I have a friend who can do two things that are so natural yet simultaneously so mystifying. First, he can fall asleep almost anywhere and I’ve seen him do it at random times of the day meaning it’s not his usual nap times. And second, he can eat almost anything. Got some leftovers? He’ll take 'em off your hands.
As a picky eater, the second one is almost impossible for me but the first one had intrigued me for a long time.
In 2019, I got curious about sleep to the point where I started to optimize my days around sleep. And I mean really optimize it. I started to do mindfulness exercises, decrease my screen time, exercise, and set up a routine before bedtime. All this combined led me to start sleeping better but the one thing that was still something unclear to me was just how to actually fall asleep quickly.
Falling asleep quickly
The simplest trick I learned was from a Youtube video that has been lost to the mountain of sleep videos on there but it went like this:
- While laying down, begin by calming your entire face, allowing your forehead, eyelids, jaw, and tongue to relax.
- Lower your shoulders and release your hands, rest them naturally by your sides.
- Breathe deeply, focusing on relaxing your chest with each inhale and exhale.
- When breathing, use the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It goes by first breathing in for 4 seconds through your nose, then hold for 7 seconds, and then blow out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Proceed to gradually relax your legs, starting from your thighs and continuing down to your calves, ankles, and feet. This is referred to as body scanning too.
Here's a video showing how to breathe using this technique:
You can almost ignore all of this and just focus on the breathing, as that's what really works for me, the breathing will feel weird but I've gotten down to falling asleep within a few short minutes of starting the breathing exercise.
This is also known as the military sleep method but I didn't learn it as such but while looking up information for this post, I found out about it.
Does it work anywhere at anytime?
Falling asleep in bed at night is pretty easy for most people since we're exhausted from the day but the real test is, can I fall asleep on the couch or on the plane using this technique? And for me, the answer is mostly yes so far. Some times I am so anxious or uncomfortable on a plane it's not possible but the couch is easy. With some calming background music, I can lay down and use this breathing technique and I'll be able to fall asleep in a few minutes.
Try it out yourself and let me know if it works for you!