Some people are basically asleep before their head hits the pillow. For the rest of us, not so much. Whether you can’t fall asleep because you’re tossing and turning, or you only have a limited sleep window and you need to make the most of it, falling asleep quickly can sometimes make all the difference in the quality of your night’s rest.
Luckily, there are a few ways to make sleep happen quickly — ways that are also vetted by researchers, so you know that they’ve been tested for maximum sleep-ficiency.
The single biggest tip: Do what you can to make falling asleep feel natural. That’s the real secret to fast sleep by the way — making the process of falling asleep feel so natural that there isn’t any resistance from your brain or body.
Easy Ways to Fall Asleep Fast
1. Ditch the blue light
Blue light, which is a daylight wavelength that promotes attention and wakefulness, can delay the body’s ability to fall asleep. You could opt for blue-light-blocking glasses if you just can’t stop scrolling, but most research shows that ditching your phone and computer up to one hour before bed is optimal. If you need your device nearby, make sure your phone is face-down and away from arm’s reach while you’re in bed.
If you don’t want to go cold turkey just yet, opting for night mode on your device, which mellows out the light coming from your screen. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the full-on brightness of regular mode.
2. Meditate with calming accessories
Falling asleep should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience, and worrying about falling asleep can be the opposite experience.
3. Try a breathing technique to relax your body
Keeping an eye on a ticking clock can fuel a cycle of anxiety and stress that pretty much ensures you won’t ease yourself into worry-free slumber. Instead of counting minutes, try counting your breath instead.
Here are two breathing techniques known to immediately put the body in a calm state:
Box breathing focuses on balancing your breath by keeping inhalations, held breaths and exhalations all on the same count. This method can help cancel all of the noise and stress in the mind, relaxing your body to drift off.
Follow these instructions for box breathing:
- Inhale to a count of five.
- Hold your inhale at the top for five.
- Exhale to a count of five.
- Hold your exhale at the end for five counts.
Alternate-nostril breathing is a great technique to promote relaxation by balancing out both sides of the body. Doing this exercise for just five minutes can have you calm and sleepy in no time.
To do alternate-nostril breathing, follow these steps:
- Use your right hand to hold your right nostril closed with your thumb as you inhale through the other.
- Hold the left nostril closed with your pointer finger and release your thumb to exhale through the other nostril.
- Inhale through the same nostril that you just exhaled from.
4. Progressive muscle relaxation for insomnia
For people who want a more grounding practice that focuses on the whole body, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can help. The goal of PMR is to ease physical tension by flexing and relaxing different parts of your body. Before practicing PMR, get into total relaxation by using one of the breathing techniques above to help prep you for a quick descent into sleep.
For the best success with PMR, lie on your bed and focus on each body part for up to 10 seconds. Start with your forehead muscles and work your way down to your feet, flexing your muscles and then releasing until you feel your body sink into your bed.
Research show that PMR can help reduce the time it takes to sleep, with studies reporting that participants with insomnia fell asleep 100 minutes earlier than normal.
5. Use reverse psychology on yourself
Instead of hyping yourself up with performance anxiety (yep, sleep is a type of performance!), try a bit of reverse psychology: Tell yourself to stay awake.
It sounds strange, but researchers confirms that paradoxical intention helps lessen the anxiety around sleep, making it easier to fall asleep. If insomnia is a regular occurrence for you, you’ll probably want to try this trick instead of using sleep affirmations.
6. Try sleep hypnosis to bypass brain consciousness
Sleep hypnosis might sound kooky but there’s some solid science behind the practice. If your mind, not your body, is collecting all your energy, sleep hypnosis might help guide you away from racing thoughts and towards calmer visualizations.
You can listen to a podcast or a video to guide your mind into the suggestive world of dreams, or work directly with a sleep hypnotist to create a personalized recording that you can listen to at home.
7. Close your eyes and imagine calm scenes
Visualization meditation is the practice of using mindfulness to hold an image in your mind. It’s shown to help lessen anxiety and stress, and increase feelings of relaxation, all of which help with falling asleep faster. If you enjoy more creative ways of falling asleep, imagining colors and pictures that make you feel calm may be your ticket to dreamland.
When trying visualization meditation, you can focus on:
- colors that makes you feel calm and relaxed
- a memory or scene where you can explore sights, sounds, and smells
- friend or family interactions that make you feel warm, peaceful, or loved
To supercharge your visualization meditation, you can also combine box breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
8. Lower the room temperature
If you find yourself awake after 20-30 minutes, your room temperature could be to blame. Get up and check the temperature. Warmer temperatures could keep you awake for a longer period of time, since getting cooler is one way your body recognizes that it’s time for rest mode.
If cracking a window or cranking the AC aren’t options and your room is naturally warmer than you’d like, opt for a comforter with cooling technology.
9. Make sure your bed is cozy
While this tip isn’t “instant,” sometimes the real solution to your sleep troubles is right underneath you. If you’re tossing and turning each night, or waking up feeling sore, your mattress or pillow may not be the right fit. And either of those have lumps, you should consider replacing your mattress and getting a new pillow.
It sounds simple, but switching up the comfort level of how you sleep can do wonders for falling asleep, particularly if you find yourself flipping or bunching your pillow, and adjusting your body to find a comfortable position. When you're more excited to be in bed, instead of anticipating bad sleep, the anxiety around sleep dissipates.
10. Gear-up your sleep space
There are a lot of high-tech sleep aids, all designed to help improve your shut-eye. The market is packed with noise machines, wearables, trackers and devices that help you feel secure against any possible nighttime disruptions, such as snoring from a partner, but there are also devices that provide pure comfort and aesthetic.
These products are known to help decrease anxiety around sleep:
- anti-snoring devices, for you or your partner
- essential oils for sleep, to promote relaxation
- sound machines, to reduce background noise
- adjustable base beds, to combat snoring, acid reflux, and lower back pain
11. Be kind to yourself
Staying in bed while you can’t fall asleep may cause your brain to start associate your bed with being awake. So if you can’t fall asleep within 30 to 40 minutes, get out of bed and do something low-key and relaxing, like reading a book or journaling.
If you have a lot of energy, try brewing a cup of herbal tea, doing a face mask, drawing a bath, or whatever else makes you feel good. Sometimes completing a task will help quiet your brain towards the state of relaxation you’re looking for.
This tip can also really help with decreasing the anxiety that comes with not getting sleep, especially if you have chronic pain and sleep issues. There’s no reason to be harsh on yourself and stir up emotions when you’re already exhausted.
Out-of-the-Bed Tips for Better Sleep
A reality of falling asleep is that our daily routines determine how well our sleep schedules go, more than our decision and desire to sleep will. If you’ve tried all the tips above and still can’t fall asleep, there may be something in your day to day that needs to change. Culprits could include lack of exercise, drinking alcohol or general fatigue that keeps your adrenaline pumping.
These tips for better sleep will require some planning but implementing them can go a long way with resyncing your internal clock:
- Stick to a sleep-wake schedule. Your mind and body thrive on consistency. With enough time in a set routine, your body will start to ease into wind-down with the right timing and cues.
- Exercise earlier in the day (and try not to exercise too soon before bed). A healthy dose of exercise in the morning or afternoon can also help tire you out so that a new, regular bedtime is more within reach. But if your only workout window is close to bedtime — as in within two hours of bedtime — it’s best to skip it, as late workouts can impact your sleep. If you’re really craving some movement, integrate some gentle pilates or yoga.
- Eat dinner earlier. Irregular or late-night meal times may disrupt our circadian rhythm, blurring the line between daytime and nighttime. Skip fried, sugary, and caffeinated foods within four hours of going to bed.
- Wake up and greet the day. Specifically, aim to spend 15 minutes in the sunshine shortly after you wake up each day. Doing this first thing in the morning can help set your circadian rhythm.
The Final Word on How to Fall Asleep Fast
Adequate sleep is associated with more joy, productivity, better decision-making skills, and even healthier relationships — so try out these tips and see what works to help ditch your wide-eyed evenings in bed. Don’t forget, consistency is key.
It might also ease your anxieties to know that falling asleep isn’t supposed to actually be instant. Sleep researchers consider 10 to 20 minutes to be the normal time it takes to fall asleep once it’s “lights out.” In fact, falling asleep in under five minutes is actually a sign of excessive sleepiness, meaning that your body is desperate for sleep.
Still struggling? Keeping a sleep diary during this time can help you determine if there are any outside factors at play. You might discover that you need to adjust your sleep schedule around your partner so they aren’t snoring by the time you are ready to go to bed.
Or you may realize that you sleep better on one side of the bed than the other. After two weeks of tracking, if you’re still unsure of the cause, it may be worth a call to your doctor to ensure there’s nothing else at play.
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