I used to own sleeplessness as a part of my personal profile. Because I get up so early, retire so early and nap in between, I felt my complicated relationship with sleep was special. We’re on-again, off-again. Sometimes sleep turns into a total bitch and won’t even text me back. Sleep crank-calls me in the middle of the night and just breathes and stands me up on a regular basis.Then I met parents of toddlers, and talked to many other humans and realized it’s a universal thing. No one seems to get proper sleep. Few adults can count on sleep being there when they need it. And no one has an answer that fixes everyone’s reasons why. But I found one that’s working for me and I can hardly believe it’s true. It’s not a drug or a gizmo or an app or anything you have to look for or buy.
It’s called the Cognitive Shuffle. Created by Canadian cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin, it’s a solution for not being able to fall asleep, which is my main issue. I can lay awake for up to an hour or more before finally drifting off, even if I’m exhausted. I’ve tried meditating, counting sheep, relaxing my body one part at a time, listening to ocean sounds, and a few dozen other so-called sure-fire ways to shut myself down without success. So tell you how this works, already, right? Be prepared. It sounds ridiculous and impossible.
Choose a word. Any word. Then make words that start with the first letter of that word and picture that thing for a few seconds. So, take BIRD. B. Bacon. Button. Beard. And so on. Honestly, I barely have time to get to the second letter and I’m out. I have actually briefly thought, this isn’t going to work and then it’s the next morning.
How does it work? Beaudoin says the brain decides when it’s safe to fall asleep when the cortex isn’t involved in activities that make sense. In other words, if you’re not churning over worries, your brain will say – okay – you can sleep now, you’re safe. So, by occupying your brain with relatively benign nonsense, you tell the brain it’s okay to shut down. And while you’re thinking about bacon, you can’t simultaneously worry about a loan payment.
I went into this technique with total disbelief, entirely skeptical. And it worked on me like a charm. It has been effective every night since. I love it because it’s drug-free and I can even do it with a cat sleeping on my hand. If you have trouble falling asleep I can’t guarantee it will work, but there is literally no harm in trying it.