All those who find that trying to sleep stops you from sleeping, say I. It’s hardly surprising. The more aware of the fact that we’re still no closer to nodding off, the more stressed we’ll feel, and thus the less likely we are to finally fall asleep. This kind of consciousness encompasses everything from meditation – is it really possible to meditate with a mammoth task like sleeping ahead? – to counting sheep – a method that, if not for its utterly boring nature, but for the fact that it’s associated with sleep only, is a fast track to failure.
Add to these ineffective techniques the anxiety that comes with a worldwide pandemic, and 1 in 4 of us now suffer with insomnia.
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But Canadian cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin says the “cognitive shuffle” could be the secret to a solid eight hours of shut-eye. The goal is to mimic the way children fall asleep, by filling the brain with nonsense; if our mind is aware, chances are it’s thinking about some kind of conscious worry or anxiety. We want to switch these off. Here’s how to do it.
- Get yourself ready for sleep and into bed.
- Think of a random, emotionally neutral word with at least five letters. Beaudoin gives ‘bedtime’ as an example, but others could include ‘chair’, ‘wardrobe’ or ‘socket’.
- Start to spell out the word in your mind, and as you go through each letter, think of as many words that start with that letter as you can. For example, if you went with bedtime, you might think of a bear for ‘b’. Imagine the item that you’ve thought up, and linger on it long enough to create a clear picture. Then release that image from the mind and move onto the next letter.
- Repeat this as many times as you can for each letter, and if you find yourself at a loss, just skip it and go to the next letter.
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Before you know it, Beaudoin says you’ll be out like a log. The trick is in ensuring you’re imagining things that don’t have any emotional attachment to them. For example, the word ‘mortgage’ is likely to conjure up a whole host of fears, with a capital F. Likewise, ‘boyfriend’ is probably going to bring back some sensitive memories – good or bad.
Still struggling? Give Beaudoin’s mySleepButton app a go – it’s free, and will act as a good guide while you get to grips with the practice, and check out GLAMOUR’s guide to fixing your sleep pattern. Sweet dreams.