective, I started to look for alternative treatments and methods to help me get to sleep, as I simply could not go on the way I had been.
I came across this book whilst browsing on Amazon for something to make up the last few quid of a gift voucher, and at £4.94 I decided I may as well give it a shot, despite the fact that I'm very sceptical about hypnosis and the like. The fact that all of Paul McKenna's books are very highly rated by Amazon customers also gave me the confidence that it might actually be worth a read.
Over the past 20 years, Paul McKenna, Ph.D., has helped millions of people to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, overcome insomnia, eliminate stress, and increase self confidence with his hypnosis and self-help techniques. As well as being an internationally recognised TV personality and stage hypnotist, he is Britain's bestselling non-fiction author, having sold 2 million books in 3 years. In relation to this particular book, he has made a 20 year study of tackling insomnia, working with some of the best Doctors and Experts in the field.
Chapter 1 - Welcome to the World of Regular, Deep, Refreshing Sleep
In the first chapter McKenna begins by setting out the aim of the book and the system within it. He explains that the book is written in a special hypnotic language which is designed to reach your unconscious mind and make the brain begin to process ideas to be able to reconnect to your basic ability to sleep. Because of this he suggests (or rather demands) that the book should only be read when you're ready to go to sleep, as simply reading the book should make you feel drowsy.
He stresses that the results from using the techniques in the book will differ from person to person. Some will find their sleep drastically improved within days, while for others it may take months for any changes to become apparent. By the same token, not every technique will work for everyone, it's about finding out what works for you.
It becomes clear pretty early into this first chapter that the 'hypnotic language' he's talking about is just repetition which rather than being helpful is, to me at least, quite patronising and annoying. I don't need to be told something as simple as 'for the system to work you have to follow it correctly' over and over again for it to sink in.
He claims that his system is unique because it is designed to use both the conscious and unconscious mind, and suggests that insomnia is simply a habit learned by your unconscious mind which the techniques in this book are designed to reprogram.
The last few sections of this chapter are taken up with explanations of how to use the accompanying hypnosis CD, medical matters that can affect sleep, and what to expect from the system in general.
Chapter 2 - The First Key to Sleep: Timing
He begins the next chapter by explaining that sleep is the bodies means of repairing, refuelling and integrating the learning of the day, and stressing the importance of sleep for our health. He states that whilst our bodies force us to sleep for the minimum amount required to keep us going, if your sleep is poor you may have had little more than the minimum, which will result in you feeling stressed, tired or run-down.
He also stresses the importance of treating all possible causes of a sleep problem, rather than focussing on just one cause., and explains that this book treats the 'whole system' and restores your natural rhythm so that your natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness runs cleanly and properly.
Next he goes into some detail on how the sleep cycle works and what happens during the different phases of sleep (light sleep, slow wave sleep, and REM sleep), before explaining what it all means with regards to insomnia and why people may wake a few hours after falling asleep, or believe they've had no sleep when they actually have.
Then it's on to how to reset your sleep cycle. In short he says that what you need to do is make the urge to go to sleep more powerful, and to do that you need to give it an extra 'push'. And here's where, finally, the actual advice starts, which could be summarised by the following sentence:
"Get up half an hour earlier than your usual wake-up time, go to bed only when you're sleepy, and don't take naps during the day."
I personally feel that whilst some of it is mildly interesting, the majority of this chapter is unnecessary and the 23 pages could easily be condensed into just 2 or 3 to no detriment. Luckily there was no sign of the annoying repetition (sorry, I mean 'hypnotic language') in this chapter, so whilst I felt it was overly long and drawn out I wasn't being forced to read the same thing over and over again, so it was less painful to read than the first chapter, despite containing little helpful information.
Chapter 3 - Small changes That Make a Big Difference to Your Sleep
McKenna opens chapter 3 with the following statement:
"There is a strong correlation between being overweight and having poor sleeping patterns, so as you want to sleep, staying at your optimum weight is a good idea".
I found this a very odd way to begin a chapter, but particularly one which has been given a title beginning with the words 'small changes'. I don't think losing weight can in any way be described as a small change, it's actually a pretty drastic and potentially life-altering one, and to call it a 'small' change is to suggest that it can be done as easily as saying 'I'm going to lose weight'.
This very first sentence had already annoyed me, so imagine how I felt to then see him go on to describe losing weight as a 'simple process'. Personally the only major weight problems I've had have involved me trying to gain rather than lose weight, but I know that it's not as easy as the logic and basic science which he uses to try and back up this statement, so for him to take such a simplistic viewpoint on the subject antagonised me to the point that I simply stopped reading the book and didn't go back to it until months later.
He then wastes 2 pages basically telling you to walk more, under the header 'How to make exercise easy', before things start to get a little less patronising with an brief explanation of the condition known as Sleep Apnoea.
Next, he suggests that a healthy diet of fresh foods is best for promoting sleep, and obviously stresses the need to remove stimulants from the diet. Then comes a little nugget of information which I can honestly say I really didn't know; there is an amino acid called tryptophan which actually helps you to sleep, and is present in milk and yoghurt, fish, red meat, poultry and eggs, as well as some fruits. So in theory eating these foods before bed should help you sleep more easily.
For some reason he then feels the need to go into detail on why caffeine and alcohol should be restricted, despite having already covered stimulants earlier, making for another unnecessarily long chapter.
Chapter 4 - Your Sleep Environment
This chapter focuses on creating the perfect environment for inducing sleep, with lots of common sense statements followed by redundant in-depth explanations on things like how to make your bed comfortable.
The only advice given here that you possibly wouldn't think of yourself is to keep the bedroom for sleep and sex (and reading this book and listening to the accompanying CD of course) only, so that your mind comes to make the association and therefore prepares your body for sleep when you go to bed.
The saving grace of this chapter is that it's kept relatively short at only 13 pages.
Chapter 5 - Running Your Own Mind
In this chapter McKenna talks about the importance of spending time actively changing how we think and feel, rather than just using superficial means of making us feel good like going on holiday and buying nice things.
He states that many people who can't sleep have accidentally created patterns of thinking that keep them awake, such as worrying about problems or potential problems in their lives, and goes on to explain how you can use your unconscious mind to overcome this. What this basically involves is avoiding too much stimulation for your mind in the hour before you go to bed, so no TV, and using visualisation techniques to distance yourself from any stressful thoughts that keep you awake.
At the end of this chapter is an exercise entitled 'Practising being drowsy', the prospect of which I found highly amusing. Reading through the exercise did nothing to quash my amusement, as it basically involves imagining yourself feeling tired and other people yawning. Actually being tired has no bearing on whether or not I can get to sleep, so pretending to be tired is hardly going to help.
Chapter 6 - The Power of Your Internal Voice
Here McKenna explains that the internal voice we use to speak to ourselves can have a big impact on how we feel. As seems to be his trademark he draws out the completely unnecessary explanation over several pages, whilst asking us to try 'exercises' like criticising ourselves in a sexy voice to see how difficult it is to feel as stressed as if we used a harsh tone. Apparently all this is supposed to make us realise that how we talk to ourselves about not sleeping could be making us stressed and keeping us awake. The solution? According to McKenna all we need to do is speak to ourselves in a 'happy, drowsy, tired' tone of voice.
He then offers another exercise called 'systematic relaxation', which involves using the aforementioned 'happy, drowsy, tired' voice to tell yourself to relax each part of your body in turn, over and over until you fall asleep. Pretty much like counting sheep then......
He then goes on to talk about the need to change our story, meaning the story we subconsciously tell ourselves, from negative thoughts about not sleeping and not being able to change, to positive ones. So again it's about speaking to yourself in a certain way to try to change your subconscious thoughts.
This chapter was never going to sit well with me as it just contains far too much psycho-babble nonsense for me to even begin to take it seriously, as well as being overtly padded like much of the rest of the book.
Chapter 7 - What to Do When Your Head Fills with Thoughts
In this chapter McKenna talks about the importance of putting your mind to rest before you go to bed. He suggests setting aside 20 minutes during the day to think about any problems or worries and working out and writing a plan of how they can be addressed, so that your mind does not feel the need to think about them at bedtime. Similarly he suggests keeping a notebook and pen by your bed so that any inspiration or ideas that hit you can be written down so that your mind doesn't fear that they will be forgotten and feel the need to wake you. Additionally he stresses the importance of taking the time to feel, think about and understand any emotion you may be feeling. He claims that once these things have been addressed the mind will not feel the need to think about them anymore and you will therefore sleep easier.
I began reading this chapter with a renewed interest as not being able to switch off my thoughts is a major problem for me, my mind often thinking of several different things at once whilst I'm trying to sleep. Sadly the advice given was nothing I haven't heard before and not in the slightest bit useful to me.
Don't get me wrong, these methods will definitely work for some people, for example if you're having financial difficulties about which the worry is keeping you awake, sitting down and drawing up a plan of action may well help to ease your mind and therefore help you to sleep easier. But it doesn't address what to do if, like mine, your thoughts are completely random and unrelated to any event, worry or emotion. I actually felt he'd been quite lazy in writing this chapter by neglecting to acknowledge emotionless thoughts.
Chapter 8 - What to do if You Are Still Awake
Here McKenna gives 4 different techniques to try if you still can't fall asleep after following the methods in the rest of the book. 3 of these are visualisation techniques designed to help you to relax, and the fourth uses Thought Field Therapy which is basically a sequence of tapping on key acupuncture points which is supposed to reduce stress and establish a calm relaxation.
As with most of the other chapters in the book I felt this one was overly long with lots of unnecessary waffle between the few potentially helpful snippets of information and advice.
Chapter 9 - Summing Up
The final chapter is basically an FAQ section, where Mckenna answers common questions he hears from clients, such as 'why do I wake up so early?', 'I'm shattered when I come home from the office, but come bedtime, I'm wide awake - what can I do?', and 'Why am I having trouble making this work?', and refers the reader to relevant pages within the book. This is followed by a list of 14 'Golden rules of sleep', which summarises the rules and techniques set out in the other 8 chapters.
The Hypnosis CD
I've never listened to a hypnosis CD before so I can't really say I had many expectations of it. However, the one thing I did expect was a soft, calm, soothing voice to help lull you into the relaxed state necessary for the hypnosis to work. Instead what you get with this is Paul McKenna speaking to you in a harsh tone which I'm constantly aware of and actively prevents me from feeling relaxed or drifting off.
He begins by asking you to use visualisation techniques to help you relax, then once he thinks you're in a trance state he continues by going through many of the key points from the book, which are supposed to be 'absorbed' by the unconscious mind.
As I was unable to relax and reach a trance state I heard every word on the CD and it soon become irritating. I did manage to put up with listening to it a few times but it didn't even make me feel remotely drowsy.
Ok, first off, I think the hypnosis CD is a load of old rubbish and has only served to strengthen my scepticism. That's my final word on that.
I found the book, on the whole, a very patronising and antagonising read. McKenna seems to talk down to the reader and at some points I even found his writing style erring on self-righteous.
A lot of the 'techniques' set out within the book I would have described as basic, simple common sense; things which I really don't need to read a book in order to discover. If you're the kind of person who needs to be told that you'll sleep better if your bed is comfortable and your bedroom dark you'll no doubt find it a real eye-opener, otherwise you'll be left wondering how the guy makes so much money writing rubbish like this.
At no point during reading the book did I find myself feeling drowsy (Bored, yes. Drowsy, no.), so the 'hypnotic language' clearly didn't have the desired effect on me, but perhaps like many things it's all in the mind and you have to therefore believe in it in order for it to work.
Despite my thoughts on the book I did try out the suggested techniques, and the only method that brought about any positive results for me was that set out in chapter 2, which I already knew to be effective before reading it in this book. Sadly this method relies on you having the willpower to get up early no matter how little sleep you've had, rather than just hitting the snooze button. And believe me, when you haven't got to sleep until after 5am, and the alarm goes off at 6am, that's no mean feat! It could also be said that when you rarely feel tired until well after your alarm goes off, waiting until you're tired to go to bed really isn't a viable option.
Putting aside whether or not any of the techniques are actually helpful, the majority of the book is completely unnecessary and it would benefit greatly from being condensed to just the short exercise, rules and summary sections from each chapter, without all the waffle in between.
Overall I found this book to be a complete waste of time and money, and I certainly couldn't bring myself to recommend it to anyone. However, judging by the numerous glowing reviews McKenna's books get, it would seem I'm in the minority. I just can't help feeling that those who have given this particular book good reviews must be very gullible people with not an ounce of common sense. Maybe it is just my scepticism that prevents his methods working for me, but I definitely won't be buying any more of his books.
I Can Make You Sleep is for people who have problems with sleep, be it problems falling asleep, constant wakings up or waking up too soon, this book sets out to help improve your sleep by explaining the importance of routine, and giving you tips on how to calm your mind, so you can fall asleep easily and get nights of "deep, refreshing sleep".
There are 9, easily understandable chapters in the book, each giving you advice on different aspects of sleep. The font is fairly large and there are many subheadings within each chapter, meaning you can choose to read the bits most relevant to you. A benefit of the many subheadings is that you can put the book down whenever you begin to feel tired or bored without having to wait to reach the end of the whole chapter. Once picking the book back up again, it's easy to find where you left off.
In the book Paul McKenna suggests various things you can do to improve your sleep drastically. Having read the book, I would say that the advice makes sense and has a good chance of helping with your sleep. Some of the exercises, however, are so specific that they are easy to forget and can be so overwhelming to just read, nevermind employ. Some of the suggested exercises, for me, were quite annoying and felt a bit silly (for example 'theatre of the mind' in which you have to imagine a stage and then an object and so on. When I was lying in bed trying this exercise I would get annoyed trying to remember exactly what I was supposed to do).
The information in the book is quite simple. A lot of the tips are common sense (i.e. don't have caffeine at night time and get up at a regular time) and a lot of the exercises are tedious. If I were to recommend this book it would perhaps only be to someone without access to the internet, as personally I think most of the information is easily found online.
However!!! The book comes with a free hypnosis CD, and this I have found absolutely invaluable. The CD is highly relaxing and 99 times out of 100 I fall asleep while listening to it (usually on my ipod). The only negative point of the CD is that it only lasts 20 minutes, and when you're wide awake this isn't enough. Once the CD has finished, I usually play it again and this time I usually fall asleep. I also sleep much better when I've fallen asleep to the hypnosis CD, waking up far fewer times during the night.
I couldn't be without my sleep hypnosis CD and as it came with the book, I would therefore recommend buying the book. I bought it for £10.99 from Waterstones but you can buy it for around £6 from amazon.co.uk.
If you can somehow get your hands on a copy of the CD without the book I would probably recommend you go for this option, as personally the book was of little benefit to me, and also quite boring to read. Other people may find value in it, though.
3 stars because the book didn't do it for me. If I could review the CD seperately it would be 5 stars.