For many of us, as soon as our heads hit the pillow, all the tiredness we felt disappears and is replaced with spinning thoughts and worries, so we can’t get to sleep. But this new trick called the cognitive shuffle might help. It can quiet stressful thoughts by overloading the brain with nonsense.
It was developed by cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin as a way to solve his own sleep problems. He figured if he could find a way to get his brain in a state it recognized as ready for sleep while moving his attention away from the worrying thoughts keeping him awake, he could fool himself into nodding off.
When it worked for him, Beaudoin tested it on college students and the cognitive shuffle was effective for them as well. Here are the steps so you can try it for yourself:
- Pick a letter at random.
- Visualize a word that starts with that letter. Choose something you can picture that’s “emotionally neutral” - so no clowns or snakes.
- Continue thinking of new words that start with that letter. So if you pick flower, then you could picture a fork, a fox, fajitas, and a foot. Beaudoin says you should stop and imagine each one instead of rushing through the list of words.
- When you get bored with your letter, move on to the next. But don’t get too creative and start making up stories about the words, stick to the image and word.
- Keep going until...sweet sleep sets in. Some lucky folks will doze off in a couple minutes, but it could take as long as 15 to 20. Stick with it and it should work for you.