Trouble Falling Asleep? Try This. (You’re Welcome.)

A good night's rest is closer than you may think.

bobmadbob/Getty Images
bobmadbob/Getty Images

Let’s start with a confession: 70% of the time, I’m a great sleeper.  When bedtime rolls around, I’m usually tired enough that I can nod off without much to it.  And if I’m a passenger in a car I practically become narcoleptic and a terrible friend to my road trip buddies.  I love a good car nap.  

But the other 30% of the time, life can catch up with me and I’ll find myself awake, pouring over whatever it is that is causing me stress.  I imagine I’m not alone.  How many times have you laid in bed worried about money, a relationship, your child, or a problem at work? 

There is a cognitive scientist in Vancouver, Luc Beaudoin, who has a brilliant theory on how to fall asleep and for me it’s been life-changing. Not only does it help me fall asleep, but if I wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about the everyday stresses of life, this trick also helps me fall back to sleep.  

To simplify it, his theory is that when you are sleeping, your brain is not thinking in a way that’s linear – which is why when you dream so many things that may be a part of your life are jumbled up and make no sense. While you’re awake, your brain is thinking in a linear pattern (sense-making) so the best thing you can do to prepare you brain for sleep is to give it a “cognitive shuffle” and avoid linear thinking.  

How it works:

· Pick any word without repeating letters – for example, BIRD

· Start with the first letter, B, and think of 4-5 random objects that you can picture in your mind – baby, beans, box, ball….

· Move on to the second letter and do the same, then on to the next letter, etc

· If you find it really easy, think of a longer word to start with and then try to think of more items for each letter.

Since you’re creating a non-linear thought process and also thinking in images as opposed to concepts, your brain is much more in line with a typical sleep brain process than a waking brain process.

Luc, if you one day read this I hope I’ve done you justice. You’ve added so much good sleep to my life – thank you! 

Happy sleeping everyone! 

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