Exercise 1

Listen to three people, Carlos, Marc, and Steph, who all have problems sleeping at night. What are the main reasons they give? Have any of them solved the problem?


Speaker 1 (Carlos)   Because his bedroom isn’t completely dark.

Speaker 2 (Marc)   Because he does shift work (one weeknights, the next weekdays).

Speaker 3 (Steph)   Because she takes a lot of long-haul flights.

None of them have really solved the problem.


I = interviewer, C = Carlos, M = Marc, S = Steph

1   Carlos

I    Why do you have problems sleeping?

 Well, I’m Mexican, but I moved to New York a few years ago when I married an American woman. I’ve been living here for three years now. I have a lot of problems falling asleep at night because our bedroom just isn’t dark enough. I can’t get used to sleeping in a bedroom where there’s light coming in from the streetlights outside. In Mexico, I always used to sleep in complete darkness because my bedroom window had blinds, and when I went to bed, I used to close the blinds completely. But here in New York, our bedroom window just has curtains, and curtains don’t block out the light enough. It takes me a long time to fall asleep at night, and I always wake up more often than I used to do in Mexico.

I    So why don’t you just get thicker curtains?

 Because my wife doesn’t like sleeping in a completely dark room. She says that she feels claustrophobic if the room is too dark.

I    Ah yes, some people do feel like that.

2   Marc

I      Why do you have problems sleeping?

M   Well, I’m a police officer, so I have to do shift work, which means I work at night every other week, so I start work at 10 o’clock at night and finish at 6:00 in the morning the following day. The main problem is that my body’s used to sleeping at night, not during the day. So it’s really hard to get used to being awake all night and trying to work and concentrate when your body is just telling you to go to bed.

I      But isn’t it something you eventually get used to?

 Actually no, because I work during the day for one week and then the next week I work at night – which means that just when my body has gotten used to being awake at night, then I go back to working in the day and then of course I can’t get to sleep at night because my body thinks it’s going to have to work all night.

The other problem is that when I get home after working a night shift, everyone else is just starting to wake up, so that means that it can be really noisy. The neighbors play the radio, and bang doors, and shout to wake their children up. So even though I’m really tired, it’s just really hard to get to sleep.

I      How many hours do you usually sleep?

M   Before I became a police officer, I used to sleep about eight or nine hours a night, but I think now I probably don’t sleep more than six hours.

3   Steph

  Why do you have problems sleeping?

S   I have a lot of problems sleeping because of jet lag. I have to travel a lot in my job, and I take a lot of long-haul flights. I fly to New York quite often and I arrive maybe at 6:00 in the evening my time, but when it’s only one o’clock in the afternoon in New York. So at 5:00 in the afternoon New York time, I’ll be feeling tired and ready for bed because it’s my bedtime, but I can’t go to sleep because I’m probably still working or having dinner with my American colleagues. Then when I do finally get to bed at, say, midnight, I find that I wake up in the middle of the night because my body thinks that it’s morning, because it’s still working on UK time.

  And can you get back to sleep when you wake up?

S   No, that’s the problem. I can’t get back to sleep. And then the next day, when I have meetings, I feel really sleepy. It’s very hard to stay awake all day. And just when I’m finally used to being on New York time, then it’s time to fly back to the UK. And flying west to east is even worse.

  Oh! Why’s that?

S   Because when I get off the plane, it’s early morning in the UK. But for me, on New York time, it’s the middle of the night. It takes me four or five days to recover from one of those trips.

  Wow! That must be really difficult for you.

S   Yeah, it is.

Exercise 2

A. You’re going to listen to a podcast by sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley. First, how you think he might complete sentences 1-8 below about his bedtime routine. Now listen to the podcast and fill in the blanks with a word or number. What kind of person do you think he is?

1   I sleep in a different _________ from my partner.

2   I sleep under natural _________.

3   I’m obsessive about _________.

4   I sleep with the _________ open.

5   I don’t have _________ late.

6   I drink _________ in the evenings.

7   I need _________ hours of sleep.

8   I __________________ before going to sleep.

B. Listen again. Then explain Dr. Stanley’s reasons, using the prompts below.

 Because then you don’t…

 Because you don’t sleep well if…

 Because it’s really important to…

 Because you need…

 Because your body…

 Because he isn’t…

 Because that’s the amount…

 Because it’s his way of…



1 bedroom   2 materials   3 pillows   4 window   5 dinner

6 coffee   7 9.5   8 read a book


1   get disturbed / have to listen to your partner snoring.

2   you’re really hot, and cotton is cooler.

3   sleep in the right position.

4   fresh air, even if it’s cold outside.

5   will still be digesting the meal when you go to bed.

6   affected by caffeine.

7   that’s right for him; everybody needs a different amount.

8   relaxing before going to sleep.


I know a lot about sleep. I’ve been involved in sleep research for over 36 years. I call myself a sleep expert, and I think that if you are going to give advice about sleep, you should follow your own rules. So here are some things you should know about my sleep habits.

Number 1: I sleep in a different bedroom from my partner.

Everyone should sleep alone. It’s much better, if you can, to have your own room. You can wake refreshed, rather than be angry because your partner snored all night. My partner wasn’t offended when I suggested we had separate rooms. In fact, she found she slept much better. Apparently, I make funny noises in my sleep.

Number 2: I sleep under natural materials.

I wouldn’t dream of getting into a bed made with hot, sweaty, man-made fibers. If you’re really hot, it’s hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is why we turn over at night – not just to relieve pressure, but to find a cool spot. To sleep well, we need to lose one degree of body temperature, and cotton is excellent at keeping us cool.

Number 3: I’m obsessive about pillows.

Pillows are really necessary for good sleep. It’s essential that your body is in the right position, and a pillow should fill the gap between your shoulder and neck, to keep the neck and spine aligned when you lie on your side. I have two pillows because I’m tall and that works for me, but if one pillow holds you in the correct position, that’s fine, too. I wash my pillows every six months and dry them outside.

Number 4: I sleep with the window open.

Fresh air is good for sleep, and a build-up of carbon dioxide disturbs it. It’s the warmth under the comforter that’s important, not the warmth of the room. So keep your bedroom door open, and open the window at least a centimeter every night, all year round. Even if it’s minus 5 degrees, I keep the window open, and curl up with a hot-water bottle.

Number 5: I don’t have dinner late.

I prefer to eat before 7 p.m. If you have a large meal too close to bedtime, your body will still be working to digest it, and not resting. Eating your main meal three or four hours before bed is ideal.

Number 6: I drink coffee in the evenings.

After dinner in a restaurant, I will happily order an espresso. Many people are insensitive to caffeine. Unless you know that you are sensitive to caffeine, it’s actually the worrying that you’ve drunk caffeine that keeps you awake, not the caffeine itself.

Number 7: I need 9 and a half hours of sleep.

It’s a myth that you need an average of eight hours of sleep. Sleep need is genetic – some people might need four hours, others eleven. The right amount of sleep for you is something you can figure out based on how many hours you need to feel alert during the day. That figure stays the same for you throughout your life. I always wake up at the same time early every morning, so to get the amount of sleep I need, I know I need to be in bed by 9:30 p.m.

Number 8: I read a book before going to sleep.

Everyone should have a way to relax before going to sleep. I read a non-thrilling book, often short stories, or a book with short chapters. You don’t want something where every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, because that makes you want to read on.

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