We’re all trying to sleep better, but sometimes it’s not the sleep quality itself that’s the biggest worry, but rather it’s the ability to fall asleep in the first place. Even if you have the best mattress to sleep on every night, falling asleep is not the easiest task, especially if you’re worrying about something, you’ve recently eaten a big meal or you’ve just finished some late night scrolling.
For those who have tried every sleep hack under the sun, from the military sleep method to the 4-7-8 breathing hack, it could be time to try the cognitive shuffle. The cognitive shuffle is a pre-sleep method which was developed by Canadian cognitive scientist, Luc Beaudoin, that encourages the brain to calm down by scrambling your thoughts.
While this might sound counterintuitive, Beaudion stated in conversation with Glamour magazine that the cognitive shuffle “could be the secret to a solid 8 hours of shut-eye.” So, what is the cognitive shuffle and how does it work? Keep reading to find out.
What is the cognitive shuffle?
The cognitive shuffle is a sleep trick which is not only championed for helping people fall asleep faster but also taking your mind off any stress or worry. The basics of the cognitive shuffle is to fill your brain with random words and images to jumble your thoughts. This tricks the brain’s sleep regulators into feeling groggy and ready for sleep, and distracts you from any worries you might be having.
Many experts have found that the reason this technique works is because the brain is distracted and can’t make sense of the random items you’re thinking about, making it easier for you to fall into a slumber. According to Beaudoin, the cognitive shuffle sleep method also plays on the brain’s response to danger. As quoted in Vogue, “the brain has evolved to constantly be alert to potential danger. When it checks if it’s safe to fall asleep at night, it’s time to relax.” So, by avoiding thinking of things which make you feel upset, worried or scared, you feel safe and can drift off to sleep more easily.
Before we get into how to do the cognitive shuffle, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The words or images you think about during cognitive shuffling shouldn’t have any connection to you, to ensure you don’t stay up all night worrying. For example, if you try to think about buildings or houses, this could conjure up feelings of anxiety around rent, buying a house or going to the office for work. The things you think about also shouldn’t be too complicated so you don’t stimulate your brain too much or stay awake longer puzzling over answers.
How to do the cognitive shuffle sleep hack
If you want to give the cognitive shuffle a try, here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Get comfortable in bed and ready to sleep.
Step 2: Pick a letter at random and think of a word that starts with that letter. The word should have at least 5 letters. Remember, these words or items should be easy to visualise, non-threatening and emotionally neutral.
Step 3: Spell out the word in your mind before thinking of new words that start with each letter. For example, if the original word you’re thinking of is ‘water’, think of another word that starts with ‘w’ (wellies), another for ‘a’ (avocado), another for ‘t’ (trees) and so on. Rather than race through each word, pause and imagine each word to get a clearer picture before you move on to the next one.
Step 4: Make your way through the letters so you have a big scramble of words and images in your mind. As you do this, you should start to fall asleep.
That’s how to do the cognitive shuffle! Keep in mind that it should take between 5-15 minutes for you to drift off with this hack. If you’re still finding it tricky to fall asleep, check out these 4 expert-approved TikTok sleep hacks and make sure you’re set-up for sleep success with these 6 rules for great sleep hygiene.