Some Things That Keep People Awake
- Planning, problem-solving, deciding, worrying
- Ruminating, “racing thoughts” regarding stressors, concerns, issues, goals
- Thinking/worrying about sleep
- Trying hard to fall asleep
- Watching the clock
- = A vicious cycle
Conventional Strategies Used by Insomniacs Don’t Work!
- Counting sheep
- Reviewing the day
- Avoiding thinking about a problem
- Basic meditation
Meditation is not clearly insomnolent. It’s just that if it is properly done, it is supposed to be a technique for making yourself alert. So if meditation is putting you to sleep it means that you’re not giving yourself that alertness boost.
Having said that, DIY cognitive shuffle is a new form of meditation. (This is described in my paper on the subject Beaudoin, L. P. (2013). The possibility of super-somnolent mentation: A new information-processing approach to sleep-onset acceleration and insomnia exemplified by serial diverse imagining, http://summit.sfu.ca/item/12143
How Could Counting Sheep (or the Like) Possibly Compete with Thinking About …
- Project deadlines!
- Bill payments!
- A marital crisis!
- Children’s/loved ones’ urgent problems!
- Health concerns!
- Hot Flashes…
Enter The Cognitive Shuffle
For example, imagine:
- A teddy bear,
- a bird,
- a tree,
- a staircase,
- birthday cake,
- an airplane,
- a dolphin,
then…. Z,z, z, z, z … ”
If one of the images stresses you out, for instance if you have phobia of airplanes and you think of an airplane, just acknowledge and accept your emotion and move on to the next image.
But How Can You Summon Diverse Images?
Two ways to generate varied images:
- The DIY method. This requires that you think of a seed word, spell it out, and use each letter as a seed to generate further words, and imagine each of those further words.
- Use the mySleepButton app.
The app is particularly helpful when you are feeling too tired to come up with a variety of appropriate, imaginable words yet still not able to all asleep.
Is the Cognitive Shuffle a Silver Bullet for Sleep Onset ?
There are no silver bullets for insomnia. However, the cognitive shuffle can be combined with
- Sleep hygiene
- Acceptance and commitment
- Other validated recommendations
For a super-somnolent solution.
See our sleep tips page.
Some Reasons to Use the Cognitive Shuffle
- It interferes with the kind of thinking that keeps you awake (“counter-insomnolent”)
- It’s engaging (productively distracting)
- It emulates sleep-onset dreaming
- It becomes a cue for sleep (conditioning)
- It allows you to control sleep onset (↑ “self-efficacy”, Bandura’s concept)
- It’s playfully imaginative and fun!
To my knowledge, the cognitive shuffle is the first sleep induction strategy coming from the psychology / cognitive science literature, that was developed to be playful, and where a cogent argument was developed to link deliberate play to sleep onset.
Here are some facts:
- Children play lots and sleep they tend to sleep well. (That’s not to say that kids always sleep well.)
- Dr. Stuart Brown and others have argued that play has many benefits. Yet adults don’t play enough.
- One of the good things about the video game industry is that it has allowed people to get more play in their lives. However,
- Not all games are created equal.
- The benefits of play depend on the game.
- Playing computer games before bed may not be a good idea: It activates the brain and exposes it to insomnolent light.
- Most adults are play deprived 🙁 . (Gamers aside!) The business world is still relatively stern. Between work, parenting, exercise, and looking after one’s own parents, many people feel they have no time for play.
So we need to fit play into our lives in a manner that fits with our productivity needs. The cognitive shuffle does that, because it is performed in bed, a time when you should not be working.
Furthermore, consider that neuroscientist Jack Panksepp argues that dreaming is a vestigial form of play. (That’s in his book, The Archaeology of Mind.)
The cognitive shuffle aims to emulate, in some respects, dreaming. Like dreaming, in the cognitive shuffle, your brain generates a variety of images that are rather incoherent. (Dreams may seem to be coherent, but that’s likely simply an artefact of your brain imposing meaning on a very loose parade of mental items.) The dreamy playfulness of the cognitive shuffle might contribute to its purported somnolence. This remains to be proven, but it’s a very interesting hypothesis. Even if the playfulness of the cognitive shuffle is not insomnolent as such, the fact that it’s playful is a boon!
→ With the cognitive shuffle you can make falling asleep a playful process, instead of something frustratingly elusive.