Can Cognitive Shuffling Really Help You Fall Asleep Faster?

There are few things as frustrating as getting to the end of a long day, laying down in bed, and tossing and turning. Sleepless nights can have many causes and solutions, but sometimes a bit of trial and error is needed. If you're struggling to fall asleep at night, cognitive shuffling may be just the trick you're looking for to fall asleep faster.

Before getting into what to do to fall asleep, it might be helpful to consider the reasons you're struggling in the first place. Per Healthline, there are a variety of causes of sleeplessness in adults. There are some causes that can be resolved with simple routine changes; such as too much stimulation before bed, caffeine too late in the day, noise disturbances, or feelings of stress and anxiety. Sleeping too much during the day, work schedules, and some medications can also impact sleep. If you're among those whose busy minds keep them from dozing off, cognitive shuffling may be what you're missing. 

Luc Beaudoin, a professor at Simon Fraser University, developed a method that helps adults fall asleep like children do — called cognitive shuffling (via Lifehacker). On his official website, he explained it as switching your mind from thinking logically to imagining. "Sleep researchers have found that as people fall asleep, they often experience visual images and "micro-dreams." The diverse images may "help people get to sleep," he wrote. "In contrast, continuing to think in a verbal, analytic, problem-solving mode can delay sleep onset."

Falling asleep with cognitive shuffling

The long and short of Luc Beaudoin's sleep method involves doing less thinking and more imagining before bed. But it isn't as simple as counting sheep. Rather, you'll get your mind to cycle through a series of "micro-dreams" by prompting your mind to create them. He even lays out the steps needed. They are as follows.

First, you'll get in bed and ready to go to sleep. Next, think of a random word with at least five letters in it; such as eggplant, eyeball, monkey, or greenhouse. You'll spell the word out in your mind, branching off of each letter with a new word that begins with it. Following the eggplant example, you'll think "e," then run through other words with the same first letter and create an image of each in your mind. After picturing as many "e" words as you can; earlobe, elephant, and so on; you'll move to the next letter in the original word and repeat the process. If the process works, you'll fall asleep before you can finish the entire original word. Between the micro-dreams and focus, you'll be dreaming in no time.

Beaudoin includes some caveats of times when the method won't work. These include being too tired to think of words, struggling to "think deliberately" before bed, feeling frustrated with the basic exercise, and if you find spelling tedious. This method won't work for everyone, but if you struggle to fall asleep, it's worth giving it a try.