Getting more sleep matters. One 2018 study found that people who sleep for five to six hours are 19 percent less productive than people who regularly sleep for seven to eight hours per night, and people who sleep for less than five hours are nearly 30 percent less productive.
Sure, they're awake longer. But they actually get less done.
Maybe that's because other research shows that only getting six hours of sleep makes any task that requires focus, deep thinking, or problem-solving a lot harder. In fact, where attention and reaction time are concerned, only sleeping six hours is like drinking a couple of beers, and only sleeping four hours is like drinking five beers. Other research shows that sleep deprivation makes completing any activity that requires multiple steps -- meaning pretty much anything you try to do -- much more difficult.
And, if that's not enough, another study shows that lack of sleep causes increased activity in your brain's reward centers specific to food. Eating a poor diet causes a lack of sleep, which unfortunately leads to eating an even poorer diet. (Yay.)
So, yeah: Most people know they need more sleep.
But what if you struggle to fall asleep?
Try a trick called the Military Method.
An Easy Way to Fall Asleep Faster
In the 2012 book Relax and Win: Championship Performance, Lloyd Bud Winter describes a routine created by the Navy Pre-Flight School to help pilots fall asleep.
Six weeks later, 96 percent of the pilots could fall asleep within two minutes or less: while sitting in a chair, listening to a recording of machine-gun fire, and after drinking coffee.
- Relax your entire face. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Then slowly relax all of your face muscles. (If it helps, start with your forehead muscles and work your way down.) Relax your jaw, your cheeks, your mouth, your tongue, everything. Including your eyes; let them go.
- Drop your shoulders and hands. Let go of any tension. Relax your neck, your traps; feel yourself sinking into the chair or bed. Then start at the top of your right arm, and slowly relax your biceps, forearms, and hands. Repeat on the other side. And don't forget to keep breathing slowly and deeply.
- Exhale and relax your chest. With your shoulders and arms relaxed, that should be easy.
- Relax your legs. Start with your right thigh; let it sink into the chair or bed. Then do the same with your calf, ankle, and foot. Repeat the process with your left leg.
- Now clear your mind. Granted, it's hard to not think about anything. (I end up thinking about not thinking about anything.) If that's you, try holding an image in your mind. Choose something relaxing. Picture yourself lying comfortably in darkness. But if that doesn't work ...
- Try repeating the words "Don't think" for 10 seconds. If nothing else, that should help distract you from thinking about whatever it is that might otherwise keep you awake.
Keep in mind practice is the key.
The Military Method might not help you get to sleep faster the first few times, but the more consistently you use it, the better you'll train yourself to relax. And let go.
Which, "trying" to fall asleep more quickly or not, is how we all fall asleep.
So why not kick-start the process?