How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep | Jim Donovan | TEDxYoungstown

By | January 21, 2020


Translator: Tanya Cushman
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs It’s October 2010. I’m freaking out. Sirens are blaring above me. I’m laying on a stretcher
in the back of an ambulance. My doctor just told me
I’m having a heart attack. I’m trembling, my arms are tingling, and this pain in my chest
is crushing me from the inside. Tracey and the kids
have no idea where I am. I might never get to hold them again. This can’t be happening. My life cannot be over! And yet here I am, probably dying. But it doesn’t happen. Instead, I get extracted
from my good life and thrust into a reality
out of my control. I’ve got tubes jammed in my veins, sensors covering my chest, and a cold, silver bedpan
waiting patiently beside me. I also get to wear
this unflattering hospital gown while they administer every possible test they can charge my insurance company for. (Laughter) On the third day of this drama,
my doctor walks in and announces, “Well, good news, Jim. You’re healthy as a horse. No heart attack,
just some really bad anxiety.” And then he asks me, “Now, what’s a healthy man like you
having so much anxiety for? What’s your life like?” Well, then I got to confess about the morning routine I’ve developed
being a drummer in a band on the road. When I wake up in the morning,
I crack open a can of Red Bull so that I can wake up enough
to drink a pot of coffee. (Laughter) Then I drink several more cans
through the day. I also fess up about
eating too much sugar – like four bowls of Lucky Charms
before bed too much – and that for some reason, I have trouble sleeping. Even though I am chronically exhausted, I usually get about four hours
of sleep per night. The doctor’s face turned somber. He looks at me and he says, “Jim, this is a get-out-of-jail-free card. I want you to know, there was a man
who came in the day before you, a year younger than you, with a similar condition, and who died this morning. Today you have a chance to make changes
that will let you see your kids grow up. Four hours of sleep per night
is sleep deprivation, and there is no quicker way to die early
than to skimp on sleep, especially with all the crap
you’ve been consuming. You need at least seven hours
to stay healthy.” Seven hours. I haven’t gotten
that much rest in a long time, and now my body’s breaking down. I know I’ve got to do something,
or my next trip here might not end well. Soon I would discover something
that changed my life from that moment on: the key to falling asleep is rhythm. This discovery came from my need
to solve a lifelong problem. Ever since I was a kid, at bedtime, I can never
get my mind to stop thinking. Sometimes it will be a worry, other times a song
would get stuck in my head and just loop around and around. When I got home from the hospital,
I decided to do some research, and so I researched sleep
and the effects of sleep deprivation, which I learned include heart attack,
stroke, weight gain, and just as my doctor had told me, premature death. I also read a Harvard Business study that shows the impairment that happens
at four hours of sleep per night is similar to the impairment that happens when a guy my size
drinks five regular beers. Then I came across
some startling statistics. In the US alone, 35% of adults – that’s 86 million of us – are sleep deprived. What’s worse, 87% of teenagers. That’s 36 million kids
whose brains are still developing are chronically sleep deprived. Worldwide, scientists are calling sleep deprivation
an emerging global epidemic, with low-income people and women
being affected the most. I know I’ve got to do something, and so I let go of the energy drinks, I cut way back on coffee, and I even give up
my nightly Lucky Charm feast. And it helps. A little bit. But at bedtime, I still cannot
get my mind to stop thinking. On my way home from work that week, an idea hit me. I don’t know why
I haven’t thought of it before. Since 1999, I’ve been leading
drumming workshops. At the beginning of these programs, I lead an exercise where the group and I drum together
a steady unison pattern like this: boomp, boomp, boomp, boomp, boomp. We do this for a few minutes. At the end, without fail, people tell me that the exercise
helps them to feel more relaxed. It had never occurred to me that I could do the exercise
without my drum. And so that night, I did an experiment. At bedtime, I sat at the edge of my bed,
and I brought my hands to my lap, and I began doing my drumming exercise
on my legs, very lightly. Upon seeing my strange behavior, my wife, Tracey, looked over at me, rolled her eyes
and just turned out the light. But I kept at it. I wanted to find out
if I could get the exercise to work. And at first, nothing happened. But then, after about four
minutes of persistence, I noticed my eyelids
starting to get heavy. I was yawning, and I decided just to lay down
and shut my eyes for a minute. When I opened them again, it was morning. I slept a solid seven-and-a-half hours
with no struggle falling asleep. And most nights, since 2010, I’ve been getting
the best sleep of my life. I do it using an exercise
I’m going to show you today that I call “brain tapping.” Now, this exercise uses a phenomenon
that happens in the brain: it’s called the
“frequency-following response.” This is a very fancy way of saying that your brain loves to follow
repeating, rhythmic patterns. Essentially, your brain, first,
notices that there’s a pattern, it connects with it, and it begins to follow it. Whenever you listen
to your favorite music and do this, that’s the frequency-following
response happening. What we’re going to do is we’re going to help that
frequency-following response to occur; we’re going to activate it, and then we’re going to help to slow
the speed of your brain activity down by slowing down the rhythm. Now, there might be
a few of you out there right now that are thinking to yourself, “Does this hippie
really want me to believe that I can use rhythm
to help me fall asleep? Really?” And what I’d say back to you
is “What if I could? What if I could show you
how to fall asleep tonight in less time than it takes you
to eat a bowl of cereal?” Would you try it? Now, here’s the great news. You do not need to be good
at rhythm for this to work, only willing to try. Here’s what happens. The exercise, it’s 30 seconds. What we’re going to do
is bring our hands to our lap like this. We’re going to be tapping
at the speed of a ticking stopwatch – so right left, right left, right left – very lightly. As we do this, we’re going
to breathe slowly. At the end, we’re going
to slow the rhythm down. So, if you’re willing, I’m going to invite you just to settle in. Take a big breath in. Begin very lightly tapping on your legs
at the speed of a ticking stopwatch – right left, right left, right left. If you’re comfortable, I want to invite you
just to close your eyes so you can get the full experience. Next, we’re going to do
a very slow breathing technique. Your job is just to do your best
and take breaks if you need them. So eyes are closed, we’re tapping lightly, and let’s start the breathing. Breathing in slowly, two, three – it’s very slow – four, and slowly out, two, three, four. Breathing in – doing great – two, three, four, and slowly out, two, three, four. Breathing in – almost there – two, three, four. And slowly out, two – very good – three, four. And now, slow the tapping down, and slow it down again. Four, three, two, one. And relax. Take a moment to notice
how your mind feels. Let’s take a big breath in, and let it go. You can open your eyes. And I saw a couple of you yawning. I take that as a compliment, so thank you. (Laughter) If you got the exercise
to work the first time, congratulations. You’ve got a new friend
you can call on tonight to help you get to sleep. If the exercise didn’t work
as you hoped it would, don’t worry, you’re not broken. Sometimes it takes a few tries
to get used to the exercise. Please don’t give up. Now, imagine getting
great sleep from now on. Imagine how much better you’ll feel, and then imagine people all over the world doing this exercise
and getting better quality sleep. Imagine how that might
affect peacefulness everywhere. I’ve got a challenge for you: for the next five nights, I want to invite you just to run
the exercise for at least three minutes. Remember, tap like a ticking stopwatch, breathe slowly, and at the end, slow the rhythm down. Once you’re comfortable with it, I want you to feel free to teach it
to anyone who needs it, especially kids. Good luck and sweet dreams. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep | Jim Donovan | TEDxYoungstown

  1. Paul Miner Post author

    Hmm, does the reverse work? (Trying to wake up in the morning, using taps at an increasing tempo…)

    Reply
  2. MegaTroll Trollington Post author

    How old is this dude that hospitals could still afford stainless steel bed pans?

    Reply
  3. Walrus Bellhop Post author

    I've Seen Rusted Root !
    Their Songs put me to sleep!

    (just kidding)
    RIP Chris S.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Powers Post author

    i use visualization ,i picture myself standing at the top of a stairway a very high one,standing backwards and see myself walking backwards down them while counting each step,when it seems I wont ever fall asleep,I do,And tapping to fall asleep isnt new,we pat babies to fall asleep all the time

    Reply
  5. Cynthia Powers Post author

    I used to hae my husband rock me gentle back and forth to fall asleep cause he snores and would keep me awake

    Reply
  6. Emmalinda Blundell Post author

    Legit already discovered this when I realised techno music kept making me sleepy with the constant beat so I listen to it at bed and zzzzzz

    Reply
  7. Helga. Post author

    I bore myself to sleep watching TED Talks. It works.
    This video sounds just like Arlo Guthrie's 'Alice's Restaurant'. Yaaawn! 😴

    Reply
  8. Tarn1981 Tarn Post author

    I have to trick my wrist into pulling my…I mean wow great vid

    Reply
  9. Rohit Chowdhury Post author

    To fall asleep you have to work hard though out the day. By working hard I mean physical labour is more necessary than mental labour. When your body is tired, you automatically fall asleep.

    Reply
  10. B Man Post author

    I yawned 4 times during the exercise! Can’t wait to try it tonight.

    Reply
  11. Allie LeRoy Post author

    This is called EMDR. Francine Shapiro discovered it essentially in the same way this guy did in the 80's. This is a great exercise, just weird that he is renaming a technique that has existed for awhile and is widely used my mental health professionals.

    Reply
  12. magicbuskey Post author

    It’s also possible you’re hitting an acupressure point which is triggering yourself to sleep. Have you tried tapping other places? Also, you could just be boring yourself to sleep. You could also be triggering a pavlovian response by doing this when you would have already fell asleep naturally. You’re definitely onto something, though. Good job, man!

    Reply
  13. MA Traficant Post author

    It worked for my husband last night. I'm so grateful.

    Reply
  14. Sara Bondi Post author

    Am I the only one who actually fell asleep while he was explaining the method?!?!

    Reply
  15. waf77 Post author

    First 8 minutes is totally unnecessary life story. Get to the point man

    Reply
  16. freelancerAM Post author

    I wouldnt say this is a trick as much as a technique

    Reply
  17. Led Daudet Post author

    Gentle fapping always work for me and takes even less time

    Reply
  18. Al Cox Post author

    8:19 goes straight to the excersize…
    great buildup story. I can’t wait to try this as I’ve essentially given up when it comes to my insomnia…
    also I could use a Ted talk on how to wake up!

    Reply
  19. Arbonne-TeachTrainTether LAUNCH! Post author

    I found it helpful… fell asleep watching it!

    Reply
  20. Joshua Twilley Post author

    Amazing! So what you're saying is…. Your mind thinks in frequencies and when there is rhythm you're more relaxed? Its almost like your consciousness is a wave 😉 tesla never would have guessed

    Reply
  21. Carter Corcoran Post author

    Boys just need to 👉👌 and they're golden to sleep

    Reply
  22. Russ Andres Post author

    You can do the same thing with just your breathing. You don’t have to drum. Focus on the air entering and exiting the tip of your nose. Counting each breath up to 10. Then start over at 1. If you lose your place, just start at 1 again. It’s pretty much meditating.

    Reply
  23. Michael L. / Skitscape Addict Post author

    Soooooo… who’s watching this at 5am?

    Reply
  24. Valeri Speights Post author

    If you did it in reverse in the morning, would that make it easier to feel awake and get out of bed? 👀

    Reply
  25. Gregory Ambres Post author

    This audience is so lame. The guy is hilarious, and they are not reacting at all.

    Reply
  26. nrse82 Post author

    This is standard advice in baby books. Music with a rhythm that matches your heartbeat helps you fall asleep.

    Reply
  27. Beth Rammer Post author

    Jim we haven’t used metal bed pans since the 70’s!! You lost me at your first lie!

    Reply
  28. Tim Bishop Post author

    It certainly had a calming effect. I was smiling when I opened my eyes.

    Reply
  29. Joe Morman Post author

    Dude's weird. He's all, "especially children" all cult like. You think his hair's cult like? It seems pretty culty. Or, cultish if you prefer the ish sound over the tee sound. Anyway, he's got the whole crowd patting their legs as I'm typing this. Nothing culty'ish about that, now is there?. Here comes the invitation to teach everyone "especially children" to do what he's telling them to do – fuckin weird.

    Reply
  30. Kimberly Hawkins Post author

    Problem is, I sleep on my side in a fetal position with my left arm under my head. If I fall asleep on my back i will wake up in about an hour.

    Reply
  31. Elizabeth Draper Post author

    Jim , I haven't had even 4 hours of sleep my entire life. Im more like hamster on spinning wheel most of the time at night .
    Guess I try this 🤔you took the time to share simply because you had wake up call . Thank you
    Happy sleeping 😴 💤

    Reply
  32. TheSphongleface Post author

    "Loves patterns" nope it bores you really hard is what's happening but since your focus is locked onto the rythm you won't do something else.
    Anyway I just flip a switch in my head and I'm gone. I'm a wizard.
    My heart also skipped a beat from your little game.

    Reply
  33. Not Again Post author

    I ask that guidance, blessings and good luck follow you where ever you are . Thank you for this video and I can't really express my gratitude other than wishing you all the best as well as being lost for words… So I chose some while feeling guilty of not being able to thank properly

    Reply
  34. etmax1 Post author

    I have no trouble falling asleep, it takes me between 10 an 60 seconds most nights. My problem is that I don't sleep as deeply as I used to so even after 8-9 hours I don't feel as rejuvenated as I used after 5.5 hours

    Reply
  35. Richard Rivera Post author

    How many are like me, Watching this video instead of sleeping?

    Reply
  36. DeGolyer Films Post author

    then every liberals gots to pick the mush 👉🏼🤯 out of there brain

    since (none of em) have real 👉🏼🧠 brains

    Reply
  37. sharkman4928 Post author

    He's not much of a comedian, though he tries hard to be one. I am not sure if this technique works or not but watching the video is putting me to sleep so….

    Reply
  38. mrsMarg77 Post author

    I tried this trick yesterday, for the first time I fell asleep in a few minutes. It was amazing. I must tell I'd got really awfull stressing week.

    Reply
  39. Jim Bateman Post author

    Thanks. I started tapping, and breathing hard an d nev got 2 C da nd…….

    Reply
  40. Jim Bateman Post author

    How many people did you have to wake up in the audience?

    Reply
  41. brian me Post author

    I thought he was gonna fall asleep standing during the Exercise.

    Reply
  42. Kay C. Post author

    Youtube: How to trick your brain into falling asleep.

    Jim Donovan: How to trick you into watching this video instead of sleeping.

    Reply
  43. Paul nmn Post author

    How to trick your brain into waking up and using shampoo.

    Reply
  44. Chris Honsberger Post author

    4-7-8 breathing technique

    Allow your lips to gently part.

    Exhale completely, making a breathy whoosh sound as you do.

    Press your lips together as you silently inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds.

    Hold your breath for a count of 7.

    Exhale again for a full 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound throughout.

    Repeat 3 times.

    Reply
  45. Desertfox Post author

    I just got done watching an ant colony video to try and sleep.. glad this video (finally) came to the rescue lol

    Reply
  46. Balanced Post author

    Binaural beats will put anyone to sleep in a few minutes

    Reply
  47. Audrey Post author

    One of the more entertaining Ted talks. I’m going to try this.

    Reply
  48. Petersilius Zwackelmann Post author

    Obviously YT knows best that I got sleeping problems haha

    Reply
  49. Arturas Karalius Post author

    I started yawning just by watching this 😴😏

    Reply
  50. MyTech Post author

    I cut out all caffeine two months ago and while I still feel a bit tired, I am mentally sharper and my actual productivity is way up despite spending more time asleep. I was only drinking a cup or two per day, but it was every day and it was to cover up a lack of sleep. Ten years ago I was in the spot that this guy was in were chronic fatigue landed me in the hospital for two days, I was in my 20s, no energy drink abuse but definitely burning the candle from both ends.

    Reply
  51. Ula Yee Post author

    I have yawned after the 3rd out-breath. Love it! I have actually heard before about rhythm and brain entrainment, but it was used for trance inducing purposes. Never thought it could be used to help falling asleep. Trying it tonight all right.

    Reply
  52. stringbender57 Post author

    Jim, a fellow musician with a similar problem I too have of trouble falling asleep… I can totally relate! I am going to give this a try. I can see that it really might work. Good job speaking Jim! I enjoyed this.

    Reply
  53. Change Seeker Post author

    Thank yoy very much, Jim, for your advice! I needed it badly….

    Reply
  54. Naomi Cox Post author

    "Hey, Google, tell me a bedtime story."
    It always works.
    Always.

    Reply
  55. David Quid Pro Quo Post author

    I tried this and all I keep doing is making hip hop beats and freestyling…

    Reply
  56. george georgantas Post author

    Problem is if I start tapping my thighs rhythmically under the blankets my wife will stay awake. Put on an audio short story, turn down screen brightness, and off you go.

    Reply
  57. røb ee Post author

    I can usually send myself to sleep by trying to think of a new invention. I believe it works by taking my mind off anything actually going on in my life and by using the right, creative side of the brain it relaxes the left, academic side of the brain. It doesn’t matter what I’m trying to create. Maybe something new for the house, car or exercising or whatever. I never come up with anything that will make me rich as I usually fall asleep.

    Reply
  58. Marianne Poulos Post author

    Nice looking masculine American male! Im still not tired and want to read in the quiet.

    Reply

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