Put me in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle and I will doze off in minutes. Red-eye flights are no big—I snooze soundly even while blasted by that frigid airplane AC and feel plenty rested upon landing. I fall asleep in movie theaters all the time. But at the end of the day, in the comfort of my (very expensive) foam-mattress bed? Forget it—most nights, I'm left staring at the ceiling for ages until I finally succumb to a few hours of fitful sleep.
I'm fairly certain there's no way of completely reversing my insomnia. My mother has been a terrible sleeper for as long as I can remember, and since the condition is often hereditary, I've pretty much come to accept that this is as my genetic cross to bear, along with bad eyesight and frizz-prone hair. I've certainly learned some tips and lessons over the years that have taken this problem from truly awful to just okay—for example, I always sleep a bit better when I'm exercising regularly, eating well, and actively looking for ways to de-stress.
One such outlet is meditation. But while it has worked wonders for my daily anxieties, most bedtime mindfulness exercises really haven't helped me fall asleep any quicker. That is until I learned about a trick that is so simple, I can't believe it didn't occur to me sooner.
Earlier this week, Jesse Singal at New York wrote about a strategy that helped him start meditating after struggling to establish the habit for a long time. It's incredibly straightforward: You simply breathe in and out, 25 times, counting each breath as you go. There's no holding your breath or sustaining an exhale over a certain amount of beats—frankly, doing this usually results in lightheadedness for me. You're just counting each breath. That's it.
The evening after reading that article, I was lying awake in bed (per usual) when I remembered this trick. I began to count: [Breathe]…One…[Breathe]…Two…[Breathe]…Three…
Counting 12 or 13 is the last thing I remembered when I woke up in a sleepy stupor the next morning. Is this what well-rested feels like?
Obviously one night does not a success story make—maybe three nights doesn't either, but I can say that as of right now, I can actually envision a future where I'm not perpetually sleep-deprived. Over the past week, I've dozed off like clockwork. If I hit 25, I just start over again and cycle through until I'm in dreamland.
I do anticipate that sleeping deeply without waking up throughout the night will still be a struggle for me, but I feel like I'm finally working through the toughest obstacle. Now if anyone knows of a way to meditate my way to 20/20 vision, please email me immediately.
Insomniacs: How do you deal? What's your best tip for falling asleep fast? Sound off below!