The military sleep method isn’t a new technique, but it is trending on TikTok again after fitness expert Justin Agustin recently shared a short clip about his experience using it. Before that, it was shared by Doctor Jess as one of her top sleep hacks and continues to be popular with people who have trouble falling asleep.
“This technique was developed in the military to allow soldiers to fall asleep at any time, any place,” Agustin says in the video (opens in new tab). “According to my research, this was developed mainly for fighter pilots who need 100% of their reflexes and focus, which we all know decreases with lack of sleep.”
Here’s what you need to know about the military sleep technique and how to use it to fall asleep quickly tonight…
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How to use the military sleep method
1. First, relax your jaw and facial muscles, including your tongue.
2. Now drop your shoulders down as far as they’ll go to release the tension.
3. Keep your arms loose by your sides, relaxing your fingers and hands.
3. Exhale deeply to relax your chest, then relax the muscles in your legs and feet.
4. Imagine a calming, warm sensation spreading from your head down to your toes.
5. Inhale and exhale deeply, clearing your mind of thoughts and stresses.
6. Now think about one of the following two images:
- You are lying on your back in a canoe on a placid, calm lake with nothing but a crystal clear sky above you.
- You are lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch black room.
If your mind wanders, repeat the words, ‘don’t think, don’t think, don’t think’ over and over for about 10 seconds, then return to the visualisation until you fall asleep. Hopefully it shouldn't take long, and the more you practice the military sleep method, the more powerful it will become and the faster you'll fall asleep each night.
Who created the military sleep method?
This US army sleep technique was first documented in Lloyd Bud Winter’s often-quoted 1981 book Relax and Win: Championship Performance (opens in new tab). Winter described it as a highly effective method to help you drift off in two minutes or less and it’s been hugely popular ever since. We see it pop up every now and then on sites like TikTok as new fans discover it for themselves.
The technique was designed to help soldiers fall asleep fast in any situation by focusing on relaxation and alleviating muscle tension. In turn, this activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees rest.
Sounds good, right? Yes, but there’s a caveat: the military sleep method rarely (if ever) helps you fall asleep in two minutes the very first time you try it. Don’t get us wrong, it’s hugely relaxing from the get-go, and we definitely fall asleep faster than normal when using it, but two minutes is a bit of a stretch at first.
Within six weeks though it’s said to be effective for around 96% of people. So you’ll need to practice this every night for it to be truly effective.
Also remember that it's completely normal to take around 20-30 minutes to fall asleep. The key is to have a good bedtime routine that helps you unwind ahead of hitting bed so that you're in a more relaxed headspace for sleeping.
Does it really help you fall asleep faster?
Most people have success with the military sleep technique, but like all sleep methods, its effectiveness depends on just how often you practice it.
How come? Well, some sleep techniques are like a muscle that needs building up over time to get as strong as possible, and the military sleep method is no exception. We have been using this method on and off for years and it's still one of our go-to ways to quieten a busy mind to fall asleep.
Learning how to fall asleep faster is definitely possible, and it’s of huge benefit to anyone learning how to sleep with anxiety where worries and intrusive thoughts can affect your ability to drift off.
On Justin Agustin’s TikTok, commenters said: “I’m a military brat and was taught this. I also had a veteran as a psychology teacher in college who taught this. It works.’
While another said: ‘My doctor taught me this technique with slight variations when I had insomnia due to PTSD. Trust me it works 100% once you get it down.’
Over on Reddit, a user said: ‘I've done essentially this for years. It doesn't always work, but usually does, and it always helps. The key is relaxing your body and relaxing your mind with light meditation.’
The military sleep method is free, fast and easy to use, so you have nothing to lose by trying it for yourself. If you continue to have issues falling asleep, speak to your doctor or a sleep expert to see if you have a form of insomnia and how that could be managed. CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia) is usually a good place to start.
We’d also recommend investing in the best mattress for your sleep and body, as well as a comfy pillow – the more supported and comfortable you feel in bed, the higher your chances of drifting off sooner.