Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes With This Buddhist Technique

Honest advice from a recovering insomniac.

By Larisa Andras / The Ascent

Sound machines, complete darkness in the room, not touching my phone two hours before going to bed, and earplugs. You name it, I’ve tried it. Nothing worked.

Before learning this technique, I used to sleep less than 5 hours per night. And this not only had me feeling tired, but it also annoyed the heck out of me. That’s because all I did was lay in bed until 3 in the morning, overthinking things. Ok, sometimes I would also stare at the person sleeping peacefully next to me.

It was probably a trace of love there, too. But most of the time it was pure jealousy and a strong desire to kick them out of bed. I didn’t.

Instead, I turned to my friends and family to ask them how they do it. How can they fall asleep as soon as they hit the pillow? It went something like this:

“Don’t think about anything. Just close your eyes and stop your thoughts”, they all said.

“Ok, I know that’s what I have to do but how do I do it, people?”, I asked my loved ones. And “you just stop thinking” is all I got. Which is just as useless as that white noise machine I gave my ex-boyfriend.

Luckily, I accidentally found the solution to my problem during my first Vipassana meditation course. Those 10 days I spent in Barcelona have been difficult in every way, but looking back, it feels like I won the lottery.

Not only did I finally learned a meditation technique that works for me but I also learned how to fall asleep in less than two minutes.

Let me walk you through it.

How to Work with Sensations to Fall Asleep Faster

Most of the time, we can’t fall asleep because our minds are wandering. You start thinking about the past or the future and before you know it, it’s 2 in the morning and you have to get up in less than 5 hours.

One or two nights might not be a big deal. But if you do this regularly, Houston, you have a problem.
Before you go on spending a month’s rent on magic devices and all sorts of supplements, as I did, try this simple but effective technique.

What to do

Whenever you want to pay a visit to the land of dreams, start scanning your body from head to toe. Instead of stopping your mind from thinking, give it something specific to do. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

With your eyes closed, take a few breaths, and try to feel the air coming in and going out. Don’t label it in any way. Just observe the sensations around your nostrils and on the area above your upper lip.

Then, move your attention from your breath to the top of your head, and observe any sensations that arise there. It can be anything -- itching, pressure, numbness, pain, or tingling, to name a few.

As soon as you feel anything at the top of your head, pick another patch on your scalp to examine.
This way, progress down your entire body, one small patch at a time. From your scalp to your face (eyes, nose, cheekbones, etc.), and then down to your neck.

Next, start with one arm, and observe the sensations in your shoulder, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, wrist, palm, and finally, your fingers. After you’re done with one arm, move on to the other one, and so on until you have scanned your entire body. Unless you fall asleep before you even get to your neck, like I do.

A few things to keep in mind:

At first, as you scan your body, you’ll come across many blind spots. When that happens, sit with those areas a moment, and then move on. You’re not doing anything wrong. Just keep practicing. The more you do it, the more subtle sensations you'll feel.

But don’t make this your goal. If you start craving sensations and start looking for them on purpose, you’re doing the exact opposite of what the technique is all about. Relax, observe the sensations, and don’t label them.

Also, it’s ok if sometimes your mind goes somewhere else. It will happen a lot, especially in the beginning. Just bring your attention back to your body, and pick up where you left off.

Lastly, there’s no right speed so do it at your own pace. And try to follow the same order every time because it will be easier to remember, and there are fewer chances you’ll miss some areas.

Why it works

The main reason why practicing Vipassana meditation will help you fall asleep faster is because it brings you in the present moment.

If your body is tired, but your mind keeps on spinning, you’re going to stay awake for hours. However, if you focus on the sensations in your body, you can’t think of anything so you are fully aware.

Once you stop thinking, your mind sends a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.

VipassanaWhile you can have great results if you use this technique to fall asleep faster or to ground yourself when you’re feeling anxious, Vipassana meditation is much more than that.

S.N. Goenka, the teacher who helped spread this Vipassana meditation technique worldwide, claimed that this is the form of meditation taught by the Buddha himself. Although there are many different variations of the practice, this is the basis of Buddhism.

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