Instant Zzzs: How to Fall Asleep in Camp (Or Anywhere) in 120 Seconds?

In WW2 the Navy had a problem. Pilots were too stressed to fall asleep to get the rest they needed. Sleep-deprived and delirious, they made fatal mistakes, sometimes including shooting friendly planes down by mistake. The military needed a way to help the pilots get rest wherever and whenever they could. They found it in a serious of relaxation exercises from a man named Bud Winter.

Enter the 120-second sleep technique.

The idea is to calm the body, then the mind. The steps are remarkably simple. All you need is a relatively comfortable place to sit. This could be a log in the backcountry. A boulder. Perhaps the wall of an airport as you bust around the world in search of adventure (remember that?).

First, feet flat on the ground, hands limp at your thighs, chin resting on your chest. Breathe slowly, letting the jaw sag open, relaxing the scalp, the muscles of the face. Then, relax the eyes, letting them feel as though they’re sinking deep into the sockets. Then droop the shoulders. More, really let them sink. Same with neck muscles. Next, breathe out thoroughly to collapse the chest, and puddle in the seat like jelly. Just a blob of a person, with no stresses, no tension.

Once your upper body is relaxed, you begin to feel at ease, drowsy. Then you tell your big leg muscles to go limp and heavy, release all control over them. Same with the ankles and feet.

The body relaxed, it’s time for the mental calmness. This is supposedly achieved by clearing the mind of all thoughts for at least 10 seconds. Whatever works, use it. Envision a warm meadow on a pleasant early summer day. Maybe a fireplace with snow falling outside. Winter suggested thinking “don’t think” three times in a row. Once the body is calm and the mind is thought-free, sleep comes in seconds, according to Winter.

Naval pilots who tried the system outperformed a control group in every single task that required sharp wits and clear thinking.

Imagine how helpful that would be in a stressful backcountry situation, or simply to help with recovery if you only have 30 minutes to rest between grueling hikes or rides.


Photo: Salome Alexa

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