Weirdly Enough, The "Drunken Monkey" Sleep Technique Actually Works

Shimmy your way to a better night’s sleep.

Trying the drunken monkey sleep hack.
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Need a way to feel sleepy ASAP? Apparently, you can simply pretend like you’ve had one too many margaritas. At least that’s the idea behind the “drunken monkey” sleep technique, which encourages you to sway gently back and forth like you’re a little bit tipsy.

The drunken monkey hack, which has nearly 60,000 views on TikTok, also suggests you add a few arm swings into the mix, a move that will make you feel like a monkey. Creator @USAMedical, who originally shared the idea in 2022, says this little dance helps you sleep better by boosting blood flow to your limbs. “It’s so stupid and easy,” he says in the viral video, “but I’ve been sleeping for the full night the last three nights.”

The idea is to step your feet out wide right before you get into bed. From that position, you repeatedly shimmy your hips left to right to loosen your muscles, and then you add in a shoulder rotation. The goal is to get all of your extremities moving and grooving for a full minute as you sway your hips and swing your arms.

In his comments, one person said, “I did this yesterday and fell asleep much faster,” while another wrote, “I thought [this was] a joke, [but I] tried it and it kind of worked.” That was my cue to give it a go as well, especially as someone who’s always looking to improve my pre-bed routine. Below, sleep experts weigh in on why drunken monkeys work, and I give my honest review of the hack.

Trying The Drunken Monkey Sleep Technique

When the drunken monkey technique first went viral, people thought it was a joke. The movement — and the name — seemed too silly to be helpful, yet there’s evidence and anecdotes that prove this sleep hack works.

According to Dr. Shelby Harris, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, the back-and-forth hip shimmy increases blood flow to your legs, and that in turn eases aches and muscle tension, like the kind that might build up in your lower half if you sit all day for work. It’s very similar to stretching before bed, which helps your body feel relaxed enough to fall asleep.

If you tend to toss and turn, drunken monkeys also help release the pent-up energy that might otherwise keep you awake. “The exercise can tire you out physically,” says Harris, and it also relaxes your mind, similar to a mindfulness practice. “The rhythmic movements calm your nervous system and prepare your mind and body for sleep.”

Even though a round of drunken monkeys only lasts 60 seconds, the full-body movement is enough to raise your heart rate, too, possibly to the point you break a little sweat. This extra heat and increase in body temperature signals to your internal clock that it’s time to sleep, says Harris, just like a steamy pre-bed shower.

Being A Drunken Monkey

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My body and mind will find any excuse to stay awake late into the night. On the days I’m physically tired, it feels like my mind is running a mile a minute. When I’m mentally drained, I often feel like my body is too hyped up to drift off to dreamland.

That’s why I was so intrigued by the drunken monkey hack since it seems to solve all of these problems with one simple move. To test it out, I took a wide stance before getting into bed and began a slow side-to-side hip gyration. Then, just like the TikTok suggests, I raised up my arms and soon had all four limbs moving in different directions. A true sight to behold.

Right away I could tell my hips and shoulders really needed the movement. I sit all day for work and often forget to stretch, so it felt good to hear some cracks and pops as my joints loosened up. About 20 seconds in I noticed my heart rate increased, too. (I was doing a ridiculous dance, after all.)

I worried it was a bad idea to break a slight sweat right before trying to sleep, but once I got into bed I felt a noticeable rush of relief and relaxation wash over me. While I didn’t immediately fall asleep, it felt extra good to lie down after doing a mini workout, the same way it feels good to crash onto your mat after a tough exercise session.

The Takeaway

I’ve been doing the “drunken monkey” on the days I don’t have time for a longer stretch or exercise routine. After a few shimmies, I feel like it’s easier to rest and relax, likely because it shakes out my soreness and briefly gets my heart rate up.

Speaking of, Harris says it’s OK to try slower drunken monkeys if you feel like they make you too alert or awake. They’re also something you can do in the middle of the night if you wake up and struggle to fall back asleep.

As a bonus, this hack is a less serious option than yoga or meditation. While I don’t think you have to do the drunken monkey every single night before bed, they do seem like a good option if you’re tossing, turning, or having stressful thoughts. If nothing else, the silliness will snap you back to reality and put you in a better mood before you try to sleep.

Studies referenced:

van Sluijs, RM. (2020.) Effect of Rocking Movements on Afternoon Sleep. Front Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01446.


Dr. Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist, director of sleep health at Sleepopolis