How to Fall Asleep Fast

14 Min Read | By Anna Ashbarry

Last Modified 13 February 2024   First Added 10 January 2020

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.
Sammy Margo

“There are so many useful techniques that can help you catch your ‘sleepy train’ and it’s up to you to figure out which one of the many techniques will work for you.”

While some lucky people can fall asleep in just 5 minutes or less, for others, it takes much longer. If you’re one of those for who drifting off to sleep in 5, 10, or even 15 minutes feels unachievable, we’ve collated our tips on falling asleep fast. Whether it’s your thoughts, distractions or the feeling of not being tired keeping you up at night, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep efficiency.

How to fall asleep quickly with 18 tips

While some lucky people can fall asleep in just 5 minutes or less, for others, it takes much longer. If you’re one of those for who drifting off to sleep in 5, 10, or even 15 minutes feels unachievable, we’ve collated our tips on falling asleep fast. Whether it’s your thoughts, distractions or the feeling of not being tired keeping you up at night, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep efficiency, including:

1. Focus on your breathing

The way you breathe can correlate negatively to your ability to sleep. Maybe more than you think. Breathing can control your stress levels, and finding it tough to sleep can aggravate those stress levels and signal to the brain that you are not ready to switch off. However, there are plenty of breathing techniques you can use to relax.

Simply laying down in your ideal sleeping position, inhaling through your nose, filling your lungs to full capacity, and then exhaling slowly out of your mouth is enough to relax and calm yourself. But if that doesn’t work, you can always try some more interesting techniques.

Alternating the nostrils when you breathe through can send signals to your brain that you are ready to relax. This is because breathing through your mouth is often associated with forms of stress, such as when we are unwell or our heart rate has been elevated after exercise. Alternating the nostril you breathe in and out of before falling asleep can give your brain the sign it is time to rest. Double exhalation is another trick to keep your mind away from stressful thinking. Breathing in this way helps to reset the autonomic nervous system by synchronising the neural elements in your brain, heart and lungs. Simply do this by exhaling twice as long as you inhale.

A more researched breathing technique that has been proven to help people fall asleep is Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 method. This technique may take some practice, but advocates claim that it can help them fall asleep in as little as 60 seconds. To find out how to do this, see our 4-7-8 breathing technique guide.

Green tea is much better for you than coffee if you suffer from anxiety

2. Opt for a sleep-inducing drink or snack

The most common advice is to avoid drinking and eating before going to sleep. That’s because anything that triggers your metabolism into action will increase your heart rate too. However, there are some drinks and snacks which can help you relax and fall asleep.

Consider herbal teas for sleep such as chamomile, lavender and valerian root which can all contribute to your ability to fall asleep quickly. Potassium-rich foods, such as bananas and yoghurts are also a good option. These can relax your muscles by slowing your blood pressure, leading to a calmer body and mind. Discover more in our article on the best food for sleep and the role your diet plays on your ability to drift off.

Equally important is avoiding food and drink that isn’t conducive to sleep. Sugary snacks, high-carb meals, alcohol and caffeine are all considered detrimental, particularly when consumed close to bedtime. Read more in our articles on caffeine and sleep and how alcohol affects sleep quality.

Joy Bauer on Meditation and Sleep via Sleep Matters Club

3. Meditate, be mindful, and relax your body

Thinking deeply and afforming yourself with mindfulness therapy can contribute to your sleep quality and even help you drift off quicker.

“Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognise the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives”

– Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist Monk, Poet, Scholar & Human Activist)

These techniques involve a combination of exercises contributing to a calmer state of mind. Concentrating on your thoughts, breathing and body, all help to alleviate tension. These exercises include:

  • Breathing techniques – as alluded to earlier, focusing on the breath helps sends signals to your brain that it is time to rest.
  • Journaling helps to ensure your mind is clear from worries by noting down your thoughts and feelings from the day prior and preparing yourself for the day ahead. This has even been proven to be effective with a study by the Baylor University Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, suggesting that noting down before bed can help people fall asleep quicker.
  • Yoga – participating in stretching exercises before bed can help to fall asleep, even if you have sleep conditions such as insomnia, a study by Halpern et al Or if yoga is not your thing, systematically tensing and relaxing your muscles can release stress and anxiety, a technique which comes under progressive muscle relaxation.

4. Listen to music and relaxing sounds

Music has been shown to affect our nervous system directly, allowing our bodies to relax and settle in for a good night’s rest. In fact, around 62% of the population use music as a tool to help them sleep.

Advanced brainwave entertainment combines ambient music, nature sounds, and other audio clips especially programmed for sleep, focus and stress relief. One of the most popular is white noise, but did you know there are other colours of noise too? Learn all about each type in our article on how to sleep better with white, pink and brown noise.

5. Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet

Keeping you room dark signals to your body that it is time to sleep, and the temperature of your room can affect how well you can fall asleep. Both factors are due to your brain’s secretion of melatonin. Studies have proven that sleeping in a dark room and keeping your room between 15°C and 22°C is the ideal environment to fall asleep. This is because melatonin is produced as it gets dark, and a cooler environment helps to build melatonin production. Combining this with a quiet setting means no distractions, generating all the right signals to fall into sleep.

Feeling the heat when in bed?

With this in mind, there are a few ways to ensure your room in just right for sleep. Resist the urge to check your phone whilst trying to get to sleep. Studies have shown that the blue light from phones can halt melatonin production, meaning it will take longer for you to produce the right amount for sleeping.

Image of two scented candles

6. Try aromatherapy

We have already mentioned the power of herbal teas in helping you to fall asleep, but if you prefer not to drink tea before bed, you could try aromatherapy. Studies have proven that the inhalation of essential oils, such as lavender, positively affected sleep. Subjects recorded less sleep disturbances and improved sleep quality.

Thinking about trying aromatherapy? Discover how to use essential oils to help you sleep.

7. Read yourself to sleep

Reading whilst lying in bed often leaves many people drifting off with their books on their faces. This is due to the minute eye movements occurring, combined with the focus you are delivering to read, making you feel increasingly tired until you eventually drift off. Reading before bed is an ideal way to dim the lights and increase your melatonin production to an adequate level to signal your brain that it’s time to sleep.

Reading before bed can help you fall asleep faster, but why does it? Discover what reading before bed does to an adults brain.

8. Embrace visualisations or follow guided imagery

Visualisation can expand your ability to focus on calming your mind and help you create restful images that will allow you to unwind and fall asleep. Visualise yourself in a deeply relaxed state surrounded by mountains, oceans, or whatever makes you feel most at peace. This type of sensory meditation has been proven to help people fall asleep in mindfulness techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method.

9. Take a warm bath or shower

As melatonin production increases when our body temperature decreases, facilitating this dip in body temperature can be done manually. Taking a warm bath or shower before bed is not only a relaxation remedy but the change in your body temperature when you snuggle into your duvet will stimulate a reduction in your body temperature.

A hot bath may be the answer to your sleeping difficulties. The benefits of hot bath for sleeping

10. Put some socks on!

There are lots of benefits of sleeping with socks on, including helping you to fall asleep. This is due to certain bodily functions that wearing socks help to ascertain. Through vasodilation, your blood vessels have widened, meaning that a greater volume of blood can flow to tissues in your body, therefore speeding up the rate at which your body cools down.

image of one person applying pressure to another person's pressure point on their wrist to help sleep

11. Stimulate pressure points

If you have ever spent a day at a spa, you will know how a gentle massage can relieve your body of all its aches and knots. Well, practising self-massage, or acupressure, can be just as effective and can therefore help you to drift off.

Find out how to perform acupressure to help you fall asleep quicker in our guide on pressure points for sleep.

Common reasons you wake up in the middle of the night

1. You or your partner snores

You may wake up to the sound of rumbles from your partner, or maybe you are the perpetrator. Either way, snoring can be annoyingly disruptive, so much so that it affects your sleep quality. There are ways to stop snoring, ranging from lifestyle changes to simple solutions such as changing your sleeping position and snoring aids.

Whether it is you, your partner, or someone else in your household, our guide on how to stop someone from snoring offers lots of short-term fixes. But if you are after a long-term solution, our guide on how to stop snoring naturally provides many answers to the conundrum.

2. Sharing a room with your pet

While our sleep survey found an 18% increase in sharing the bed with a pet since 2016, the Mayo Clinic discovered that 53% of those who sleep with their pet are disturbed by them during the night! To solve this, train your pets to sleep in another room– always establish the bedroom as off-limits and stick to it. Also, feed and let pets out earlier in the day to move their routines forward, and don’t respond when they bark or cry.

Two people holding two white mugs of coffee, while wrapped up in cosy loungewear.

3. You've drank caffeine too close to bedtime

Caffeine may be your saving grace to wake you up and energise you throughout the day, but drinking caffeine late in the day, or just drinking too much, can keep you up past your bedtime.

Caffeine can remain in your system for as much as 12 hours! This means that your blood pressure will be higher, and you will feel more energised when it comes to sleep. But drinking coffee to combat your tiredness throughout the day is not ideal, as it can create a ‘coffee cycle’, making you more susceptible to sleep deprivation.

There is a solution. If you are a coffee drinker, it’s good to know how coffee effects your sleep and how you can ensure it doesn’t keep you up at night. Keep note of the coffee you are drinking and when you are drinking it. That way, you can figure out at what time you should have your last cup of coffee for the day.

See how you can drink coffee without affecting your sleep. The 10-3-2-1-0 method for better sleep.

4. Your diet or evening meal plan is too energy-heavy

Our diets can play a big part in the quality of our sleep, both for better and for worse. Carbohydrates are an important food group to support our bodily function, keeping us energised throughout the day, and night. We require energy for different stages of sleep, such as bodily repair during slow-wave sleep and memory consolidation during REM.

But having too much energy-rich meals in the evening can effect the amount of sleep we get, as Alan Flanagan, nutritional medicine expert, explains in our Sleep Matters podcast episode on ‘Nutrition and how it effects our sleep’.

“If you have quite a high-fat meal before you go to bed it will prevent you having the same amount of time in deep REM sleep that we would want to get that very restful restorative sleep phase. So even though people might have the same sleep duration, their sleep quality may be somewhat impaired.”

While high-carb diets may lead to more REM sleep, and therefore limit deep sleep, carbohydrates are still an important nutrient for sleep. They increase the production of tryptophan, the building block of serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin. The issue comes when digesting the food.

Carbohydrates take longer to absorb, making it more difficult to get your much-needed shut-eye as your metabolism has to continue working hard. There are solutions though, simply having your evening meal earlier or replacing it with a lighter, protein-filled meal.

5. Its time for a new bed or mattress

There are some obvious signs for when you need a new mattress. Perhaps you struggle to get comfy during the night, can feel springs poking your back, or there’s a dip in the middle of your mattress. All of these can cause pain and discomfort, while signs of mould and bacteria can be common with old mattresses, especially in poorly ventilated rooms.

But it might not just be the age of the mattress. You may need a different type for your sleeping position, are starting to suffer from back pain, now weigh more or less than you used to. Whatever the scenario, our mattress guides can help. Or you can use our online Sleep Match tool which asks a number of questions about your sleeping style before identifying the best mattresses.

6. Your kids need attention

1 in 10 people says their children disturb their sleep. This rises to 26% for parents aged 25-34, the age bracket most likely to have young children. Although this may be a bit trickier to fix, it’s best to be consistent, so if they try to hop in your bed, always escort them back to their room. They’ll soon get used to sleeping in their own bed, leaving you to get some well-needed shut-eye!

7. You have a sleep condition

If falling asleep is a consistent problem, or you are waking in the middle of the night not for reasons we have mentions, you may have a sleeping disorder. There are different types of sleeping disorders, all with their own symptoms and causes, but there are treatments. Most importantly, speak to your GP.

Identifying if you have a sleeping disorder can go a long way in finding ways to solve your sleep issues. A sleep diary may be useful here, as it will help you record how you slept, what difficulties you had, and the reasons you may have struggled to fall and remain asleep throughout the night. This can help your GP to diagnose any sleep-related concerns and identify any required treatments.

What to do if you definitely can't get back to sleep?

Sometimes you really can’t drift off, perhaps you are sleeping away from home, or maybe you can’t sleep because you are excited for the day ahead. Either way, you still need to get your sleep. So if you definitely can’t get back to sleep, you mustn’t watch the clock, as this can just increase your anxiety.

Instead of watching the time tick away, you could get up and do something. Light reading, meditating or listening to music are just some activities to reduce your stress levels. Changing your scenery and going to a different quiet space in your home can help you relax and feel sleepy again.

We have lots of tips and tricks you can use to help you fall asleep, from sleeping techniques to understanding what your Dreams mean. Discover the answers to all your sleep problems with the Sleep Matters Club.

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