In the modern age, many people are overconnected and underrelaxed. The stimulation provided by twenty-four-hour access to phones, computers, and laptops have resulted in a plight on the sleep cycles of many. Over the counter medications can be useful but they can also be expensive and are often ineffective. For many, more time is spent trying to find a peaceful mindset to fall asleep than to actually do any sleeping. This is true in many parts of the world and for many different age groups, posing the universal question – how can I fall asleep quickly and effectively? This guide will tell you the answer.
The Military Method
Thinking too hard about falling asleep can further complicate your sleep cycle, pulling much needed shut eye away from you. Luckily, recent scientific studies have researched effective methods for falling asleep quickly and easily. The first and most popular technique to fall asleep quickly is referred to as “the military method.” This method was created and perfected by the United States Navy Pre-Flight School. The pilots practiced the method for about six weeks but found consistent results, even when caffeinated and with gunfire in the distance. Here’s how the military method works:
- Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth. Focus on relaxing until you’re completely at ease above your shoulders.
- Relax the rest of your body, dropping your shoulders and releasing the tension from your neck down. Every part of your core should be completely relaxed at this point.
- Exhale and relax your chest.
- Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
- Clear your mind. This should be done for about ten seconds. Imagine a relaxing scene, a place you want to be with people whom you love and trust.
- If you still need help relaxing, repeat a mantra to yourself such as the words, “don’t think.” Distracting your mind with repetition can help you relax.
- Within ten seconds of completing these steps, you should fall asleep.
This method may not work the first time you attempt it; it could potentially take a few weeks of training and practice before you’re relaxed enough to fall asleep when you should. If the technique is challenging for you, you’ll want to focus on your breathing and muscle relaxation.
A Surefire Breathing Technique
If you need help focusing your breathing to relax, try the 4-7-8 breathing method. This method combines the traits of mediation and visualization and becomes more effective the longer you practice. Though this method is effective, it’s not recommended for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD, as it may aggravate symptoms. To prepare, place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth – your tongue should not move from this position during the technique. Here’s what to do next:
- Part your lips and exhale with a whooshing sound.
- Close your lips and inhale slightly through your nose while counting to four.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale now for eight seconds.
- Repeat the cycle. Don’t be too alert, practice as mindlessly as you can.
- Compete the cycle for four breathes. Let your body sleep if sufficiently relaxed.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Now that you know how to properly breath in order to master the military method, here’s a guide to relaxing your muscles for the same purpose. This technique is known as “progressive muscle relaxation” and the core idea is to tense your muscles without straining them. After you tense, you’ll relax and release the tension you’ve built up, promoting a sense of tranquility in your body with the movement. This technique is especially helpful for those with insomnia. Go through the 4-7-8 breathing technique once before you start, in order to release some tension before the exercise. After you’ve finished the breathing technique:
- Raise your eyebrows as high as possible for five seconds. This movement should tighten the muscles in your forehead.
- Relax your muscles and feel the tension drop. Wait ten seconds.
- Give a big smile to create tension in your cheeks and hold for five seconds. Now relax.
- Pause for ten seconds.
- Squint with your eyes shut for five seconds, then relax.
- Pause ten seconds.
- Tilt your head back in a comfortable position and look at the ceiling. Hold for five seconds then relax.
- Pause ten seconds.
- Relax the rest of your body, from triceps to chest, thighs to feet.
- Relax into sleep, even if you never finish the tensing and relaxing process.
If the methods above didn’t work for you, there are still a few techniques you can try. The first is paradoxical intention, an odd but effective method which is super simple. All you have to do is tell yourself to stay awake. That’s it! Trying to force yourself asleep can trigger performance anxiety, especially those with insomnia, but telling yourself to stay awake can drastically reduce this feeling. Research has confirmed the effectiveness of paradoxical intention, as those who practice the technique fall asleep faster than average than those who don’t. Those who stress mightily about falling asleep on time and getting a good night’s rest are especially prone to sleep when using paradoxical intention.
Imagine a Dreamscape
Some people become too active when trying to fall asleep but are calmed by imagining a place where they feel safe and secure. Try picturing a natural landscape like a pasture or a field where there’s nothing to distract or stimulate you. A 2002 study from Oxford University showed that people who engaged in “imaginary distraction” fell asleep faster than those who relied on more traditional methods to get to sleep. You can imagine any place as long as it’s peaceful and serene. Firing your neurons in this way will keep your brain busy and focused on one image, which means you’ll fall asleep faster because you’re engaged on one relaxing topic.
You’re all out of ideas. You’ve tried the military method, and the breathing techniques, and the muscle relaxation, and even the paradoxical intention. There’s one last method for you to fall asleep quickly, though the research is not as concrete as the methods above. Acupressure works by targeting areas where you feel most tense, usually your upper nose and temples. Here are three processes within acupressure to help you fall asleep:
- Feel for the small, hollow space under your palm on your pinky side.
- Next, gently apply pressure in a circular movement for about three minutes.
- Press down on the left side of the point with gentle pressure, then hold the right side.
- Repeat this process on your other wrist.
Inner Frontier Gate
- With palm facing up, count three finger-widths down from your wrist crease.
- Using your thumb, apply pressure between the two tendons.
- Massage in a circular motion until you feel your muscles begin to relax.
- Interlock your fingers and open your palms to create a cup shape.
- Position your thumbs at the base of your skull, with thumbs touching the place where your head and neck connect.
- Apply pressure in a circular motion to the area.
- Breathe deeply and exhale, relaxing as you do so.
These are the best techniques for falling asleep quickly and easily. Though acupressure should only be attempted after the other techniques have been thoroughly practiced and exhausted, it has been known to help people fall asleep. Follow this guide carefully the next time you can’t sleep.