There are few things more frustrating in life than lying awake at 2am staring at the clock as it ticks forbodingly towards ‘getting up time’.
You have tried all the herbal teas, the steaming baths, the lavender scented pillows. And yet you still can’t nod off, no matter how exhausted you may be. Such nights can make your working day absolute torture as you wander around in a bleary fog.
However, bad sleepers everywhere can perhaps find hope in a sleeping method developed by the US Navy Pre-Flight School.
This scientific method more or less promises sleep in two minutes flat, even under the most stressful of situations.
Members of the military must of course learn to sleep during uncomfortable and sometimes traumatising situations. Furthermore, their jobs require them to remain alert during duty, able to think fast in dangerous situations.
It is therefore vital servicemen and women learn how to get a quality night’s kip, even during times when their peace is punctuated by gunfire and their bed is somewhat less than cosy.
Sharon Ackman, who writes about high performance for military, veterans and their families, wrote an article for Medium where she explained how 96 per cent of pilots could drift off in two minutes or less after just six weeks of practicing this method:
Imagine being able to fall asleep almost instantly. No matter how many things are going on around you, or how on edge you feel. Being able to block out all that background noise. Knowing how to slow down your body, switch off your mind, and give yourself permission to reset. Turning five minutes of downtime into guaranteed slumber.
Everything will be easier. Your mind will be clearer. Your decisions will be better. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll be able to push your body further, day after day.
While others are wriggling around, fixating on uneven terrain or the loud snorer, you’ll have a combat-tested system for sleep. One that will keep you sharp, constant, and on top of your game.
So what is this magical method and how do we non-Navy Seals draw from it? Well, according to sports performance book Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Lloyd Bud Winter, this tried and tested piece of military wisdom can be broken down into four distinct steps.
Alexa how do I beat insomnia
— habstrakt (@habstrakt) September 2, 2018
Firstly, the sleepy person must relax their facial muscles; including their tongue, jaw and the six muscles surrounding their eye sockets. Squinting and frowning are big no-nos as tension needs to leave your face.
Secondly, the wannabe sleeper should draw their focus to their shoulders; dropping them as far down as they can. They should then relax their upper and lower arms; first on one side, and then on the other.
The third step is to breathe out, relaxing the chest. Finally, the sleep-wanter should relax their legs; beginning with their thighs before moving down to their lower legs.
Sunday night insomnia strikes again.
— David Ames (@semadivad) September 2, 2018
After completing these four steps, the desirer of slumber must then spend a good ten seconds clearing away the clutter of their mind. Bud Winter suggests picturing one of three mental images in particular.
The first image is lying in a canoe on a serene lake, with a blue sky above you, while the second is being cuddled up in a black velvet hammock inside a completely dark room.
The third image is repeating ‘don’t think, don’t think, don’t think’ over and over for ten seconds. Although if you are sharing a bed, maybe keep your voice down a bit.
Follow your dreams
Unless you have insomnia
— Ben Porter (@eigenbom) September 1, 2018
Will you be giving this a go tonight? Share the results if you do.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.