Sleep and Dreaming The Military Sleep Method: Benefits and How It Works By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Learn about our editorial process Published on February 18, 2023 Print gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images Plus Table of Contents View All Table of Contents How to Do It Does It Work? Benefits Other Sleep Methods The military sleep method has been going viral on social media because it promises to help you fall asleep in under two minutes. The development of the method is credited to Bud Winter, an Olympic sprint coach who also studied sports psychology. In his book, “Relax and Win: Championship Performance,” Winter reportedly describes a technique he developed for the United States Navy Pre-Flight School, to help pilots fall asleep instantly when they need to rest, despite loud, stressful, or dangerous circumstances. Read on if you’re curious about the military sleep method and whether it can help you. We tapped a sleep expert to understand how the method works. How to Use the Military Sleep Method The military sleep method involves the following steps: Breathe deeply: Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths. Relax your face: Slowly relax all the muscles in your face, starting from your forehead and then moving downward over your cheeks, mouth, and jaw. Focus on one part at a time, breathing deeply and letting go of any muscle tension you’re holding there. Don’t forget to relax your tongue and the muscles around your eyes. Drop your shoulders and arms: Once your face is relaxed, work your way down to your neck, shoulders, and arms. Relax your neck and let go of any tension accumulated there. Drop your shoulders down and let yourself sink into the bed. Focus your attention on one arm and slowly work your way downward, relaxing your bicep, forearm, hand, and fingers. Do the same for your other arm. Work your way downward: Once you’ve relaxed your shoulders and arms, slowly shift your focus to other parts of your body, relaxing them one at a time. Work your way down your chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Then focus on one leg, relaxing your thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot, and toes. Do the same with your other leg. Clear your mind: Once you’ve consciously relaxed every part of your body, from top to toes, focus on clearing your mind. You can do this by focusing on a calming image. For instance, picture yourself lying in a meadow under the blue sky. Or, imagine that you’re sleeping peacefully in a velvet hammock in a dark room. If visualization doesn’t work, say the words “Don’t think” repeatedly in your mind for 10 seconds. If other thoughts distract you, put them aside and bring your attention back to your visualization or recitation. Practicing this technique for six weeks in a row is supposed to help you master it, so you can fall asleep in under two minutes. Does the Military Sleep Method Work? To understand whether the military sleep method works, we spoke to Brian Koo, MD, a physician at Yale Medicine who draws upon his training in neurology and sleep medicine to treat several sleep disorders. Dr. Koo explains that while there isn’t any specific evidence proving the efficacy or benefits of the military sleep method because there haven’t been any research studies investigating it, it essentially promotes sleep using proven relaxation techniques such as: Deep breathingProgressive muscle relaxationBiofeedbackVisualization Brian Koo, MD Asking a person to focus on their body and distract themselves from thinking about other things is an effective way to promote sleep. — Brian Koo, MD Below, we unpack these techniques in order to understand how they can help you fall asleep faster. Deep Breathing The military sleep method incorporates deep breathing, which has been proven to promote sleep. A 2018 study notes that deep breathing helps you fall asleep faster by relaxing your body, calming your nervous system, slowing your heart rate, and triggering the production of melatonin (a natural hormone your body produces to make you feel sleepy). Progressive Muscle Relaxation Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique that involves taking either a “bottom-up” or “top-down” approach and contracting each of your muscles one by one, to first create tension, and then release them, to promote relaxation. The military sleep method uses a variation of this technique, since it only focuses on systematically relaxing your muscles, without contracting them first. A 2020 study notes that progressive muscle relaxation can help fight insomnia, in addition to reducing anxious and depressive thoughts that may keep you up at night and prevent you from falling asleep. Biofeedback Biofeedback techniques help you control and change certain bodily functions, such as your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, muscle tension, and brain waves. The military sleep method incorporates biofeedback, by teaching you how to control these parameters. A small randomized controlled trial found that biofeedback can help combat insomnia by relaxing your body and promoting sleep. Visualization Visualization is another relaxation technique that involves focusing on calming mental images, in order to produce similar feelings of relaxation in your body. The military sleep method also incorporates this technique, in order to help clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Research shows that using visualization techniques can help reduce distress due to unwanted thoughts and help you fall asleep faster. Benefits of the Military Sleep Method The military sleep method may help you fall asleep faster. Not being able to fall asleep when you need to can cut into your sleep time and prevent you from getting enough rest. It can also cause you to feel tired, cranky, and worn out the next day. If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, you’re not alone. It is estimated that 10% of adults have insomnia and 20% of adults occasionally experience insomnia symptoms. Furthermore, approximately one out of every three adults in the United States don’t get as much sleep as they need. Getting enough sleep can help you: Fall sick less often Maintain a healthy weight Lower your risk of chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease Reduce your stress levels Boost your mood Make better decisions Improve your focus and promote clear thinking Get along better with people Perform better at work or school Effects of Lack of Sleep on Mental Health Other Sleep Methods If you’ve tried the military sleep method and it doesn’t seem to be working for you, these are some other sleep-promoting practices that may be helpful: 4-7-8 breathing method Guided sleep meditation Sleep hygiene practices Best Sleep Apps A Word From Verywell If you struggle to fall asleep, it’s worth giving the military sleep method a try. You may have to do it consistently for a month or two for it to work for you. For better results, it can help to give yourself permission to relax and go to sleep. 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Jerath R, Beveridge C, Barnes VA. Self-regulation of breathing as an adjunctive treatment of insomnia. Front Psychiatry. 2019;9:780. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780 Toussaint L, Nguyen QA, Roettger C, et al. Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided imagery in promoting psychological and physiological states of relaxation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021;2021:5924040. doi:10.1155/2021/5924040 Xiao CX, Lin YJ, Lin RQ, Liu AN, Zhong GQ, Lan CF. Effects of progressive muscle relaxation training on negative emotions and sleep quality in COVID-19 patients: A clinical observational study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(47):e23185. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000023185 National Library of Medicine. Biofeedback. Kwan Y, Yoon S, Suh S, Choi S. A randomized controlled trial comparing neurofeedback and cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia patients: A pilot study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2022;47(2):95-106. doi:10.1007/s10484-022-09534-6 National Institutes of Health. Relaxation techniques. de Zambotti M, Sizintsev M, Claudatos S, Barresi G, Colrain IM, Baker FC. Reducing bedtime physiological arousal levels using immersive audio-visual respiratory biofeedback: a pilot study in women with insomnia symptoms. J Behav Med. 2019;42(5):973-983. doi:10.1007/s10865-019-00020-9 Morin CM, Jarrin DC. Epidemiology of insomnia: prevalence, course, risk factors, and public health burden. Sleep Med Clin. 2022;17(2):173-191. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2022.03.003 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Get enough sleep. By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.