For most of us, creating the right conditions for sleep is usually enough to ensure we get a good night’s rest. But what if these aren’t working? What do you do when you absolutely, positively have to get to sleep but can’t? 

So you’ve taken a bath and drank your tea. You’ve found the perfect room temperature. Your bedroom is rich with the heady scent of lavender candles. You’ve watched a video of goldfish bobbing around in a tank for 30 minutes. But you’re still awake. Well, now it’s time to roll out the big guns – the first of which is rather fittingly called The Military Method.

The Military Method

Now don’t be alarmed. Despite the name, it doesn’t involve deployment in a war zone – although this is where it was first developed. During World War II, generals and other commanders were concerned by the fatigue and stress caused to their troops by sleep deprivation. Turning to the specialists of the day, a new technique was developed that combines physical and mental relaxation. It’s said that this method guarantees sleep in around 90 seconds. Why not give it a try? There are 7 steps to the Military Method.

All you need to do is –

  1. Relax your entire face
  2. Drop the shoulders to release the tension
  3. Let your hands drop to the side of your body.
  4. Exhale, relaxing your chest.
  5. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
  6. Clear your mind for 10 seconds.
  7. Repeat the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds.

The 4-7-8 breathing method

Assuming you’re still awake, let’s take a look at another technique. This time, the focus is on breathing, and in particular creating a rhythm that will tip us over the edge into the realm of sleep. The 4-7-8 breathing method is a simple 5-step procedure that requires you to –

  1. Part your lips slightly and make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth.
  2. Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.
  3. Then hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Exhale for 8 seconds.
  5. Complete this cycle for four full breaths.

Work that body

Finally, let’s look at a practice known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation. The idea behind PMR is to tense (without straining) different muscle groups then relax. Using this method, you work your way through the body until the desired effect – sleep – is achieved. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Here’s how it’s done –  

  1. Tighten the forehead muscles by raising your eyebrows as high as possible for 5 seconds.
  2. Relax these muscles immediately and feel the tension drop. Pause for 10 seconds.
  3. Smile widely to create tension in the cheeks. Hold for 5 seconds then relax.
  4. Pause for 10 seconds.
  5. Squint with your eyes shut. Hold 5 seconds. Relax.
  6. Pause 10 seconds.
  7. Tilt your head back slightly so you’re looking at the ceiling. Hold 5 seconds. Relax as your neck sinks back into the pillow.
  8. Pause 10 seconds.
  9. Move systematically through the body – shoulders, triceps, chest, stomach, hips, thighs, calves and feet – applying the same tense / relax principle described above.

So there you have it. From the tip of your toes to the top of your head, you have some great ideas to get you started – or rather, get you to sleep. Sweet dreams!

PS – Looking to take a power nap rather than a full eight hours? Check out our guide here.