What do you do when you have a restless night and can’t get to sleep? If you’re like a lot of adults, you just think about how you can’t fall asleep or constantly recalculate how much sleep you’ll get if you drift off NOW. But it turns out, all that kind of thinking is getting in our way of actually getting to sleep. Cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin has come up with a trick he calls “cognitive shuffling” to break the cycle.
It’s all about thinking like a kid and he’s developed a method to help adults mimic the way children fall asleep. Sleep researchers have found that as people fall asleep, they experience visual images and “micro-dreams” that may help them drift off. But being in adult problem-solving mode may delay sleep, so we need to do more imagining, like kids do, to create these “micro-dreams.” And that’s where Beaudoin’s cognitive shuffling method comes in.
Here’s how to use it to fall asleep fast:
- Get in bed and get ready for sleep.
- Think of a random, emotionally neutral word with at least five letters, like bedtime or peach, and try not to pick a word with too many repeating letters, like banana.
- Slowly spell out the base word in your mind, then start with the first letter and think of another word that also starts with that letter. If your word is “peach,” think of words that begin with “p” and one at a time, imagine each item, focusing on it long enough to picture it in your mind before moving on to the next “p” word.
- Repeat it as many times as you can for each letter and when you run out of “p” words, move on to the next letter. If you choose a word you can’t easily imagine, ditch it and move on to the next letter.
- If you get through your base word without falling asleep, start over with a new base word.
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