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Article by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips


2015 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


If you suffer from insomnia, even just occasionally, here's a surprisingly simple, effective, natural way to put yourself to sleep. I first learned it from a friend about 30 years ago and have been using it ever since. I can't overstate how well it works and how valuable it has been to me.

My friend had been badly burned as a child. While in the hospital recovering, he was having a hard time sleeping. A nurse taught him this trick. First, mentally recite the alphabet, "A" through "Z." Think it to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," the way you first learned it in school. Then, the nurse instructed, mentally say "A" to yourself and silently, in your mind, name an animal that begins with that letter, like "alligator" or "antelope." Next, mentally say "B" and name an animal that starts with that. Continue through the alphabet, naming an animal for each letter.

That's the basic technique. Here's how it works.

The exercise focuses the mind on a simple task, just enough to hold it so that it isn't thinking about anything else, yet not interesting enough to be stimulating. The mind soon becomes bored with the game and, when you keep doing it anyway, simply goes to sleep. Silly as it sounds, it works! If in the beginning you don't fall asleep before you get to the end of the alphabet, repeat the process starting with the mental ABC song again, and then think of different animal names for each letter than you did the first time.

Always start with the mental ABC song all the way through, and always think the letter before naming something that begins with that letter. This sequential repetition actually trains your mind, becoming a signal, an auto-suggestion that you're going to sleep now. The longer and more often you use it, the more trained your mind becomes to fall asleep from it. Soon you will often find yourself drifting off before you even finish the ABC song. The mind says to itself, "Oh, no, not this boring routine again," and simply shuts down.

Over the years, to make it a little more absorbing I have developed several variations to the child's one-animal-per-letter technique. One is to name a midsize American city (instead of an animal) for each letter, without repeating any of the States: "A," Albuquerque, New Mexico; "B," Boise, Idaho; "C," Charleston, South Carolina" and so on. Another, more mentally demanding variation is naming a mammal, an insect, a reptile, a bird, and a fish or sea creature for each letter, like this: "A," armadillo, ant, alligator, albatross, angel fish; "B," bear, bee, boa, buzzard, barracuda; "C," cat, caterpillar, crocodile, crow, crayfish" and so on. Since I'm a sailor, I sometimes substitute parts of a boat: "A," anchor; "B," boat hook; "C," compass; "D," davits," etc. Make up your own based on topics you know and like. However, avoid using subjects that are work or worry-related, which could divert the mind to thoughts that keep you awake.

Now you can fall asleep quickly when you go to bed. If you wake up during the night, start the process again, right away, singing the ABC song in your mind and then commencing the one-letter-at-a-time name game. Begin the moment you realize you're awake, before your mind starts obsessing on interesting or worrisome thoughts and awakens even more.

The alphabet technique may not knock you out the first time or two, but keep at it. You're building a new mental program, re-training the mind away from old habits. The longer and more often you use it, the better and faster it works. After a while just starting to recite the ABC song will send you off to dreamland. You'll see.

Pleasant dreams!