Some people can be lucky as they are able to fall asleep in just 5 minutes or less. Others take longer, sometimes much longer. With most people falling asleep within 10–20 minutes, it is thought that anyone who takes longer than this may be at risk of losing their sleep efficiency. 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 help you fall asleep quicker.
How to fall asleep fast
If you are tired but can’t sleep, there are many resources and techniques you can try to make yourself fall asleep quicker. You could try one thing at a time or make several changes to your night-time routine in one go. However, it is important to allow your body and mind time to get used to new things. Not everything you will try will work, especially not right away, but here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Try the 4-7-8 method
A method developed by Dr Andrew Weil, this breathing technique has been successful with some people falling asleep in just 60 seconds. It may take some practice or repeating the cycle to get you used to it before it works. Here’s how you do it:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of your gum behind your upper teeth. Hold this throughout the whole breathing exercise as you inhale and exhale.
- Exhale completely via your mouth making a ‘whooshing’ sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale slowly out of your mouth for 8 seconds again, making the ‘whooshing’ sound like you did in step 1.
2. Drink herbal teas and avoid caffeine
As most herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, they are a great night-time drink which can make you sleepy. Be sure not to drink warm drinks or too much liquid right before bed to avoid having to get up in the night to use the bathroom. As caffeine is known to make us more alert and active, it is important to avoid caffeine in the afternoon as well as into the evening. According to Match Made Coffee, it can take between 4-6 hours for caffeine to leave our system. However, this will vary from person to person.
3. Avoid alcohol and nightcaps
Much like caffeine, alcohol has been proven to affect sleeping patterns and the quality of sleep. Although at first alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it has been shown to cause a disruptive night’s sleep, making people feel tired and sluggish throughout the next day.
4. Journal your thoughts away
Keeping a journal or a diary by your bedside will allow you to compile to-do lists for the following day. It will also allow you to write any stresses or concerns you have from day-to-day. Ensuring your mind is clear from worries will aid you to fall asleep quickly.
5. Try listening to music
Music and songs have been shown to have a direct effect on our nervous system 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. Advance brainwave entertainment is a combination of ambient music, nature sounds, and other audio clips especially programmed for sleep, focus and stress relief. Brainwave apps are available to download on your smartphone to get you to fall asleep quickly.
6. Get into a sleep-wake cycle
Going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will allow your body to get into a sleep-wake cycle. This will also help to ensure you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It is also important to avoid taking daytime naps as getting the right amount of sleep each cycle will allow you to feel more energised each day.
7. Keep your room cool, quiet and dark
Removing artificial light, opening a window and sleeping with earplugs or an eye mask can help you combat any distractions you find yourself rising to in the night. Ensuring your room isn’t too warm and keeping your phone outside of your bedroom will allow your body to embrace an ideal sleeping environment.
8. Meditate, stretch and try out yoga
Meditation, yoga and stretching are all gentle and restorative exercises that can be done just before slipping into your duvet. Progressive muscle relaxation is also a great way to ease yourself into a relaxing state. Systematically tensing and releasing each muscle in your body as you lie in bed can help release stress and anxiety.
9. Make use of natural light
It is harder to sleep in bright light at night which is why it is best to avoid any artificial light. In the morning and throughout the day, however, natural bright light can make you sleep deeper which will leave you feeling refreshed each morning. This is hard to achieve in the winter with dark mornings early on. Alarm clocks which wake you up by mimicking natural daylight may be a good investment.
10. Hide your clock
Do you spend minutes or even hours each night watching the time go by as you lay awake feeling frustrated? As it can sometimes be difficult to resist the urge to check the time, you can stop that clock-watching habit by either removing clocks from your room or covering them up. This can allow you to fall asleep quickly and wake less during the night.
11. Exercise often
Exercise can reduce insomnia by decreasing anxiety and depression. As exercise influences our circadian rhythm, it can tire us out and boost our quality of sleep. Raising our body temperature slightly each day with light exercise can trigger sleepiness as well as boosting immune functions.
12. Discover new levels of comfort
Whether that means finding your ideal sleeping position, getting yourself a new set of pyjamas or investing in a comfy pillow, being in total comfort will allow you to feel more relaxed, resulting in a good night’s sleep. Having a mattress that is the correct firmness and a pillow that feels right for your neck is important for your posture during sleep, allowing you to be supported, comfortable and relaxed all night.
13. Use aromatherapy
Lavender is the most popular aroma and is linked to relaxation and sleep. Using lavender oils can be soothing and are a natural remedy for treating anxiety. Other essential oils have also been shown to have a positive effect on sleep.
14. Read yourself to sleep
Reading whilst laying in bed often leaves many people drifting off with their book on their face. When reading at night, it is important to avoid eBooks and smart devices as they often emit blue light. This kind of light affects our melatonin levels. Melatonin is a natural hormone that the brain releases in response to changes in light. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains can also cause you to feel sleepy due to the influence of melatonin production in the brain.
Visualisation can expand your ability to focus on calming your mind and can help you to create restful images which will allow you to unwind and fall asleep. Visualising yourself in a deeply relaxed state surrounded by mountains, oceans or whatever makes you feel most peaceful can help you sleep better.
16. Have a warm bath or shower
Having a warm bath or shower before bed is a well-known sleeping remedy. Our body temperature tends to drop after a warm dip in the bath which can induce better sleep. This natural remedy works best with warm water rather than hot.
17. Wear socks to bed
Wearing socks during sleep increases blood circulation to your feet speeding up the rate at which your core temperature drops. A low core body temperature can be imperative for sleep therefore wearing socks can help you nod off more easily.
18. Use acupressure
Acupressure involves using physical touch to stimulate pressure points on the body that correspond to different aspects of both mental and physical health. It is a form of self-massage and can be an effective way to help you drift off quickly.
Still struggling to sleep?
Another thing you could try if you can’t get to sleep at night is getting out of bed, doing something for 10 minutes and then trying to fall asleep again. There is nothing worse than lying in your bed awake thinking about how untired you are. Sometimes, getting up and doing something like stretching or giving your neck and shoulders a gentle massage can help you feel more relaxed and sleepier.
If you have tried everything and nothing is working, it may be best to pay a visit to your local GP. If you are struggling to sleep every night, you may have a sleep disorder which requires further treatment.