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
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
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.