A Military-Tested Trick That Will Let You Fall Asleep At Any Time

No one understands the dangers of insufficient sleep better than members of the military. Per the BBC, the KGB and the Japanese weaponized sleep deprivation during WWII, using it to torture POWs. In 1971, the British Army came under fire for allegedly depriving IRA members of sleep as an interrogation tactic. And the Pentagon has acknowledged employing sleep deprivation to break the will of uncooperative prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Denying a tired person shuteye for prolonged periods breaks their brain without breaking bones. It causes psychosis as soldiers slip into disoriented states and start conversing with figments of their addled minds. 

Lack of shuteye proved ruinous for pilots, who sometimes sleepily shot down their own allies or got shot down themselves because of exhaustion-induced errors. So the U.S. military devised a means of helping soldiers sleep between bouts of bedlam and bloodshed. As Business Insider describes, naval ensign Bud Winter was enlisted to design and teach a sleep technique for soldiers. Winter, who had previously worked with a psychologist to boost the productivity of athletes, developed a sleep method that worked for 96 percent of soldiers after six weeks of training. Perhaps more impressively, it only took troops two minutes to transport themselves from a war zone to the Land of Nod. 

How to fall asleep in two minutes, according to the military

The trick consists of five distinct steps. First you assume a comfortable position, like sitting in a soft office chair somewhere where no one will see you slacking off at work. Next, you let the muscles in your face sag as if you forgot to wear your face bra. Third, you allow your shoulders, neck, and back to go totally limp as if you forgot to take your spinal Viagra. The fourth step is to relax your legs. The last step is all in your head. 

Once you're all droopy, saggy, and limp, empty your mind of movement-related thoughts, so no imagining shooting sheep with bazookas. Rather imagine yourself in a hammock or a canoe, or simply tell yourself, "Don't think," shutting out all other thoughts for "at least 10 seconds." As a bonus, if you try it with a romantic partner you can say, "I bet I can get you to sleep with me in two minutes."

Why the military sleep trick isn't just useful for soldiers

Business Insider writes that "getting enough sleep isn't a life-or-death kind of thing" for most people, noting that "being sleepy at the marketing meeting tomorrow is not going to get someone killed." However, if you drive to that marketing meeting tomorrow, then being sleepy can quickly lead to a dirt nap. According to the CDC, between 2005 and 2009, sleep deprivation caused an average of 83,000 crashes and 886 deaths per year. They did say these numbers are "conservative," though, and that drowsy driving could really be responsible for up to 6,000 fatal crashes a year.

As it turns out, getting behind the wheel when you haven't had enough sleep is a lot like getting behind the wheel when you've had too much alcohol. Staying up for 18 hours approximates the effects of having a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. Once you hit 24 or more hours, it's like having a BAC of .10 percent, which is "higher than the legal limit" in every state in the country. And if you happen to have a bit of booze in you while you're sleep deprived, you'll feel even drunker.

Could this military sleep technique do the trick for tired truckers?

Drowsy driving poses a danger for any motorist. But it's especially perilous for truckers, who drive long hours and are often short on sleep. A 1997 study of 80 truckers found that they spent an average of "5.18 hours in bed per day" and only got 4.78 hours of "electrophysiologically verified sleep" daily over a five-day period. A six-month study of 260 North Carolina truckers conducted in 2015 found that 46.5 percent of them averaged less than 7 hours of sleep on workdays.

Obviously, sleep deprivation and gigantic trucks are a recipe for disaster. In 2014, ABC reported on multiple deaths caused by exhausted truckers, including an incident in which a trucker who'd been awake for 36 hours killed a toll worker and injured a state trooper. That same year comedian Tracy Morgan suffered serious injuries and his friend, James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, lost his life when a Walmart truck collided with their vehicle. According to Rolling Stone, the driver had been awake for over 28 hours. If anyone could benefit from the military sleep technique, it's probably these sleep-deprived truckers.