The Cognitive Shuffle Do-It-Yourself Instructions

mySleepButton uses The Cognitive Shuffle (SDI)

The Cognitive Shuffle—Serial Diverse Imagining (SDI)—is a technique designed by Dr. Luc P. Beaudoin to help people get to sleep. It scrambles your thoughts. This helps you keep your mind off issues that prevent you from sleeping. Also, because The Cognitive Shuffle gets you to imagine random objects, the sleep regulators in your brain may be tricked into thinking that it’s time to fall asleep. The Cognitive Shuffle is designed to induce “super-somnolent” mentation.

The Cognitive Shuffle involves thinking of random items that are easy to visualize, non-threatening, and conducive to sleep. Thinking up such items without software is difficult, unless you know some tricks. The best trick is to use mySleepButton. It takes care of selecting appropriate words for you. With mySleepButton, all you need to do is imagine the words it speaks to you.

But suppose for some reason, you can’t use mySleepButton one night because you don’t have access to your iPhone. Or you don’t own an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. This is where our Do-It-Yourself Cognitive Shuffle technique comes in. It’s described next.

Cognitive Shuffle DIY Technique

First, get yourself into bed, ready to go to sleep.

Second, think of a random, emotionally neutral word consisting of at least 5 letters. “BEDTIME” is a good word. Try not to use one with many repeating letters. “BANANA” isn’t a great DIY-SDI word because “BANANA” has only 3 unique letters, B, N, A. “BEDTIME”, in this case is a “seed” word.

Third, gradually spell out the seed word (e.g., “BEDTIME”). For each letter of the word, think of a word that start with that letter. Then imagine the item represented by the word. Repeat this many times for each letter. I.e., think of many words that start with the letter and imagine each one of them.

Here’s an example: “BEDTIME” starts with B. So, repeatedly think of a word that starts with B and then imagine it. For example,


BABY. Imagine a baby.
BALL. Imagine a ball rolling down a street.
BLINK. Image someone blinking a lot.
BANANA. Imagine a bunch of bananas hanging from a tree.
BEANS. Imagine green beans in a produce store.
BERRY. Ooops! There’s a theme here, banana, beans and berries are all produce. They and beer are all ingestible. So just skip this word.
BELGIUM. Imagine the flat lands of Belgium.
Bob. Imagine a person named Bob that you don’t dislike. (Notice that it’s fine to imagine people.)

Once you get bored of the letter (B, in this case) or you can’t find another word starting with that letter, just move on to the next letter.

The next letter in BEDTIME is E. So think of words beginning with E and then imagine them.

EAST. Imagine the eastern part of the place where you live.
EAGLE. Imagine an eagle flying high.
EGG. Imagine an egg.

If you have difficulty coming up with words that start with E, either skip this letter, or use this trick: tack on an extra letter to E and see if that helps. For example, if you try ED… you might think of EDEN and then EDINBURGH.

Continue generating E_ words until you get bored of the letter E or you can’t find words starting with B anymore. Then proceed to the next letter in the seed word (BEDTIME, in this example).

If you happen to make it to the end of the seed word, BEDTIME without falling asleep. Just pick a new seed word, such as SATURN, and repeat the entire process. I.e., for each of its letters, think of words that start with that letter, and imagine those words.

Some tips:

  • If you produce a word that you can’t easily imagine, just reject it.
  • If the word you produce stresses you a bit, that’s okay. You have the choice of staying with the word, using mindfulness to accept the emotions it generates. Keep in mind that the next word will replace the content of your ‘working memory’ and you will likely feel calmer, because human emotions are mainly the result of our thinking.  Please note that muchpsychological research suggests that acceptance of emotions is healthy and beneficial for sleep. Compare mySleepButton’s mindfulness pack.
  • If you can’t think of any more words for a given letter, just move on to the next letter.
  • It is sometimes helpful to imagine a few contexts for the same object (e.g., if the word is ‘mountain’, you could imagine, one at a time, several different mountains you know).
  • If you produce a good word that doesn’t start with the given letter, you can still imagine it. These are not rules, just principles to facilitate the generation of mental content.

Limitations of DIY-SDI

DIY-SDI is not effective in the following conditions:

  • You are too tired to conjure up words, but not drowsy enough to fall asleep. (For example, when you wake up in the middle of the night.)
  • You don’t like to think deliberately when you are trying to fall asleep.
  • You find it difficult to come up with words that start with a given letter, despite practice.
  • You find spelling tedious.

In these and other situations just lay back and shuffle your thoughts to sleep with mySleepButton.