Learning how to fall asleep fast sounds difficult, right? Try these strategies — all you need is your mind and your smartphone.
Some nights falling asleep quickly doesn’t come easy, and tossing, turning and thinking about not sleeping only makes it worse. You probably know the basic ideas like reading a book and turning off your electronics, but when those don’t work what can you do?
Turns out, there are some unconventional tactics that sleep experts have stumbled upon that rely on your own biology and psychology to induce relaxation.
Here are a few creative but simple strategies you can try practically anywhere to snooze faster and sleep better tonight. Of course, these don’t replace medical advice from your doctor, and you should still consult a medical professional if you have serious sleep problems. But bookmark this page and give these tips a try, and you might be surprised to find that they can make a big difference between a restless night and sweet dreams.
8 Ways to Fall Asleep Fast
1. Breathe with your mind.
Breathing patterns play a role in our autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, muscle tension, motivation, and other aspects of relaxation or excitement. Whereas rapid, shallow breaths can create a sense of anxiety, deep, slow breaths can be calming.
One technique to try is the 4-7-8 method developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. The process is fairly simple, too. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth throughout the exercise (inhaling and exhaling).
- Exhale completely via your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound.
- 4: Now, close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of four.
- 7: Hold your breath for seven counts.
- 8: Exhale slowly out of your mouth to a count of eight, making the “whooshing” sound (pucker your lips if it feels awkward).
Dr. Weil recommends practicing the technique by sitting down with your back straight before trying it lying down and repeating the cycle four times to start until you get used to it.
2. Get a mattress of the right firmness.
There is no “one size fits all” for mattress firmness. Different people, depending on sleep position, activity level, body mechanics, age, and other factors will sleep better on different levels of firmness or softness of a mattress. If you want to get the best night’s rest, the best mattress is the one that matches your body type and sleep style.
That’s why Amerisleep offers five different types of mattresses. The AS1 is the firmest mattress ideal for stomach and back sleepers who want the firmest feel. The AS5 is the softest mattress that’s ideal for side and combo sleepers who put more pressure on their hips and shoulders.
Looking for something in between? The AS3 is the perfect balance of firm and soft that supports your body, no matter which position you sleep in. The AS3 is also a good choice for couples with slightly different firmness preferences.
Finally, we wanted to make sure our customers could try our mattresses risk-free. That’s why we offer a 100-night sleep trial. Try any of our mattresses in your own home for 100 nights and if you decide it’s not for you, you can exchange for a softer or firmer mattress or return the product completely.
3. Go caveman.
At one point in time, before the advent of smartphones, nights used to be dark and cold. And surprise, modern science finds that both cool temperatures and complete darkness are ideal for sleep. According to circadian and sleep researcher Dr. Jade Wu, Ph.D. of Duke University, artificial lighting, and light from electronics can disrupt our biological clocks and tamper with our sleep quality.
“Keeping your bedroom free of artificial light and noise will not only ensure a nice, dark sleep environment, but also teach your brain that your “sleep cave” is for sleep only, not for social media, world events, and other things that get our minds going. This trains your brain to automatically relax when you get into bed.”
So, set up your bedroom like a prehistoric sleep cave. No television, laptops, tablets, or smartphones should be on when it’s time to sleep. Use blackout shades or an eye mask if your room can’t achieve total darkness, or if your wake up time is well past sunrise.
Start dimming lights at least 30 minutes before you want to sleep to tell your body that it’s bedtime. Even better, switch lamps to dimmer, warmer-colored bulbs and use apps like f.lux on computers to minimize light’s impact.
4. Chill out.
Ever notice how a cold office seems to leave you ready for nap time? Researchers have found that cooler temperatures do indeed appear to help us get deeper sleep, and fall asleep faster. Plus, nothing feels as dreamy as wrapping up in warm blankets in a cold room.
Why does this work? Well, as our circadian rhythms approach the sleep phase, our body temperature naturally drops slightly and stays lower until a couple of hours before you normally wake up.
One Australian study found that insomniacs tend to have higher body temperatures overall. Those with sleep onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep in the first place) tend to stay warmer later into the evening, which may play a role in their inability to fall asleep. The good news is that, by shifting their biological clocks earlier using bright light exposure in the morning, they may be able to get back into a normal body temperature rhythm and fall asleep faster.
Just as some people prefer it warmer or cooler during the day, there is no one-temperature-fits-all for ideal sleep, so be open to trial-and-error. If you want a go-to number to fall asleep fast in five minutes or less, try 65 degrees. It won’t be the only necessary ingredient, but it’ll be a good start!
Another way to help this process along is to soak in a warm bath for about 30 minutes before bedtime, further amplifying the temperature drop and potentially boosting deep sleep. You could also try sleeping in the buff since clothing can inhibit the natural process of evening out your body temperature as you rest.
5. Sleep on hi-tech.
While lights and tech devices can be sleep stealers, modern advancements hold sleep benefits as well. High-tech materials and customizable beds can help improve comfort, helping you fall asleep faster.
Adjustable beds also allow you to change the angle of your upper body and legs. This can be particularly helpful for people who experience conditions like lower back pain or swelling since these adjustments can reduce back tension and promote circulation to improve comfort. Acid reflux keeps many people up as well, and elevating the upper body can make a significant difference.
6. Trick your brain.
Do you know how sometimes when you try to do something, your stubborn brain backfires and does the opposite? Turns out, the principle of paradoxical intention (similar to reverse psychology, without the deception) might be useful for sleep as well.
A Scottish study found that the clinical use of paradoxical intention (that is, purposely not trying to fall asleep while lying in bed) resulted in reduced sleep effort and anxiety for insomniacs compared to doing nothing. Likewise, a separate study found that high intention to fall asleep actually resulted in worse sleep quality.
Instead of thinking about trying to go to sleep, tell yourself that you’re trying to stay awake for a few minutes. If a dark, quiet bedroom makes your mind run, you can also try listening to an audiobook or podcast on low volume, or visualize relaxing activities in your mind, to take the focus off sleep itself.
7. Daydream with purpose.
For many people who struggle with falling asleep, rumination or unwanted thoughts can play a big role. Instead of drifting off peacefully, your mind slogs through the day’s events, embarrassing moments from years past, or tomorrow’s to-do list.
One way to break the rumination cycle or disperse unwanted thoughts before bed is to practice visualization or imagery, similar to daydreaming. There are a few ways to do this:
- Simply visualize a calming scene in your mind, imagining and exploring it in detail — it could be a serene beach, calm forest, or anywhere else.
- Alternatively, you might visualize yourself doing something positive but repetitive, such as shooting free throws.
It may sound hippy-dippy, but if you focus on it effectively, daydreaming about relaxing scenes can really help ease your mind. During visualization, know that it’s OK if your mind wanders. Simply return your focus to the scene, gently and without judgment. Try out different methods and audio tracks to see what works best for you. Visualization can also be a helpful mid-day stress reliever to keep in mind.
This also allows you to let go of future and past worries and live in the present, which can sometimes be exactly what people need to put their mind at ease and finally fall asleep fast.
8. Eat carbs at night.
This tip will take prior planning, but one study found that eating carbs four hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster and sleep better. The research looked at simple carbs, which are quickly and easily digested. These include things like white rice, white bread and pasta, and potatoes (as well as sugary foods). Interestingly enough though, a Japanese study only found sleep benefits from rice and not from bread or noodles. Even if you are trying to minimize carbs, it may be most beneficial for your sleep to at least eat a serving for dinner.
The key here is to keep dinners simple and moderate in portion, so you won’t be bothered with indigestion later. Eating carbs four hours before sleep was more effective than one hour prior in the study, meaning planning your evening meals could prove helpful. Spicy foods can negatively affect your ability to fall asleep fast, so keep that in mind, too.
If you regularly have trouble sleeping, it might also be helpful to read about the basics of good sleep hygiene, and how to set your bedroom up for success. Better yet, consult a behavioral sleep medicine specialist, if your sleep problem doesn’t seem to budge even with these lifestyle changes.
Have you tried any of these strategies? What are your recommendations for quick ways to fall asleep?
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.