Sleep is precious—studies show that 7 to 9 hours a night is the ideal for adults—and a lack of sleep can do a lot more than make you yawn throughout the day. It can also contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, slow down your metabolism, and provoke emotional changes akin to depression and anxiety. But if you’re always on the go, it isn’t always easy to get in the sleep hours you need. Luckily, the U.S. Army’s quick, 2-minute routine will allow you to fall asleep fast and get in some extra ZZZs to keep you happy and healthy.
This trick has been around since at least 1981, when it was published in the book Relax and Win: Championship Performance. In a recent article, Sharon Ackman focuses on the U.S. Navy’s technique and has brought renewed interest to the routine. With more people using fitness trackers to monitor sleep, there’s an increased focus on how long and how well we sleep at night.
For the Navy, it’s vital that their sailors stay energized and alert—it’s a matter of life or death. In order to ensure that sailors can fall asleep in any environment, no matter how noisy or distracting, they developed a sure-fire routine that will put anyone to rest. The technique was developed by the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School and, after six weeks of practice, it had 96% of their pilots able to catch some shut-eye anywhere, at any time.
So, how does it work? Pilots were trained to sleep in upright chairs—anyone who flies frequently knows how uncomfortable that can be—but you can give it a try anywhere. Once you’re settled in, the first point of focus is your face. Close your eyes and concentrate on relaxing all of your facial muscles. Let yourself go and breathe out while you relax your mouth, cheeks, tongue, and jaw. Don’t forget your eyes either. Not only should they be closed, but also relaxed and set deep into the sockets.
This first phase is key, as it signals to the entire body that you’re about to rest. Next, drop your shoulders as low as possible and let your neck go limp. It should feel as though everything is traveling down your body. After this, you can move to your arms, starting with your dominant side. Focus on your biceps, letting them relax and drop down. If you have trouble, tense your arm and then let it go limp.
Once the bicep is relaxed, move down to the forearm and then let your hands and fingers fall like a dead weight. Once you’ve finished with the dominant arm, move to the other side. Once your upper body is nice and limp, you are halfway to the sleep zone.
Now, you need to move to your legs, starting with your thigh and moving slowly downward. Each step of the way, your muscles should go limp and feel like they are sinking into the ground. Once you’ve completed one leg, move to the other side. When your entire body is relaxed, the only thing left to do is clear your mind for 10 seconds. Let go of any external thoughts and worries you may have. If you’re having trouble, try thinking of yourself tucked up on a comfy couch or curled up in a dark room. Ackman also recommends repeating the phrase, “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds in your head, which will pull focus from other thoughts.
And that’s it. In just 120 seconds, you’ll be fast asleep whether you’re at a busy airport terminal, sitting on a train, or just generally filled with stress and anxiety.