Viral video shows Desmond Swayne, a British member of parliament, seemingly falling asleep on the job. Sound familiar? If so, this trick may be for you.
Updated: January 17, 2018
Sleep may be just a word game away.
Desmond Swayne, a Conservative member of parliament, seemingly fell asleep in the House of Commons during a long speech on the European Union Withdrawal Bill given by his colleague Ken Clarke. The video of the incident went viral, and Swayne quickly got the nickname “Sleepy Swayne.”
For his part, Swayne told the BBC that he is “annoyed” with himself over the incident, noting that he had had a “very long day”, as he’d gotten up very early to go swimming in London. “I dozed off for 30 seconds,” he told BBC 5 live. “That is the extent of it. It happened. It won’t happen again.”
Whatever the reasons, it’s possible a good night’s sleep could have helped prevent Swayne from nodding off. And one scientist thinks he has the solution to getting a good night’s sleep — especially for those who lie awake at night obsessing about how they can’t fall asleep — which only serves to keep them awake even longer. The sleep technique is called cognitive shuffling, and it assists you in scrambling your thoughts, which “helps you keep your mind off issues that prevent you from sleeping.”
The scientist Luc Beaudoin has an app to help you achieve this, but also offers free advice on how to do it: When you’re in bed, ready to sleep, think of a random, emotionally neutral word — one that doesn’t have a lot of repeating letters — that is at least five letters like “bedtime.” Then, “gradually spell out the word; for each letter of the word, think of words that start with that letter. So you will take the letter “b” and imagine a number of words that also start with “b” like “baby,” (picture a baby) “ball,” (picture a ball rolling down the street) “blink” (picture someone blinking often), for example. When you get sick of the letter “b,” move on to “e,” which is the second letter in bedtime.
A writer for Quartz tried the scientist’s app — mySleepButton — to fall asleep and had mostly positive things to say. She notes that it works similarly to the instructions above but “does all the heavy lifting for you” and that she soon found herself “drifting off and sleeping soundly.” There’s also some research to suggest that this technique might work.
But whether it’s this or some other technique that gets you to sleep, one thing is clear: A lack of sleep is more than just a woozy annoyance. It’s a multi-billion problem. Lack of sleep costs the U.S. economy $411 billion in lost worker productivity. What’s more, Americans spend more than $40 billion on sleep drugs and other sleep aids.
And the problem — about one in three people doesn’t regularly get enough sleep, according to the CDC — is more than just an issue for employers. Individuals who don’t get enough sleep are at “an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress,” the CDC notes. Those conditions, in addition to missing work, can easily cost you thousands of dollars per year.
This story was originally published in May and has been updated to reflect the “Sleepy Swayne” video.
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