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Want to fall asleep in two minutes? Try the military method

The military method was developed to help US soldiers and sailors fall asleep regardless of gunfire.

The military method was developed to help US soldiers and sailors fall asleep regardless of gunfire. Photo: Getty

Time for bed. You’ve followed the 3-2-1 procedure for counting down to sleep time. Never heard of it?

Three hours before bed, no more food or booze. Two hours before bed, stop working or studying. One hour before bed, no more screen time, so turn off the phone, TV and computer.

Okay. The bedroom is quiet and dark and, just as Goldilocks likes it, not too warm, not too cool; temperature set just right.

So … go to sleep.

Hello?

You’re not asleep yet? You’re tired but it just won’t happen. Too many things on your mind, issues that keep you tightly wound.

What to do? Stand easy

There are a couple of relaxation exercises you can try. One of them – the ‘military method’, an 80-plus-year-old sleep recipe – has become a little trendy in the last few months.

It’s been featured in British Vogue, Country Living, Healthline, Channel News, TikTok, and the ever-expanding gaggle of wellness and lifestyle sites.

The method apparently takes six weeks to master. Once done, you can purportedly fall asleep in two minutes.

The back story

The ‘military method’ was developed during World War Two by a young American sports coach, Lloyd ‘Bud’ Winter.

He’d eventually be regarded as one of the greatest sprint coaches in the world.

During the war, shortly after Pearl Harbour, Navy pilots were mentally falling apart during combat, even shooting down their own planes.

Essentially, they were worn out with fatigue and stress.

Bud Winter, assigned to a US Navy pre-flight school in California, and experimenting with sports psychology at that time, was given the job to fix the problem.

Short version: Winter trained a group of pilots in progressive relaxation techniques.

This is where you start relaxing one group of muscles (such as those in your hands or feet) and then step by step relax the entire body.

One of these techniques became known as the ‘military method’. This enabled the pilots teach themselves to fall asleep in two minutes.

They did this while sitting in a chair, with the sounds of bombs going off around them.

Winter later published a version of the technique in the 1981 edition of his book Relax and Win. (Used copies sell for more than US$1000.)

The ‘military method’; step by step

Unless you particularly want to sleep in a chair, get into bed. Winter advised that you lie on your back with pillows under your head, knees, and each arm. Sort of like an astronaut in launch position. I’ve taken some liberties here to make the directions clearer and more doable.

  1. Close your eyes, breathe slowly, blow away your tensions.
  2. Relax the forehead, relax the eyes.
  3. Relax the jaw, and let your mouth hang open, relaxing the tongue and lips, like you see people acting dead in the movies.
  4. Drop the shoulders, relax each arm, the elbow, the wrist, your fingers.
  5. Relax the chest and rib cage, and mentally allow your midriff to sprawl.
  6. Feel the state of relaxation and associate it with the word ‘calm’.
  7. As dreamily as you can, check that your face and upper body aren’t tensing up. Don’t look for a problem, instead feel for how relaxed you are.
  8. Relax each legs, the feet, the ankles, the calves, the knees and the thighs.
  9. To sleep, clear your mind by imagining yourself in a peaceful scene, such as lying in the bottom of  a still canoe on a perfectly flat pond. The important thing, according to Bud Winter, was to avoid all thought of movement.
  10. If all this fails, say the words “don’t think” for 10 seconds. And within 10 seconds you should be asleep.

Has this been proven to work?

As I mentioned above, it could take you six weeks to master the technique and reap the benefits. That’s 42 nights of lolling around with your tongue out.

Bud Winter claimed the “military method” technique had a 96 per cent success rate, and significantly improved all-round performance of those who stuck at it.

While there is research supporting the benefits of similar techniques, the ‘military method’ was never subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

By the time the war ended, it was abandoned by the Navy.

Today’s Tik-Tokers, however, swear by it.

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