“A racing mind, worries and uncontrollable thoughts are common bedtime complaints among poor sleepers,” said Luc Beaudoin of Canada’s Simon Fraser University, who has created the mySleepButton app that uses what Beaudoin calls a “cognitive shuffle,” or Serial Diverse Imagining (SDI) method.
It was tested among 154 university students who complained of excessive cognitive pre-sleep arousal. The study employed SDI tasks, which occur at bedtime, and also used a standard treatment of structured problem solving (SP), which is done prior to bedtime and takes about 15 minutes.
According to the study to be presented on June 14 at SLEEP 2016 — a joint meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, in Denver, Colorado — SDI was found to be effective in reducing pre-sleep arousal, sleep effort and poor sleep quality with the added advantage of being done while in bed.
However SDI is not without its challenges. “The human brain is a ‘meaning maker’ or a sense-making machine,” said Beaudoin.
“It is actually very difficult for people to conjure up random images unaided. However according to my theory, while it may be difficult to engage in SDI, it is not only a consequence of sleep onset; SDI facilitates it,” he added.
Beaudoin has also invented a “do-it-yourself” version of SDI. The technique provides a sequence of letters that cue a series of relatively unrelated words, which could potentially be customised to individuals.
“My hope is that popular culture will absorb the notion that counting sheep is not effective, whereas SDI is,” Beaudoin said.