How Soldiers Fall Asleep in Under Two Minutes

For some of us, being able to fall asleep in under two hours is a dream that never seems to get any closer, so the idea that there’s a technique we can learn to fall asleep in less than two minutes is absolutely mind-blowing. And yet it’s true, and the method comes from the same source as all the greatest things in life: the military.

Soldiers, you see, have to be able to get forty winks in the most stressful of situations: the discomfort of lying on rocky terrain, exposure to the elements, and of course the crashing noise of battle are all barriers to sleep, but those brave men and women in uniform still need to find a way to nod off, or their battle-readiness takes a major hit.

That’s why Lloyd “Bud” Winter, legendary sprint coach, devised this method when working with the US military in WWII. Back then fatigue was proving a real bugbear to the Navy, and they called on Winter for help. His solution revolutionised the field of…uh…making people go to sleep fast.

Winter divided sleep into mental relaxation and physical relaxation. If these could be taught to recruits, he believed the sleep problem would be solved, and he was right: after six weeks’ training recruits were able to get to sleep inside two minutes 96 per cent of the time, even surrounded by noise or hepped up on caffeine.

The method? First comes physical relaxation: sit up straight, then let your head droop. Breathe slowly and regularly. Bit by bit, relax the muscles of your body starting with your face, then moving down methodically.

Next comes mental relaxation. Tricky, but doable. Winter recommended visualising yourself in the most relaxing situation possible. But if that doesn’t do the trick, simply repeat to yourself over and over: “Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think, don’t think…” Eventually, you’re so occupied telling yourself not to think that you…don’t.

It takes practice, but anyone, with a bit of determination, can sleep like a soldier.