The fastest way to sleep?
Spending more time trying to fall asleep rather than actually sleeping? You’re not alone.
Just the act of trying too hard can cause (or continue) a cycle of anxious, nerve-wracking energy that keeps our minds awake.
And if your mind can’t sleep, it’s really difficult for your body to follow. But there are scientific tricks you can try to flip the switch and guide your body into a safe shut down mode.
We cover some science-based tricks to help you fall asleep faster.
How to sleep in 10 seconds
It usually takes a magic spell to fall asleep this quickly and on cue, but just like spells, with practice you can eventually get to the sweet 10-second spot.
Note: The method below takes a full 120 seconds to finish, but the last 10 seconds is said to be truly all it takes to finally snooze.
The military method
The popular military method, which was first reported by Sharon Ackerman, comes from a book titled “Relax and Win: Championship Performance.”
According to Ackerman, the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School created a routine to help pilots fall asleep in 2 minutes or less. It took pilots about six weeks of practice, but it worked — even after drinking coffee and with gunfire noises in the background.
This practice is said to even work for people who need to sleep sitting up!
The military method
- Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
- Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.
- Exhale, relaxing your chest.
- Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
- Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.
- If this doesn’t work, try saying the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds.
- Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep!
If this doesn’t work for you, you may need to work on the foundations of the military method: breathing and muscle relaxation, which have some scientific evidence that they work.
Keep reading to learn about the techniques this military method is based on and how to practice them effectively.
60 seconds: The 4-7-8 technique
This technique is a breathing exercise designed by Dr. Andrew Weil. This method was developed according to an early yogic pranayama (breathing technique), which helps people control their breathing and reactions.
If you practice this exercise every day, it will help you relax in no time — making it easier for you to fall asleep, even in only 60 seconds. Here’s how to do it:
- First, separate your lips and exhale completely through your mouth.
- Then close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. While doing this, count to 4.
- Hold that breath for 7 seconds and relax.
- Then exhale completely making a whooshing sound for 8 seconds.
60 seconds: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Some people also call it deep muscle relaxation, but the benefits are the same: you fall asleep quickly. It consists of repeatedly tensing and relaxing the muscles. The technique was developed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s. He believed that physical relaxation leads to a calm mind. Let us guide you.
- Tense your arms for 5 seconds. Then relax for 10 seconds.
- Tense your forehead. Relax.
- Tense your eyes and cheeks. Relax.
- Tense your mouth and jaw. Relax.
- Tense your neck. Relax.
Repeat this tightening-relaxing technique with the rest of your body until even your toes are relaxed, that is, if you’re not already asleep yet!
How to fall asleep in 120 seconds
If the previous methods still didn’t work, there might be an underlying blockage you need to get out. Try these techniques!
Tell yourself to stay awake
Also called paradoxical intention, telling yourself to stay awake may be a good way to fall asleep faster.
For people — especially those with insomnia — trying to sleep can increase performance anxiety.
Research has found people who practiced paradoxical intention fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. If you often find yourself stressed out about trying to sleep, this method may be more effective than traditional, intentional breathing practices.
Visualize a calm place
If counting activates your mind too much, try engaging your imagination.
Some say that visualizing something can make it real, and it’s possible this works with sleep, too.
In a 2002 study from the University of Oxford, researchers found that people who engaged in “imagery distraction” fell asleep faster than those who had general distraction or no instructions.
Prepare yourself fully before tackling these techniques
If you’ve tried these methods and are still finding yourself unable to fall asleep in two minutes or less, see if there are other tips you can take to make your bedroom a more sleep-friendly place.
Have you tried
- hiding your clock
- taking a warm shower before bed
- opening the window to keep your room cool
- wearing socks
- a gentle 15-min yoga routine
- placing your phone far away from your bed
- aromatherapy (lavender, chamomile, or clary sage)
- eating earlier to avoid stomach digestion or stimulation before bed
If you find the atmosphere in your room to be damaging to your sleep, there are tools you can use to block out the noise. Literally.
Try investing in blackout curtains, white noise machines (or listening to music with an auto-stop timer), and ear plugs.
On the other hand, sleep hygiene, or clean sleep, is real and effective.
Before you truly take on the military method or 4-7-8 breathing, see what you can optimize to your bedroom for soundless slumber.
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