I can say, without shame, that I am obsessed with sleeping. I write, read and think about it more than one should. I frequently suffer from mild bouts of insomnia so anything that promises me faster slumber times, I'm willing to try. Having some forced downtime the past month has made my sleeping habits go haywire, so when a viral hack resurfaced that promised I'd be counting zzz's in two minutes, I was all ears...
This technique is one the US military uses to get pilots to sleep – fast – when they need shut-eye. As we know, tiredness can be extremely dangerous – The Road Safety Authority says driver fatigue is a factor in one-in-five driver deaths in Ireland – never mind if you're in a combat situation where lives could be at risk.
And we know letting fatigue get on top of us is harmful to our mental and physical wellbeing.
Related: Always craving more sleep? These 5 signs mean you're not getting enough
The military brought in an expert named Bud Winter to develop and test a scientifically designed method of "teaching" sleep. Winter was previously a successful college football coach who had collaborated with a psychology professor to form techniques to help athletes relax and excel under pressure.
The relaxation hack Winter designed apparently worked (he even wrote a book about it): after just six weeks of practice, 96 per cent of pilots could fall asleep within 120 seconds. Even with distractions in the background, after drinking coffee or from a sitting position.
How does it work?
Winter offered the following pointers:
1. Relax the muscles in your face – that means your tongue, jaw and the muscles in the eye area.
2. Drop your shoulders as low as you can then relax your upper and lower arm on one side, then the other.
3. Breathe out, relax your chest and then your legs, moving from your thighs to your lower legs.
After ten seconds in this relaxed state, you need to clear your mind. So, for example, you could:
– Picture yourself lying in a canoe on a calm lake with nothing but blue sky above you.
– Picture yourself snuggled or cocooned in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room.
– Repeat the words ‘don’t think, don’t think, don’t think’ in your mind for ten seconds. In particular, avoid any thoughts involving movement as these thoughts can actually prompt involuntary movement in your body. You may not realise it, but just thinking about something moving can cause micro-contractions in certain muscles.
And that's it.
Practice makes perfect, but a few weeks training your body and mind to do this relaxation technique and long nights wide-eyed and fretting should be a thing of the past.
Main photograph: Pexels
Related: Can't sleep? Here are some natural ways to help combat insomnia
Related: Night-time habits: Do you twitch right before you fall asleep?