We all know how frustrating it can be when we can't sleep at night. Tossing and turning for hours? Mind feel like it’s racing? You’re not alone. We all struggle with falling asleep from time to time, but when this seems to become a nightly occurrence, it’s time to find a solution! Our scientifically proven tips below should help get you back on track.
The Military Method was created by a Navy Pre-Flight School with the aim of helping pilots fall asleep within 2 minutes, this method is tried and tested. After 6 weeks of practising it was said that 96 percent of the pilots could fall asleep within two minutes or less. Try it yourself by doing the following:
- Relax your entire face. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Then slowly relax all of your face muscles. (If it helps, start with your forehead muscles and work your way down.) Relax your jaw, your cheeks, your mouth, your tongue, everything. Including your eyes; let them go.
- Bring your shoulders and hands down to create a sense of ease. Relax your neck, and let go of any tension. Let your body sink into the chair or bed. Again, start at the top of the right arm, and slowly relax the biceps, forearms, and hands. Repeat on the other side. And don't forget to maintain slow, deep breaths as you go through this process.
- Exhale and relax your chest. With your shoulders and arms relaxed, that should be easy.
- Relax your legs. Start with your right thigh; let it sink into the chair or bed. Then do the same with your calf, ankle, and foot. Repeat the process with your left leg.
- Now clear your mind. Granted, it's hard to not think about anything. (I end up thinking about not thinking about anything.) If that's you, try holding an image in your mind. Choose something relaxing. Picture yourself lying comfortably in darkness. But if that doesn't work ...
- Try repeating the words "Don't think" for 10 seconds. If nothing else, that should help distract you from thinking about whatever it is that might otherwise keep you awake.
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Meditation has been shown to be an effective way to fall asleep immediately. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that participants who meditated for 20 minutes before bed fell asleep faster than those who did not meditate.
There are many different ways to meditate (apps like Headspace and Calm are great), but one simple way to do it is to focus on your breath. Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and simply breathe in and out slowly. You may find it helpful to count each breath. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique in which you systematically tense and then relax different muscle groups in your body.
There is evidence that PMR can help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. A study of people with insomnia found that those who practised PMR before bedtime fell asleep more quickly and slept for longer periods of time than those who did not practice PMR.
To do progressive muscle relaxation, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Start by tensing the muscles in your toes for a count of 10, then relax them. Work your way up through the different muscle groups in your body, tensing and relaxing each one for a count of 10. It may take some practice to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll be able to fall asleep quickly and easily.
The theory behind paradoxical intention is that by trying to fall asleep, you actually increase your anxiety and make it harder to do so. So, the thinking goes, if you can train your brain to not try so hard to sleep, you may be able to fall asleep more easily.
There are a few different ways you can go about this. One way is to set an alarm for a specific time that you want to wake up, then start counting backwards from that time until you fall asleep. For example, if you want to wake up at 7am, you would count backwards from 7am until you drift off to sleep.
Another way to use paradoxical intention is to focus on keeping yourself awake instead of trying to fall asleep. This may sound counterintuitive, but again, the thinking here is that by not trying so hard to sleep, you may be able relax enough to actually do so.
So how well does paradoxical intention work? A 2010 study found that this technique was helpful for people with insomnia. But it’s important to remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another.