The Military Sleep Method

5 min read

The military sleep method is a tried and trusted technique to help you fall fast asleep, quickly and safely. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we need about eight to ten hours of sleep every night. Many of us don’t get the required amount, which can have many consequences on our physical and mental health. Distractions such as phones and electronic devices can add to our anxiety and sleeplessness. There are many scientific reasons why it might be hard for you to get to sleep at night, but what do we do when we are in bed, wide awake at 3am? Maybe the military sleep method could help you? But first, let’s find out what is it and where it came from.

The military sleep method

The military method was reportedly developed by the U.S. Navy during World War II when fighter pilots started making avoidable mistakes due to lack of sleep. The issue was that they were stressed and couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep.

To address this need, the Navy developed a method that allegedly helped 96 per cent of pilots fall asleep in two minutes or less, even with loud distractions and caffeine in their systems. Though the studies aren’t publicly available, the method itself was featured in “Relax and Win: Championship Performance” a 1981 book by Bud Winter and Jimson Lee, and has been spreading far and wide ever since.

How to use the military method to fall asleep

The military method has a few steps, but the overall idea is to relax your body inch by inch, starting at your head and working your way down to your toes. 

  1. Relax the muscles in your face. Your face is probably holding way more tension than you realise. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and relax your forehead, jaw, mouth, eyelids and tongue.
  2. Loosen your upper body. Now move down to your neck and shoulders, letting all the muscles relax. Make sure your shoulders are not tensed up so drop them as low as you can. Let your arms go limp, starting at your bicep and working all the way down to your fingers.
  3. Exhale slowly. Now take a deep breath and slowly exhale, relaxing your chest and your stomach.
  4. Relax your lower body. Continue down your body, now focusing on releasing any tension in your thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet. Imagine your whole body is getting heavier and sinking into your bed or chair.
  5. Clear your mind. Try visualizing yourself lying on a comfortable couch in a dark room or envision yourself lying in a canoe on a calm lake with clear blue sky above you. If your mind is still racing, slowly repeat to yourself, “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.”

And that’s it! This method is supposed to help you fall asleep within two minutes, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you right away. Keep trying for a few weeks and see what effect it has on your sleep.

If you still struggle with falling asleep, then here are some other helpful ideas to help you sleep.

Keep regular sleep hours

Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you’re likely to feel tired and sleepy.

Create a restful sleeping environment

Your bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest and sleep. Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that your bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep. If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often disturbs you in the night.

Make sure your bed is comfortable

It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that’s too small or old.

Exercise regularly

Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day. But make sure you do not do vigorous exercise, such as running or the gym, too close to bedtime, as it may keep you awake.

Cut down on caffeine

Cut down on caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks or colas, especially in the evening. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep and also prevents deep sleep. Instead of an early evening tea or coffee, try a warm, milky drink or herbal tea instead.

Do not over indulge

Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night. 

Do not smoke

Nicotine is a stimulant. People who smoke take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently and often have more disrupted sleep.

Try to relax before going to bed

Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax your mind and body. Your GP may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation CD.

Write away your worries

If you tend to lie in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, set aside time before bedtime to make plans for the next day. The aim is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep. You can also pray and remember what Paul told us about worries.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

If you cannot sleep, get up

If you cannot sleep, do not lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.

The Glorify App has lots of great resources, like blogs, playlists and spoken word devotionals to help you in your sleep journey. You can download it here.

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