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People Are 'Cognitive Shuffling' To Fall Asleep Faster—and Say It Works

Cognitive shuffling is a useful bedtime practice to calm your mind before sleep.

If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, you have plenty of company. According to, approximately 50 to 70 million people in the United States also have a hard time sleeping and deal with sleep disorders. In addition, one out of every three adults—which amounts to around 84 million people—don't get the right amount of uninterrupted sleep that's recommended for good health. But get ready to possibly catch some great Z's tonight, because we're here with some interesting news. People on TikTok are "cognitive shuffling" to fall asleep faster—and they say it works!

Sleeping comfortably at night is essential to your overall wellness. A sleep deficit can lead to a wealth of chronic conditions, such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, depression, and obesity, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports. Yet according to a 2022 Gallup survey, only 32% of Americans rate their sleep as "excellent" or "very good."

If you're ready to try the latest trend, listen up. We spoke with Dorsey Standish, MS, a mechanical engineer, neuroscientist, wellness expert, and CEO of Mastermind Meditate, who breaks down everything you need to know about cognitive shuffling and its sleep-inducing benefits. Keep reading to learn more, and when you're done, be sure to check out What Happens To Your Body When You Lose an Hour of Sleep.

What is cognitive shuffling?

mature woman sleeping on her back

Tired of staring up at the ceiling as you wait to fall asleep? Cognitive shuffling may be a useful bedtime practice to try. "Cognitive shuffling is a technique from Dr. Luc Beaudoin that involves placing mental attention on different random things to interrupt cognitive patterns like rumination or worry that might hinder calm and sleep," Standish explains.

To "do the cognitive shuffle," as Standish puts it, select a root word like "relax." You'll then picture all of the words that come to mind that begin with every letter of the root word. So you'll start with "R" words that immediately pop into your head, like "rain," "raspberry," "rug," and so on. When you run out of "R" words, move on to words that begin with the next letter, "E." "Keep going at your own pace until you fall asleep," Standish instructs. "If you finish moving through one root word, or if you get distracted with worries or thoughts, you can always start again with a new root word."

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The normal amount of time to fall asleep is anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, Standish says. So keep in mind it may take you some time to snooze. "A technique like cognitive shuffling can assist the nervous system in relaxing and letting go into sleep," Standish continues. "If you can't find relaxation in the cognitive shuffling technique, you can try other mindful sleep techniques like deep breathing with extended exhales or a progressive relaxation body scan, which have also been shown to calm the nervous system and promote an easier transition to rest."

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People are cognitive shuffling to fall asleep faster.


I've struggled with sleep for 25 years and this has worked for me! Active minds need something more active than counting sheep or breathing. #neurodivergent #sleepissues #😴 #sleepdeprived #cognitiveshuffling #ruminations #sleephelp #audhd

♬ original sound – 🧠Pasha Marlowe, MFT, AuDHD

People on TikTok can't get enough of this simple sleep hack—and for good reason. TikToker Maedeh Davami reveals in a video, "My neurology professor told me this trick to fall asleep in five mins. This helped me to cure my insomnia. It's known as cognitive shuffling."

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Another TikToker, Pasha Marlowe, MFT, writes in a clip, "Cognitive shuffling scrambles your thoughts so that your brain can't try to make sense of things. It interrupts the processes of memory, evaluation, planning, scheduling, and problem-solving." Marlowe says in the video, "Have you tried cognitive shuffling to fall asleep? You've got to try this. If your mind is like mine, it's very active, it's hard to quiet it at night, maybe due to ruminations, maybe you've got to-do lists and things you need to remember on your mind, or just in general, stress … I have fallen asleep before finishing the letters from the word I choose every time, because it's random thoughts; it's not the thoughts that keep you up at night."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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