How to fall asleep fast
Struggling to fall asleep can be deeply frustrating, not to mention harmful to your wellbeing if it becomes a persistent problem.
Worrying about ways to fall asleep quickly at night can make it harder for you to drift off. It can be hard to identify what exactly is stalling your sleep, but an uncomfortable or too-small bed is a common culprit, along with a poor sleep environment and stress. So how can you make yourself feel tired and fall asleep quickly?
Breathing and techniques that help fall asleep quickly
Breathing techniques can help to calm your heart rate, lower anxiety and focus on the moment. Worrying about how to make yourself tired, anxiety and nagging ‘what-ifs’ are a common feature of night-time wakefulness, but these methods can help you to feel relaxed and fall asleep quickly.
4-7-8 breathing method
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is based on pranayama breathing – an ancient yogic practice for controlling your breathing. Here’s how to do it:
- Find somewhere to sit up comfortably. Either in or out of bed is fine.
- Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.
- Breathe out fully through your mouth, without moving your tongue. This should make a whooshing sound. If you find this difficult, pursing your lips can help.
- Close your lips and inhale through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Breathe out fully again through your mouth, for eight seconds.
- You have now done one round or cycle. Limit yourself to four rounds in a row at first. As you build experience, you can increase this to up to eight rounds.
The military method
Brought to public attention by the book ‘Relax and Win: Champion Performance’ by Sharon Ackerman, the military method was created to help pilots fall asleep quickly. As with the 4-7-8 breathing method, practising the military method can help it work well for you. So, what is the military method?
- Relax your face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
- Drop your shoulders and let your hands fall to your sides.
- Breathe out and relax your chest.
- Relax your legs, focusing on your thighs and calves.
- Imagine a place or scene you find relaxing for 10 seconds.
- Alternatively, try saying the words ‘don’t think’ repeatedly for 10 seconds.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is simple: you tense and relax one muscle group after another, helping you to focus on your body and feel calm. Here is how to use progressive muscle relaxation to fall asleep fast:
- Raise your eyebrows as high as you can using the muscles in your forehead.
- Allow these muscles to relax completely, concentrating on the release of tension in your body.
- Next, squeeze your eyes shut then relax and allow them to open.
- Smile to feel the muscles in your cheeks tense, then relax them. Focus on how these muscles feel as you relax.
- Move to your jaw, tensing and then releasing the muscles.
- Continue down to your shoulders by raising them and then dropping them down again, then repeat with your upper and lower arms, hands, and fingers. Move through your chest and stomach, to your legs and finally your feet and toes.
Changes to your routine to help you fall asleep faster
Following a good bedtime routine can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. But is there a routine that is best for falling asleep quickly?
Create a consistent sleeping pattern
One of the simplest answers to how to make myself tired before bed is to stick to a sleeping schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning, helps to signal to your body when it is time to feel tired and when to feel awake and alert. Everyone has a circadian rhythm – your internal clock, which follows a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm dictates when you feel sleepy and when you wake up.
Research has shown that exposure to natural daylight for 14 hours 40 minutes (as is about normal in the summer) followed by 9 hours 20 minutes of darkness trains our circadian clocks so that ‘night-time’ starts at around sunset and ‘daytime’ begins at sunrise. Even apparently minor changes can alter our circadian clocks: from a camping trip to exposure to the light from electronic devices.
Avoid napping during the day
If you are struggling to sleep at night, then you will likely experience daytime sleepiness. This can make it tempting or even essential to nap during the day. However, this can then prevent you from feeling tired at bedtime – perpetuating the cycle. There’s also evidence that napping in the day disrupts your sleep cycle the following night, cutting the time you spend in deep sleep, which is essential for good quality sleep.
Get some exercise during the day
Getting some exercise during the day can help you to get better quality sleep: falling asleep faster, spending more time in deep sleep, and staying asleep longer. Regular swimming or walking is a good place to start.
The best time to exercise is in the daytime. Although regular exercise is good for sleep, some people find that exercising before bedtime can stop them falling asleep quickly. For others, the drop in body temperature that occurs around 30 to 90 minutes after exercise can help them fall asleep. Steer clear of any vigorous exercise for around 2 hours before bed if you find that it stops you falling asleep.
Change your eating habits
Eating a big meal too close to bedtime can stop you falling asleep and reaching deep sleep, especially if you suffer from heartburn. Heartburn can disrupt your sleep even if you don’t wake up fully by preventing you from moving through the normal sleep cycles to deep sleep. Avoid eating right before bed to avoid painful heartburn interrupting your sleep.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
You should avoid drinking alcohol for at least 6 hours before going to bed. Alcohol is a sedative, which means it can help you fall asleep more quickly, but you will likely wake up in the night. This is because alcohol also causes more disrupted sleep.
Alcohol can also change when deep sleep occurs, disrupting your sleep cycle. Sleepers who drink before bed miss out on some REM sleep during the early part of the night. This decreases sleep quality, can cut your sleep short and wake you up more frequently. Even small amounts of alcohol (2 drinks for men and less than 1 drink for women) decrease sleep quality. Higher amounts of alcohol (over 2 drinks for men and over 1 for women) decrease sleep quality substantially.
Reduce evening screen time
Treat screen time like caffeine before bed and resist picking up your phone or watching TV late in the evening. The blue light that our screens emit inhibits the release of melatonin (a hormone that helps us feel sleepy when it gets dark). Without artificial light, melatonin levels increase in the evening and remain high until the morning when the sun comes back up, helping you fall asleep fast and wake up feeling alert.
Practice yoga, meditation, and mindfulness
Yoga before bed can help you relax your mind and body and get ready for sleep. Stretching and yoga helps to relax your muscles, so it can be especially helpful if you find that pain and stiffness is stopping you falling asleep quickly.
Yoga practice also involves focusing on your breathing alongside stretching and mindfulness to help you feel calm. Yoga before bedtime can help tackle stress and may help improve sleep quality too.
Get yourself a more comfortable bed
Few things have a bigger impact on your sleep than your bed. Sleeping on a supportive, comfortable bed that has enough space per person is one of the best ways to fall asleep quickly. The right bed ensures you will wake up less, be less disturbed by your partner’s tossing and turning and wake up without aches and pains.
Research shows that an uncomfortable bed can cost you up to an hour of sleep a night – so make sure that you are sleeping on the best mattress for your needs. Buying an adjustable bed makes getting comfortable easy – no more being unable to fall asleep, fighting with flat pillows that aren’t supporting you in the right position.
What to do when you can’t get to sleep
Whether you struggle to fall asleep, or you tend to wake up in the early morning and can’t go back to sleep, there are a few key things you should avoid that can prevent you nodding off.
Avoid looking at your clock
If you can’t sleep, you may end up watching the clock and worrying about having to get up in a few hours. But checking the time when you can’t sleep can make you feel anxious and frustrated, which makes it even harder for you to get back to sleep.
Avoiding looking at your clock (or phone) can help you to stay relaxed and fall back asleep quickly. If you find it hard to avoid grabbing your phone or glancing at a clock when you wake up, keep them out of reach and sight of the bed.
Adjust your sleep position
It can be almost impossible to fall asleep quickly in an uncomfortable position. Pillows can be used to support your neck and knees, but an adjustable mattress makes finding a comfortable position simpler, and easier to maintain throughout the night. Remember to consider the firmness of your mattress and pillows, and the texture of your sheets, as these are important parts of your sleep environment too.
Listen to relaxing music / audiobook / podcast
White (ambient) noise podcasts or sleep audiobooks can help you feel tired and fall asleep by giving your mind something to focus on without it being too stimulating. This can be especially helpful for tackling racing thoughts and worries at bedtime. It can also help block outside noises if you do shift work or live near a loud road.
Do a Body Scan
A body scan is a technique that helps you relax by focusing on parts of your body in turn. Follow these steps to try a body scan to help you sleep:
- Lay in a comfortable position in bed.
- Focus your attention on your head, noticing how it feels: sore, warm, tense, etc. Relax any tensed muscles in your head or face that you notice.
- Move down to your shoulders, repeating the same process of noticing and then relaxing.
- Continue down your body, first on the right side and then the left.
- It should take 10 to 20 minutes to reach your feet, so it is a slower process than the similar military method.
Take a Walk
Getting out of bed when you can’t sleep might feel like giving up. But getting up and walking to another room in the house can help you to get back to sleep faster when you go back to bed than if you’d remained in bed. A short walk can help to stop your mind racing, just make sure you don’t look at any screens, including the TV, or turn on any very bright lights while you stretch your legs.
Create a comfortable room/bed temperature
If your bedroom is too hot or cold, it can be hard to fall or stay asleep. Around 18 degrees is the ideal bedroom temperature for sleep. Our bodies naturally cool down as we fall asleep, which is why the perfect sleep temperature is slightly cooler than the ideal daytime room temperature.
If you do overheat at night, check if your mattress could be the culprit. Some mattresses provide better airflow than others, which is important for preventing your body heat from being trapped between your body and the mattress.
Try to Stay Awake
If you can’t fall asleep quickly, often the worst thing to do is lie in bed thinking about not sleeping. Get up and do something relaxing but not too interesting. For example, reading a chapter of a book you’ve already read, or doodling a pattern on a piece of paper. This can help your mind switch off and help you feel sleepy, and it also helps to avoid associating your bed with being awake rather than asleep.
How will buying an adjustable bed help me achieve a quicker sleep?
Tackling sleep problems often requires a holistic approach because multiple issues can contribute to poor sleep. But if you’re unsure what will make me fall asleep fast, then your bed is a great place to start.
A comfortable, supportive bed is an important part of a good sleep environment, and many of the tips in this article can be achieved by sleeping on the right bed for you.
By contouring to the shape you find most supportive, an adjustable bed makes it easy to get comfortable and stop aches and pains getting in the way of falling asleep. Adjustamatic beds also offer built-in medically approved Cyclo-Therapy massage technology, which reduces pain from arthritis, lower back pain and swollen ankles, amongst other conditions, helping you to fall asleep quickly and easily.
For people with sleep apnoea it can be hard to fall asleep quickly. Raising your upper body is an effective way to manage the symptoms at night, and an adjustable bed makes doing this simple and comfortable compared to pillows that can deflate during the night. Raising the head of the bed also helps tackle snoring, so if it is your partner’s snoring that is stopping you falling asleep fast, an adjustable bed could help.