During my decade working with the Better Sleep Council years ago, our spokesperson was Dianne Hales, a prolific writer and author of the wonderful sleep book “How to Sleep Like a Baby.”
There’s an entire chapter in the book devoted to cognitive-focusing exercises (aka mind games) that, in essence, bore you to sleep by using the left and right spheres of your brain simultaneously. It works!
Counting sheep is the most famous example—your left sphere is occupied counting and the right sphere is busy visualizing sheep. Serta’s long-time advertising campaign is based on sheep for this reason. The idea is that Serta’s mattresses are so comfortable and sleep-inducing you won’t need to count sheep to fall asleep.
Here are three sleep mind games that work for me:
- Think of famous people (your choice: celebrities, athletes, artists, musicians) whose first and last names begin with the same initial and go through the alphabet, letter by letter. For instance, Alan Alda, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Chaplin, Danny DeVito, Emilio Estevez, Farrah Fawcett, Greta Garbo… you get the drill. I never get too far past Marilyn Monroe before falling asleep.
- Don’t want to do double initials? Go through the alphabet sequentially naming athletic teams, dog breeds, cereal brands, whatever catches your fancy. I like dogs: akita, boxer, collie, dachshund…
- Counting down backwards (and slowly) from 100, visualizing each number as you come to it, can also be effective.
Before you start any of these mental tricks, relax your tongue. Sounds crazy, but it works. The tongue is one of the last muscles in your body to relax. Seriously. When you fall asleep tonight, try it.
Here’s to zzzzzzzzzzzz.