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Tactics for Quick Sleep By Jim Donovan TED Talk

“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?” This is the promise of  Jim Donovan TEDx Talk.

If you are anything like the millions of Americans who are sleep deprived, your answer is probably a big YES! Show me how!

With over 4.6 million views of his Youngstown TEDx event, it seems like this professional musician knows what he’s talking about.

Read on to learn how to do simple rhythm exercises and use their healing power to trick your brain into falling asleep fast.

What’s This Jim Donovan TED Talk All About?

As Jim Donovan points out, chronic sleep deprivation is a major problem:

“In the US alone, it’s 35% of adults, that’s 86 million of us. What’s worse, 87% of teenagers, that’s 36 million kids whose brains are still developing are chronically sleep deprived.”

In this TEDx talk, Jim Donovan, a professional musician who is most famously known as the drummer of three-time platinum band Rusted Root, recounts his own experience with sleep deprivation and how it almost took him to the grave.

Speaking seriously on the scale of the problem, Jim notes:

“Scientists are calling sleep deprivation an emerging global epidemic with low-income people and women being affected the most.”

Luckily, after watching the Jim Donovan TED Talk, you’ll have a quick few-minute solution that you can start doing tonight to fall asleep fast and avoid sleep deprivation.

Why did Jim Make 7 Hours of Sleep a Serious Goal?

To begin his talk, Jim recounts a terrifying story from 2010 when he found himself in the back of an ambulance. He was sure that he was in the middle of a fatal heart attack.

Lights were flashing, he had tubes coming out of him and he seriously wondered if he would ever see his wife and kids again.

Luckily, Jim was having an acute anxiety attack, not a heart attack, but it prompted the doctor to ask him some serious lifestyle questions.

Here’s what Jim told the doctor:

“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. Then I drink several more cans through the day. I also fess up about eating too much sugar, like 4 bowls of Lucky Charms before bed and that for some reason I have trouble sleeping.” 

He goes on to say:

“Even though I am chronically exhausted, I get about 4 hours of sleep per night.”

The doctor gave Jim a grim prognosis. Just the day before, a guy who was a year younger than Jim came in with the same symptoms and lifestyle, but he died.

The doctor told Jim:

“4 hours of sleep per night is sleep deprivation. There is no quicker way to die early than to skimp on sleep especially with all the crap you consume. You need at least 7 hours to stay healthy.”

Jim hadn’t rested for 7 hours in a long time and his body was breaking down. He even recalls his childhood challenges with falling asleep because he had songs stuck in his head or too many thoughts swirling around.

Out of this lifelong challenge with falling asleep plus a near brush with death, Jim was more motivated than ever to find a solution.

To start his journey, he educated himself:

“I researched sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation – heart attack, stroke, weight gain, premature death.” 

What’s the Technique to Fall Asleep Faster from the Jim Donovan TED Talk?

Jim Donovan cut out Redbull and cut down on coffee – and no more nighttime Lucky Charms. But, he still couldn’t get his mind to stop thinking.

Then one day, on his way home from work, he had an idea.

Since 1999, he had led drumming and percussion workshops. At the beginning of each class, the group does a steady unison pattern and he recalled that everyone told him the activity made them feel more relaxed.

But, it had never occurred to him that he could do this exercise without his drum and use the power of music to sleep better. 

That night, Jim experimented.

“At bedtime I sat at the edge of my bed and I brought my hands to my lap and I started doing my drumming exercise on my legs very lightly[…]I wanted to find out if I could get the exercise to work. At first nothing happened. Then after about 4 minutes of persistence, I noticed my eyelids starting to get heavy. I was yawning. So, I decided to lay down and shut my eyes just for a minute. When I opened them again, it was morning. I slept a solid 7.5 hours with no struggle falling asleep.”

This was a major breakthrough in his lifelong struggle with falling asleep, and it took him just four minutes to solve.

Jim calls this “brain tapping”.

It uses the phenomenon known as “frequency following response”. 

Put simply, your brain loves following repeating rhythmic patterns. This is the reason you nod your head to your favorite music.

First your brain notices a pattern. Next it connects with the pattern. Finally, your brain begins to follow it. 

You can learn the exact technique in the Jim Donovan TED Talk. Jim goes on to explain exactly how to do this exercise and how to activate this phenomenon. He teaches you how to slow down the speed of your brain by slowing down the rhythmic pattern in a 30-second activity.

Here’s Jim Donovan’s technique:

  1. Get comfortable 
  2. Start lightly tapping your hands on your knees like it’s your mental drum. Tap to the pattern of a ticking stopwatch. Right, left, right, left, right, left.
  3. Breathe slowly while continuing the tapping.
  4. After about 30 seconds, slow the rhythm of your tapping
  5. Start breathing to the rhythm of ‘Breathe in, 2, 3, 4’ and ‘Out, 2, 3, 4’.

That’s it.

Jim encourages his audience, many of whom start yawning after this short exercise, to pay attention to how their mind feels in that moment.

He says that for some people, it doesn’t work on the first try but to keep at it. It can take some time to get used to the exercise. Don’t give up.

Final Thoughts From Jim Donovan

Jim, a self-proclaimed hippie and professional drummer, asks his audience to imagine a world where people everywhere are getting a better night’s sleep and how that could contribute to the peacefulness of humankind. 

On a small scale, it can make your own home more peaceful.

He invites everyone to give his music therapy a try for a week and teach this practical healing power to anyone who will listen, especially kids.

Since Jim discovered this simple tactic, he says “Most nights since 2010, I have been getting the best sleep of my life.”
Isn’t that something you’d like to be saying too? Watch the Jim Donovan TED Talk and give brain tapping a try tonight.