How to improve your sleep

I recently gave a Funzing talk on how to improve your sleep. A few attendees asked for a summary and so here are 10 main points.  I discuss all of this in depth in Night School, and will be giving another Funzing talk on the topic in London in June.

Avoid the blues: When your eyes are exposed to light, your brain produces less of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Light towards the blue end of the spectrum is especially stimulating and computer screens, tablets, smartphones and LED lighting all emit a lot of blue light. Try not to use these devices in the two hours before you go to bed. If you must use them, turn down the brightness or wear amber-tinted glasses designed to block blue light.

Avoid nightcaps: Although a small amount of alcohol helps you get to sleep more quickly, it also gives you a more disturbed night, increases the chances of snoring and disrupts dreaming. Don’t drink alcohol in the hours before bed.

Remember the 90-minute rule: Every night your brain goes through several 90-minute sleep cycles. You feel good if you wake up towards the end of a cycle because then you are closest to your normal waking state. To increase the chances of this, decide when you want to wake up and then count back in 90 minutes blocks to discover the best time to fall asleep. For instance, if you want to wake up at 8am, you should aim to fall asleep around either 11pm or 12.30am.


Distract yourself: Research suggests that you will fall asleep quickly if you tire your mind. Try counting backwards from 100 in threes. Or, if you’re not good with numbers, think of a category (countries or fruit and vegetables) and then come up with an example of that category for each letter of the alphabet. A is for Albania, B is for Bulgaria, or A is for apple, B is for banana, etc.

Condition yourself: Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov famously rang a bell each time he presented a dog with food, and eventually found that the sound of the bell alone was enough to make the dog salivate. The same concept can help you to fall asleep. Choose a soporific piece of music that you like, and fall asleep with it quietly playing. Over time, your brain will associate the music with sleep, and simply listening to it will help you nod off.

Get up!: If you’re awake for more than about 20 minutes during the night, get out of bed and do some form of non-stimulating activity, such as working on a jigsaw or a colouring book. This helps to prevent you associating your bed with sleeplessness. And if the problem arises later in the night, climb back out of bed and distract yourself again.

Relax: Lying awake makes many people feel anxious, and this anxiety disrupts their sleep even more, creating a vicious cycle. If you are struggling to sleep, remember that you are probably getting more sleep than you think (research shows that we all underestimate how much of the night we spend sleeping) and that just relaxing in bed is good for you.

Segmented sleep: Preindustrial diaries show that many people didn’t sleep in one solid block, but instead slept for about four hours, woke up for roughly an hour, and then slept for another four hours. The hour between the two periods was spent reading, chatting and having sex. Some researchers have argued that such “segmented sleep” might reflect a natural sleep pattern, and be good for the mind because the period of wakefulness helps to promote the production of a feelgood hormone called prolactin. Try embracing segmented sleep.

A version of these tips originally appeared in an article that I wrote for The Guardian.

London Talks

speaking3I have teamed up with Funzing and am doing London two talks, one about magic and the other about sleep. Just for today you can get a 22% discount using the code ’22funzingagain’ (limited availability)

Here are the details….

Magic and illusion: Step backstage and discover the secret science of sorcery. Learn the hitherto hidden psychology employed by some of the world’s greatest illusionists, how to misdirect the mind, and discover why the hand is rarely quicker than the eye.  It’s a show packed with illusions, misdirection and sleight of hand. Prepare to be amazed and amused.

4th May Book here

The science of sleep: Explore the new science of sleep and dreaming, find out the truth about  sleep-learning, and delve into the world’s largest archive of dream reports. Join Wiseman as he uncovers the power of the sleeping mind, revealing how you can get the perfect night’s sleep, decode your dreams, and improve your life without moving a muscle.

8th May Book here

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Quirkology videos!

longWe often get inquiries from people who want to use our Quirkology clips in talks, training seminars, and lessons.  As a result we have produced a downloadable pack containing 5 of the most requested psychology-based videos, including the world famous ‘Colour Changing Card Trick’. Purchase the pack and you are free to use the videos for talks and lessons (see terms and conditions at the end of this page).

The five videos are:

The Colour Changing Card Trick: The well-known video in which 95% of the visual scene is changed, and yet most people don’t spot the changes. The pack includes 2 versions – with and without music. Neither video has the ‘created by Richard Wiseman’ watermark present on the YouTube version.

The Test: An example of inattentional blindness, with people failing to see what’s in front of their eyes.

The Afterimage: See a black and white video in full colour!

The Witness: See an example of ‘slow change’ and discover whether you would make a good eyewitness!

The Card: Discover how your expectations shape your perceptions!

The file is in .zip format, and contains all 6 videos when uncompressed. All of the videos are produced in standard definition, in a 4:3 aspect ratio, in QuickTime .mov format, and in English.


“I am one of the Advanced Interviewing Program Managers within the United States Justice Department, and incorporate the “Color Card Changing Trick” in all my classes to teach the value of active listening with your eyes. It’s awesome!”
Janine Driver, Washington, DC

“The Quirkology clips are a fantastic teaching tool – they always generate lots of interest, initiate insightful discussions, and provide a real contribution to the learning experience of our students”
Randell Siow, Victoria School, Singapore

“Our team loved the “color changing card trick”. It provides an excellent demonstration of how often we focus on a challenge and overlook the opportunities that are right before our eyes.”
Hannah Ellis, Vice President of Marketing, Promark Financial, Santa Ana, CA

“Wiseman has created the most convincing demonstration of change blindness that I have come across. It is a fascinating teaching tool that shows how unaware we are of what’s right in front of us.”
Dr Paola Bressan, Psychologist, University of Padua, Italy

Terms and conditions

By downloading the clip you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions. We retain the copyright on all of the videos. The purchaser may use the videos in live presentations and talks, but cannot post them online (including intranet systems), show them on any broadcast media, or use them within a theatrical context. If the presentation is recorded, the videos cannot be shown as part of the recording. The videos cannot be altered, reproduced, distributed, incorporated into other products, or resold. The music cannot be used on any other videos or products. The videos are only licensed to the individual purchaser. Please contact us if you require a multi-user site-license.

To purchase, click here.