So, you’re looking for a method that teaches you how to fall asleep fast when you can't sleep? Well, you’re in luck because there’s one proven technique that’s beyond simple and can help you go from scheming to dreaming like *that*. In fact, it was initially developed to help soldiers go to sleep instantly in wartime conditions on any terrain, in any position. Luckily for you, you have the added convenience that you sleep in a comfortable bed in a room set up just how you like it! It can get you going to sleep in no time.
How to fall asleep faster?
(Feel free to skip down to Step 1 if you’re not interested in a fascinating story)
This simple-but-brilliant method was developed during World War II by Lloyd “Bud” Winter, a researcher and college track coach who had worked on techniques to help athletes relax and perform better under pressure. His techniques were so successful that the military asked him to lead a research team at the Del Monte Naval Pre-Flight School in California. What they developed was a system for aviators to relax and lower their stress levels so it could make going to sleep easier and fly better. Falling asleep faster, especially in their adverse conditions, was important for remaining focused, attentive, and most especially, safe. And it worked brilliantly. He eventually wrote about his method in his 1981 book Relax and Win: Championship Performance and it goes a little somethin’ like this:
Here’s The Gist of the Method
You’re going to focus on each part of your body separately — really focusing on each muscle — and take a step-by-step approach to winding everything down. You start at the top and move to the bottom, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, physically relaxing your body before you shush your mind. It’s all about control, slowing down, and clearing away stressors. This is what helps you fall asleep in five minutes or less.
When you can't sleep, lay down, fluff that pillow, get comfortable, and prepare to try to fall asleep fast. This is broken down into four easy steps, but let each one take some time and focus. It gets easier with practice, and if you’re consistent, you can get to sleep under 120 seconds!
Close your eyes and begin (not yet though, wait until you read the rest of the article).
Step 1: Up Top
The first step to try to fall asleep fast - you’ll start with all 43 muscles in your face and let them have a break ‘cause it’s the end of the day and they’ve been working since you got up this morning. Close your eyes and take a deep, slow breath. On the exhale, let yourself feel each and every muscle relax. Really think about each muscle as you go along.
Allow your forehead to smooth, your ears to droop, your eyes to roll back and relax into their sockets. Let each muscle disengage — picture it happening every step of the way. Your mental image should be a puddle of room temperature, soft Jell-o. Take another deep breath and work your way through your tongue, cheeks, your jaw.
You’re doing great, even with your eyes open if you try to relax your muscles as you read through you will feel much better.
Step 2: The Middle (where the stress accumulates)
Okay! Once you’ve relaxed the muscles in your face it’s time to release the tension of of the day’s stresses — starting from your shoulders. Try rolling them back once or twice, then let them drop low and sink into your mattress. Imagine that your bed is made of warm sand, just soft enough that you sink two-thirds of the way into it. Feel your neck muscles sink into your pillow, loose and relaxed, your face above ground, your back cradled.
With each muscle grouping, take a slow, deep breath (try four seconds in, seven seconds holding, eight seconds out). This helps lower your heart rate and prepare you for slumber.
As you let your arms go limp, briefly picture each part — your fingers, hands, wrists, forearm, biceps, and triceps — softening. This sort of focusing exercise can be very meditative and help put your mind at ease. And if at first it seems tedious and droll, remember that at this point you’re more than halfway there already!
Step 3: Bottom half
Now you’ve just got the bottom half of your body to go. Let your pelvic bone and lower back muscles go. You don’t need ‘em anymore tonight. No more gyrating or swiveling. Feel your thighs relax, first your dominant side, then the opposite. Work your way down and really visualize everything — yes, everything — relaxing and sinking. Your calves, ankles, feet… you’re almost there!
Step 4: Clear Your Mind with the Three Peaceful Settings
Now that you’re physically relaxed and fully inside of your mental cocoon, your muscles soft and warm and done working for the day, you’re ready to slowly take it back upstairs and quiet your restless brain. Part of what works so well in this quick sleep method is that while you focus on relaxing each and every muscle in your body, you’re also actively shifting the focus away from whatever’s on your mind.
The only step left is to clear your mind for a full ten seconds. It’s that simple! Honestly, though, this can be the most difficult part of the routine — maybe even the most difficult part of your day, if you’re stressed about what tomorrow has in store or when you can’t sleep, this isn’t the time for worrying.
Let your mind relax, you’ve earned it! Your pal Bud Winter suggests deeply envisioning of one of three specific things;
- You are lying on your back in a velvet hammock in a pitch-black room. The modernist version of this might be laying in a sensory deprivation tank (or floating through space).
- You are relaxing in a canoe on a calm body of water with nothing above you but blue skies to the horizon.
- Say to yourself (not out loud, silly) the phrase “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” repeatedly for 10 seconds. If a stray thought should enter your headspace, acknowledge it with a mental nod and let it float away til tomorrow.
And that’s it! You’re asleep now but when you wake up you’ll be thankful that you now know the #1 tip on going to sleep quickly!
This revolutionary but relatively simple technique really works. According to Bud, “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." Hopefully your bedtime situation is a bit more peaceful than that, and certainly you should be curbing your evening caffeine intake (and keeping to other good bedtime rituals), but this method is by far the simplest and most effective way for going to sleep quickly and can train your brain to try to fall asleep in 5 minutes.