Here's a tip for falling asleep. I don't think you'll see it anywhere else. It goes like this: Don't think words.

By that I mean don't imagine conversations that you plan to have, and don't replay in your head conversations you've had.

It's impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts. But I find it somewhat easy to switch off the language center of my brain. What happens after that is a flow of images, starting with ones that make some sense to my current life, quickly followed by randomness, then sleep. It usually takes less than a minute.

Let's say something is bugging you, or fascinating you, and the thought is keeping you awake. I'll bet that in those situations you're obsessed with the verbal elements of your problem. You're imagining what you will say to someone, or how you will explain yourself, or maybe what words someone else chose when annoying you.  To fall asleep, don't abandon the troublesome topic, because you probably can't. Just picture the situation in images alone. That will satisfy the part of you that can't let go of the problem while putting you on the sleep trajectory.

To be fair, I have no idea if this method will work for you. It's just something I discovered that works for me.

My wife hates my ability to sleep just about anywhere. Yesterday I dropped off for a few minutes during the new movie Paul. I would have awakened in ten minutes on my own, refreshed and ready to drive home. But that plan went off the rails when Shelly decided it would be funny to slap me in the chest and see what I would do if I woke up suddenly to a loud action sequence in the movie. I'm told it was hilarious.

Anyway, if you try my sleep tip, let me know if it works for you.

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +85
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Aug 18, 2011
I've been using this technique since I read about it on this site in March and it's surprisingly effective. I used to have magazines and relaxing music on my night stand but I've quit using it entirely. Now I just fall asleep in a few moments.
I'm also better rested in the morning and wake up earlier, I guess it's because I reach deep sleep sooner.
Thank you very much, Scott!
Apr 25, 2011
i discovered this technique to reduce depressed state of mind. I call this a "stop telling stories". When past failure or disappointments takes over me. I just switch off my self talk
Apr 4, 2011
These are great ideas. I generally can fall asleep if I just try to view whatever is going on "behind my eyelids". My imagination makes up something from the minor cues/variations in what my eyes or brain perceives, and soon I'm asleep.

Scott - what you are doing sounds like a possible specific instance of Neuro Linguistic programming. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-linguistic_programming) has an interesting entry on it, including discussion of the criticisms of it, but I still find it fascinating. A book I found very interesting on the subject was "Using your Brain for a Change", which is listed as number 67 in the references in the wikipedia entry.
Mar 30, 2011
I have been using this kind of technique for years, and thought I was very clever for discovering it. I would describe my method as focusing on any image that comes to you. It is extremely difficult to hold an image, so then allow it to change to another, but keep focus on that image.

However, the advice to avoid words is not only more succinct and clever, but it also explains why this technique works so well. I bow to Scott's superior nerdiness.
Mar 30, 2011
For me, it's just the opposite. To sleep, I need to avoid imagining emotionally-charged situations, visually-interesting things, or anything with a kinetic sense. Imagined conversations are perfect for falling asleep to.
Mar 28, 2011
This works for me. I am deeply deeply grateful. I have struggled with insomnia for most of my life and this is the first thing (besides drugs) that has worked. Thank you.
Mar 28, 2011
Reading this post helped too.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 23, 2011
works great!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 22, 2011
To get my mind off the troublesome things when trying to sleep I read comic strips.

And since I'm a geek I don't read them on paper with the lights on like normal people would, but on an old iBook. The images are rotated by 90 degrees so I can lie down and just tap on the touchpad to flick through the strips till I fall asleep.

Conincidentally I just finished reading all 7000 Dilbert strips last night. One-gag-a-day strips work better since there are no story arcs that keep you awake. It has to be a strip that's interesting and funny enough to keep you focused, otherwise you just glance over it and drift away, back to the worries of the day.

I'm doing that for a couple years now and it works like a charm for me. No side effects so far, I just dreamt about a comic one single time and that was actually a hilarious mash-up of comic and real life (an antropomorphic squirrel was selling me car parts)...
Mar 22, 2011
This actually sort of worked for me last night. As far as I remember, I fell asleep faster and slept more soundly than I have in a while.
Mar 22, 2011
I tried it - but I couldn't stop the music. Was able to stop myself from thinking in words. To get myself to stop thinking about words in the song I switched to classical - but the music just wouldn't stop. I tried just rhythmic type music, like drum beats - but it quickly turned to melody.
Mar 22, 2011
There is a name for this technique. It is called image streaming. The technique is detailed in the book The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger. A kind of New Agey book teaches this to unlock hidden meanings and potential from the subconscious mind. However, it is cautioned in the book that unless precautions are taken it is a sure way to drop off to sleep quickly.
Mar 22, 2011
I'd like to say I knew what it was like, putting my head on my pillow and relaxing to go to sleep in bed. Sadly I don't know as when I lie down I am pretty much asleep before my head hits the pillow. *simpers smugly*

I guess I resultingly have a lot of enjoyment of the hypnopompic state. I love lying in bed waking up slowly if possible - perhaps listening to my son who sings to himself in bed in the next room. But hypnagogic? Foreign country to me.
Mar 22, 2011
This is exactly what I do when I need to fall asleep quickly. I have shared this technique with my kids, but it doesn't seem to work for them.
Mar 22, 2011
Yes, it works like a charm. For many years I was an insomniac. A decade ago I tried a sporadic affirmation: "at night I drift into sleep easily and readily." The key was to say out the affirmation 3 times a day at different intervals such as morning, lunch and afternoon (never at night when I WAS tossing and turning like a zombie) and to imagine the affirmation's gradual spellbinding effect. After 3 weeks or so of daily sporadic affirmations, I had acquired the superpower of switching off almost at will. After 2 months, the habit stuck and saying the affirmations were no longer necessary.

But Adams' sleep tip takes the cake! Now I sleep at will during the daytime too! Pretty soon I'll go into a deep slumber and wake up in the year 2150. The thing with consciousness is that it usually resides in the left side of the brain where language (chatter) takes place. The right side of the brain is where imagery takes place and is largely not-conscious. Julian Jaynes hypothesizes consciousness is based on language and perhaps that's why Adams' idea of shutting off "thinking in words" and switching to imagery works in phasing the mind (consciousness) to go to sleep. The brain goes from left (chatter/awake) mode to right (images/not really awake) mode. But the best thing is you can sleep on this sleep tip.

Babate: you're not crazy. go for the positive imagery: you're sane. tell people "don't knock it 'till you've tried it." the thing with ignorant people is that they don't know that they are ignorant. classic catch-22. some people are too stupid to realize they are stupid.

Dingbat: go easy on your husband. he's probably the worried/responsible type that takes care of his family and friends.
Mar 22, 2011
I read somewhere once you only get 6 hours of sleep per night. If that's correct, I'm guessing your REAL trick is that you are always tired (even if you're not consciously aware you're tired).

If all I got was 6 hours of sleep a night, trust me, I'd have NO problem falling asleep at anytime! :)
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 22, 2011
Hello, Scott,

I have huge problems falling asleep, especially if I wake up couple of hours before time to leave the bed.

I usually tell myself diferent stories - from getting unexpected inheritance to being abducted by aliens. They help somewhat. However, the stories involve conversations (i.e. - words).

Just this early morning with a couple of precious hours to go, I tried a story inline with one Stephen King novel. It failed for half-an-hour. Then I followed your advice - imagined the plot in pictures, leaving out dialogues. Worked in less than 10 minutes. Hope the technique will prove helpful.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
This is so true! Scott, I also pride my sleep-anywhere/anytime skills and it's precisely because I discovered this technique as a young girl.

I just thought it was lucid dreaming--helping your brain ease into a dream like state by relaxing and letting myself free form images. It let images just naturally flow into my brain and morph into the next.

People think I'm crazy when I tell them to try it, and then they never do. So this blog entry makes me happy. :)
Mar 21, 2011
1. What was I dreaming before I just woke up?
2. Get out of bed, pee and get back to bed
3. Now only think about the dream, over and over...
Mar 21, 2011
Yes, I find doing a "Sudoku" puzzle in bed puts me to sleep. That seems to fit your theory.
-- Tony
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog