How to sleep: The 30-second rhythmic exercise that induces sleep within ‘four minutes’

Denise and Eddie get a good nights sleep with Silent Night

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Chronic sleep deprivation can have a number of dire consequences for our health – both mental and physical. Our resting hours are essential for the reparation of our anatomy. Frustratingly, however, sleep often evades us when we need it the most. For the millions who contend with sleep deprivation daily, one expert proposes a quick method to slow down the brain using rhythm.

The “brain-tapping” method – so-called because it involves a light tapping motion – draws on the brain’s auditory system to help bring relaxation to the present moment.

Jim Donovan, a musician and assistant professor at Saint Francis University first proposed the method during a TEDx appearance in 2018.

The technique emphasises stimulation of the frequency-following response to induce sleepiness.

“Your brain loves to follow repeating, rhythmic patterns,” explained Donovan. “Essentially [with this method], your brain first notices that there is a pattern, it connects with it, and then begins to follow it.”

READ MORE: How to stop snoring at night – Does mouth taping ACTUALLY cure snoring?

The drummer conceived the method after reading about the perils of sleep deprivation on the internet.

“I researched the effects of sleep deprivation, which I learnt include heart attack, stroke, weight gain […] and premature death.”

Despite his raised awareness of the risks, Donovan’s insomnia persisted.

Drawing inspiration from his drumming session, he devised a 30-second sleep technique, which he claims can induce sleep in “less time” than it takes to “eat a bowl of cereal”.

The 30-second brain-tapping method

To put the method into motion, place your one hand on each lap and start tapping at a slow speed.

Tap your left thigh first, then your right thigh, alternating between the two at the speed of a ticking stopwatch.

As you’re doing this, slow your breath and close your eyes. At the end of the three minutes, slow the rhythm down.

By slowing down the rhythm you’re going to help slow the speed of your brain activity, explained Donovan.

By using the brain tapping method, the frequency-following response is activated.

Donovan explained that head-bobbing motions that are incited by listening to music are an example of the frequency-following response in action.

“If the exercise doesn’t work as you hoped it would in the first go, don’t worry,” added Donovan. “Sometimes it takes a few tries to get used to the exercise.”

Detailing his first experience using the method, Donovan said: “I sat on the edge of my bed, and brought my hands to my lap and began doing my drumming exercise on my legs, very lightly.

“At first, nothing happened. But after four minutes of persistence, I noticed my eyelids starting to get heavy.

“I was yawning. I decided 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 […], I’ve been getting the best sleep of my life.”

The drummer’s mission is to share the healing power of music through education and performance.

Donovan specialises in placing music and wellness programmes in organisations that focus on people with disabilities and people recovering from addiction.

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