If you’re a member of the military, getting the right amount of sleep can mean the difference between life and death. According to research conducted by the Pentagon, when soldiers got enough sleep, combat fatalities on their next mission decreased by 20%.
But whether you’re a soldier or a civilian, sleep often remains elusive. While you may not be in the trenches, a lack of sleep often translates to the loss of a promotion, a strained social life, or having to decline an invitation to an epic afterparty. .
Even worse: anxiety over loss of sleep only compounds these effects.
That’s why we’ve researched and brought you this list of three military-approved, data-backed methods on how to fall asleep instantly that are used by soldiers and marines — and developed by the sharpest minds in the country.
Here, we’re talking:
- The importance of sleep masks.
- How to develop and stick to daily routine that will train your body to remember when it’s time to fall asleep.
- Breathing techniques to make you sleep like you’ve been on the front lines all day.
1. Use A Sleep Mask To Block Out Light
Here’s a quick fact that will convince you to get a sleep mask immediately: Light and noise account for 30% of all sleep problems.
Interestingly, eye masks were proven to be much more effective at helping soldiers fall asleep instantly than ear plugs, which many found uncomfortable.
Thanks to consistent findings like these, sleep masks are now included in kits sent to soldiers and designed to help them stay healthy and rested in military life.
According to a study entitled “Sleep in the Military”:
“… the six hours they were off, they only had the opportunity to lay down for four and a half hours, and out of that four and a half hours they were maybe lucky to get two to three hours of sleep…the masks…made it dark, made it easier for them to fall asleep.”
That same study also found that “…eye masks…in deployed settings…encourage healthy sleep behaviors” than other sleep aides.
The takeaway? If you want to be badass like the men and women in the military, make sure to pick out a “military-grade” sleep mask.
BONUS: Manta Is the World’s 1st Modular Sleep Mask
2. Develop A Military-Grade Routine So Your Body Will Recognize When It’s Time To Fall Asleep
When it comes to seeing lasting results, routines matter — and the same goes when you’re training your body to fall asleep instantly at the same time every night.
The military is famous for it’s hyper-regimented schedule (as a reminder, check out this Boot Camp Schedule.)
While it might seem impossible to fall asleep when someone else tells you to, it turns out that the highly structured military schedule reset soldiers’ body clocks — meaning the body essentially “shut itself off” after Taps was played.
But how you spend your day matters just as much as setting the schedule when it comes to training your body to fall asleep instantly at the same time every night.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most famous aspects of the military routine, and how they help a soldier to fall asleep instantly.
a] Wakes up early, and at the same time every morning (yes, even on the weekends.)
- This eliminates the possibility of over-sleeping, which can totally mess with your sleep schedule for the rest of your week. It also reminds your body that if it doesn’t fall asleep at the scheduled time, it won’t have an opportunity to make up for those missed hours of sleep.
b] Moves first thing in the morning (even before breakfast.)
- Not only does working out before breakfast burn 20% more body fat than an afternoon gym session, but starting your day with a 2–5 mile run and, time permitting, a little strength training, curbs your appetite during the day. This impacts your sleep because foods with a high sugar content (which people often reach for when tired) can keep you up late at night. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with wearing your body out a little so that, when your head hits the pillow, you’re both physically and mentally tired.
c] Takes an ice-cold shower before bed
- According to the book Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, doing so makes you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
It’s not just soldiers that have spoken out about the importance of routine. Olympian Michael Phelps has cited intense and consistent endurance training, meticulous eating habits, and serious attention to sleep as keys to his success. We’re willing to bet he uses a sleep mask, too.
Make use of military-approved Stimulus Control Therapy. Unless you’re ready to crash, avoid your bed at all costs. Military members aren’t granted the luxury of lounging in bed all day — which means that they develop a sort of Pavlovian response to their beds. When they see it, they know it’s time to don their sleep masks and sleep — not to hang out on the Internet or watch TV.
To translate this to your daily life, remember this: If you’re not out cold about ten minutes after lying down, leave your bed (or couch) — but don’t engage with technology.
Instead, look out the window or focus on your breathing (see our awesome tips below on the best techniques.) After about five minutes, your body will be begging to return to bed — and you’re likely to fall asleep instantly the second time around.
3. Deploy These Military Breathing Techniques To Help You Sleep In No Time
Members of the military have to learn how to control their breathing — and by extension, their minds — on hours-long stakeouts where one sudden flinch could mean a bullet through the neck.
You may have heard of the popular Combat Tactical Breathing Technique, used by soldiers to keep a level head in dangerous situations as well as to fall asleep.
When used in combination with a sleep mask, this technique will knock you out in ten minutes — or will help you get your mind ready for a crucial board meeting.
To Try It:
- Breathe in for a count of 4
- Hold your breath for four counts (taking care to relax your shoulder muscles)
- Exhale slowly for four counts
- Repeat at least three times
Another popular sleep-inducing breathing technique is the 4:7:8 ratio, developed by a Harvard Doctor to be used in addition to your sleep masks and other sleep aides.
Give It A Shot By…
- Inhaling for 4 seconds
- Holding for 7 seconds
- Loudly exhaling for 8 seconds
Start by trying the pattern twice a day. After two months, move up to 8 breath cycles before bed. This should eventually knock you out in 60 seconds — helpful for military personnel who have limited sleep at night and need to take advantage of naps.
Pro Tip 2:
The military also suggests using visualization techniques in combination with breathing patterns.
As you’re breathing, ask yourself basic questions that require your mind to concentrate on answering mundane questions like “What did I have for lunch today?” or “What did I talk about at the office Christmas party?”
These questions aren’t stressful, but they will take your mind off racing thoughts.
Sleep Is A Weapon
The use of sleep masks, adherence to a daily routine, and the use of breathing techniques to fall asleep instantly can all help you send you to sleep on your schedule — not on your body’s.
If the military sees sleep as a survival tactic, shouldn’t you?
The Military Recommends Soldiers to Use Sleep Masks. You Should Too.
Manta is the World’s 1st Modular Sleep Mask with FreeFit — to perfectly fit your unique face.
Did you like these tips? Which one are you most excited to try out? Let us know in the comment section.