Do you ever toss and turn at night, feeling betrayed by your personal herd of sleep sheep as you struggle to slip into dreamland? Being unable to fall asleep efficiently can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re constantly checking the clock. For some of us, it can take hours to fall asleep—and that means we’re missing out on some seriously precious restorative sleep time. With 35 percent of American adults clocking in fewer than seven hours a night, getting less sleep because we can’t shut down is unacceptable.
That’s why, to get more sleep, you should train yourself to fall asleep faster.
I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘If I could fall asleep faster, I would!‘, but hear me out. It is indeed possible to train yourself to fall asleep more quickly—just take it from the U.S. military.
“The U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School developed a scientific method to fall asleep day or night, in any conditions, in under two minutes,” writes to Sharon Ackman on Medium. “After six weeks of practice, 96 percent of pilots could fall asleep in two minutes or less. Even after drinking coffee, with machine gunfire being played in the background.”
Well, a 96 percent success rate is pretty enticing, so naturally you’ll want to try this magical technique on your own. In this technique, there are three major concepts to focus on to help you fall asleep quickly, no matter where you are. Let’s dig in to them, one by one. (To go more in depth into the technique, check out Sharon Ackman’s original piece on the subject in Medium.)
1. Let your limbs sink into the ground.
Imagine your body is hollow and sand is slowly being poured in. The weight of the sand sinks your joints deep into the earth as you let go of any muscular tension that’s holding them up. Let your shoulders and hips go loose and heavy. Let your spine sink into the earth.
This type of limb relaxation is essentially progressive muscle relaxation. If you’re unfamiliar with the technique, the video below can lead you through it. It will take you longer than two minutes at first, but eventually it will become as easy as imagining a soothing ocean wave washing all your tension away.
2. Relax your face.
This is key. Our faces hold on to incredible amounts of tension without our knowing. If you want to fall asleep quickly, you have to let that go. The face contains 43 unique muscles—and they all deserve a break once in a while.
Imagine the muscles in your face melting like little pools of warm butter. Start at your brow, and let the imaginary butter spread and pool over your face bit by bit, melting your tension away. You might even notice some muscles jump and twitch as they get reacquainted with relaxation. This is completely normal. Once your face is fully released, the rest should be easy.
3. Declutter your mind for just 10 seconds.
Okay, yes, it’s really hard not to think about anything, especially if you’re not a practiced meditator. But, in the words of Kimmy Schmidt, “A person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds.”
When you’re lying in bed, it can be tough to not think about what happened during the day, not think about what is going to happen tomorrow, and not existentially wonder what your place is in the universe. Be kind to yourself, and let rogue thoughts flow in and out, working towards 10 uninterrupted seconds of mental bliss where you have zero thoughts. (Mantras can be very helpful here if clearing your mind isn’t working.)
Since your body is already relaxed, that’s all you’ll need. If you play your cards right and practice a bit, you’ll soon be fast asleep.
That’s just a brief overview, but this technique is very similar to yoga nidra—the super restorative yoga that is renown for improving sleep. So regardless of whether you prefer to trust the ancient advice of yogis or the scientifically backed advice of the military, you’re in for a treat. It may take a week or two (or six) for your body to adjust, but keep with it. The payoff will be pretty sweet in the snooze department.
First appeared on care2.com