Falling asleep is a huge problem for many American adults. Roughly 70 percent of folks surveyed say that they don't get enough shut-eye, which could lead to a litany of huge problems. Brain function, the production of growth hormone, destruction of healthy eating habits, the effects of aging — all of these factors are affected by sleep or the lack thereof. Ask any high-profile athlete how important sleep is and they'll tell you: It's a big deal.
But some of us have a difficult time falling asleep, especially when it comes to stressing out over all of life's great disappointments, lurking fears, and general uncertainties. While it's easy for some people to just say, "let go", for many of us it's just not that easy. (Yes, Wood-Blossom, I've tried focusing on the positive. No, it doesn't stop my mind from running at a gajillion miles a minute as I worry about just how badly I'm getting screwed over by E-Z Pass.)
So how does one attain high-quality rest, in addition to packing in everything else we need to in a day? How does one "decompress" from our daily stresses?
Sharon Ackman posted a "military-tested trick" for falling asleep within 2 minutes on a Medium blog piece. There's probably not a single person in the world who deals with more stress than an active service member on duty, so these steps should do wonders for our more mundane problems, like wondering if Mike Wazowski winks or blinks.
Her entire piece reads like a very calming piece of self-soothing literature, and there's a wonderful cadence to her words that almost, by themselves, induce a bit of a soporific effect. But will the instructions she lists put you to sleep?
Sharon says that even "a humble seat" will do for when you need some shut eye, and if you're a frequent airline traveler, then this should be music (well, soothing music, like Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver") to your ears.
Step 1: Work with your area.
- Get as comfortable as you can where you're at, this can be a chair.
- Put your feet flat.
- Place your hands in your lap.
Step 2: Relax your face.
- Smooth out your forehead, don't furrow your brow.
- Loosen your jaw, cheeks, tongue, and mouth.
- Allow your face to go limp, until finally you do the same with your eyelids and let them shut.
Step 3 : Relax your upper body.
- Drop your shoulders down low.
- Gradually "deaden" all of the muscles, starting with your neck, go limp. Work your way down.
- Breathe in deeply, intermittently, and exhale slowly.
Step 4: Relaxing your arms.
- Start with your dominant side, relax your bicep (re-tense it if you have to to "reset") and then work your way down your forearm to eventually you get to your hand. The key is to methodically make every part in your body go limp.
- Repeat the same with your non-dominant arm side.
Step 5 - Do the same with your legs.
- Allow your dominant thigh to go limp.
- Then work your way down to your calf to "deaden" it.
- Last is your dominant foot.
- Do the same with your non-dominant leg.
Step 6: Clear your mind.
After all of your major muscles have gone limp and turned to "dead weight," the last thing to do is clear your mind by not thinking about anything. Sharon recommends even saying, "Don't think, don't think" for 10 seconds.
And voila! You'll have gone to sleep!
At least, that's according to this routine. Personally, I found this an over-simplification, but as someone who tries to pack as much as possible into a single day and who often has difficulty getting to sleep, even after trying melatonin, I wanted to try this for myself.
So I did and recorded the entire experience. (Don't worry, I used time lapse).
I did all of the steps several times, spending more than 120 seconds (I took about 8 minutes total) and while I was more relaxed at the end of the experiment, I didn't really start snoozing.
After checking the comments section of an Imgur post that featured Sharon's advice, it seems like a lot of people were critical of the military advice Sharon posted.
Perhaps soldiers are able to fall asleep more quickly because they've exhausted themselves more than the average human, and their body jumps at the opportunity to sleep if they're able to release the tension in their bodies? Maybe my own body is telling me, "hey you can't sleep yet, you haven't done anything today!"
Who knows. But have you tried this method? Has it worked for you?