How to Sleep Early: 10 Tips To Help You Fall Asleep

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Jing Zhang is a prominent figure in the realm of sleep research, specializing in the intricate connection between sleep and memory. With an extensive research tenure exceeding 7 years, she…

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Last Updated On December 1st, 2023
How to Sleep Early: 10 Tips To Help You Fall Asleep

Key Takeaways

  • Understand Your Body’s Natural Rhythm: Align your sleep schedule with your body’s circadian rhythm for improved sleep quality, increased energy, and better mental health. Syncing with natural cycles enhances overall well-being.
  • Establish Consistent Sleep Habits: Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. Consistency stabilizes the circadian rhythm, promoting melatonin production and facilitating deeper, more restorative sleep.
  • Optimize Sleep Environment and Routine: Create a conducive bedroom environment by considering factors like lighting, temperature, noise, and comfort. Develop a wind-down routine with relaxing activities, limiting screen time before bed, and incorporating calming habits to signal your body it’s time to sleep.

In this fast-paced world, where we are constantly overworking ourselves, sleeping early and the serenity of a good night’s sleep often seem elusive. Tossing and turning around is what we find ourselves doing overnight.

Perhaps you are an evening person and have family obligations that keep you up late. However, for many of us, sleep disorders and mental health concerns make it difficult to fall asleep.

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In this guide, you will learn how to create an optimal sleep environment and make choices that foster restful nights.

10 Tips To Help You Fall Asleep

Understand Your Body’s Natural Sleep Cycle

Our bodies operate in cycles. Circadian rhythms are the most influential and least visible cycle of our body. They make up the internal clock that regulates various physiological processes, including our sleep-wake pattern.

This internal clock is influenced by external cues, such as light and darkness. Light exposure sends signals Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source to our brain, helping regulate sleepiness and alertness.

When it starts getting dark, our body starts releasing melatonin Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source – a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps our circadian rhythms promote sleep. Similarly, as the dawn breaks and sunlight seeps in, our melatonin levels start decreasing, resulting in increased alertness.

When you sync your daily routine with your circadian rhythm and sleep earlier, you can unlock the hidden powers of good-quality sleep. Such as:

  • Improved Sleep Quality: You can go through the early sleep stages required for the restoration and optimization of cognitive functions. Disruption in this stage can lead to fragmented or shallow sleep.
  • Increased Energy and Alertness: When you wake up aligned with your natural cycle, you are more likely to feel alertness, energy, and a feeling of freshness. With a healthy sleep schedule, you will be less likely to feel sleepy or exhausted during the day.
  • Better Mental Health: Consistently disrupted circadian rhythms can lead to mood disturbances. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source It can make you more likely to get depressed and have more trouble regulating your emotions. With healthy sleeping habits, you can improve your overall well-being.
  • Optimal Physical Health: Syncing with the natural cycle of your body will support various bodily functions — hormone regulation and immune system strengthening. It also makes it easy to fall asleep earlier as the sun starts to set, your body gets the signals of slowing down.

Of course, those who have circadian rhythms to feel sleepier later in the evening have a chronotype at odds with an early bedtime. A night owl can still take steps to fall asleep earlier, but it may require more effort and diligence than a person whose chronotype encourages an earlier bedtime.

Consistent Sleep Schedule

Catching up on your sleeping backlog may feel great on Sundays, but a consistent sleep duration is the cornerstone of good sleep hygiene.

By keeping a consistent time schedule for going to bed early and waking up at the same time every day, you fortify your body’s internal clock Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source — making it easier to sleep seven to nine hours and wake up refreshed in the morning.

This consistent sleep schedule helps in stabilizing the circadian rhythm, facilitating the production of melatonin. It helps in achieving deeper and more restorative sleep phases, boosting daytime alertness, mood, and overall physical and mental well-being.

Optimize Your Bedroom Environment

The environment of the room you sleep in plays a pivotal role in determining sleep quality. An optimized bedroom environment signals the brain that it’s time to wind down and rest. Here are some factors to consider.

  • Lighting: Darkness works as a cue for the brain to prepare for bed. Blackout curtains can facilitate a darker environment by eliminating disruptions from external lights. Minimize the use of devices to limit exposure to the blue light.
  • Temperature: A sightly cool room, around 60-67°F (15-19°C), is conducive to sleep. Our body temperature decreases when we fall asleep; a cooler room can enhance this process.
  • Noise: It is difficult to fall asleep in a noisy environment. If you can’t control external noises, earplugs can help create a consistent sound backdrop.
  • Comfort: Invest in a comfy mattress and pillows. They directly impact the quality of your sleep, ensuring proper alignment and pressure relief.
  • Aesthetics and Cleanliness: Keep your bedroom pleasing and aesthetic. It helps reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Regular cleaning of your bedroom also reduces allergens that might interfere with breathing during sleep, especially if you pair it with the benefits an air purifier offers.

We have a number of guides that can help you optimize elements of your bedroom, from making it darker to keeping noise from interfering with your sleep:

Develop a Wind-down Routine

The myriad of stimuli in this modern life can make the transformation from sleep to wakefulness somewhat challenging. A wind-down routine—a series of calming activities performed before bedtime, signaling the body and mind that it’s time to relax and prepare for rest.

  • Limit Blue Light: The blue light emitted by electronic devices, tablets, phones, and computers can hinder the onset of sleep. Limiting these devices at least an hour before bedtime can facilitate easier sleep.
  • Relaxing Activities Before Bedtime: Consider reading a book or going for a walk as a part of your wind-down routine. These activities can serve as a buffer between the stresses of the day and the peace of the night.
  • Breathing Exercise: Engaging in guided breathing exercises can help ground your mind, drawing attention away from worries. Breathing exercises, even for a few minutes, can calm your mind and nerves, reducing anxiety and making it easier to drift off to sleep.
  • Warm Baths: Warm baths or even a quick shower before bed can relax tense muscles. The rise and subsequent fall in body temperature after a bath can also promote sleepiness.

Watch Your Diet

Our diet has a profound impact on how we sleep. Certain foods and drinks can either promote a better quality of sleep or disrupt it. For example, sugary foods and caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle.

Limit caffeine in your diet, especially close to bedtime. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle and cause difficulty falling asleep or fragmented rest.

Consume a good amount of foods rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin—i.e., turkey, almonds, walnuts, and cherries— they aid in better sleep at night.

Heavy meals and eating close to bedtime can cause discomfort and indigestion. Try not to eat at least three hours before bedtime.

It is important to keep in mind that not getting enough sleep and craving unhealthy food go hand in hand, Dr. Jing Zhang points out, so having a consistent sleep schedule would help you maintain a good diet, which will in turn help your sleep schedule.

Add Movement to Your Routine

Staying active can improve sleep quality Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and duration. Whether you go to a gym or on a leisurely evening walk, physical activity offers manifold benefits for sleep.

Exercise not only improves sleep but boosts the production of endorphins, the feel-good hormones that also affect the sleep-wake cycle. Physical activity allows you to increase the body temperature at the beginning and drop the body temperature post-activity. It aids in promoting feelings of drowsiness.

Physical activity also works as a natural antidote to stress. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source It helps you lower cortisol levels and facilitates restful sleep.

If you want to kill two birds with one stone, Dr. Jing Zhang recommands, try exercising outside where you can get enough sunlight, as sunlight exposure helps regulate your circadian rhythm.

People who regularly go to the gym or exercise consistently often experience deeper, longer REM phase and more restorative sleep.

Limit Mid-day Naps

Napping has its benefits and can be restorative, but when it comes to nighttime sleep, it works as a double-edged sword. Short naps during the day can quickly recharge your energy levels and improve your mood, but at the cost of disturbed or delayed nighttime sleep.

Ideally, brief power naps of around 20 to 30 minutes can be beneficial without making it hard to fall asleep at night.

This prevents you from entering deep sleep, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed rather than groggy. Naps can be good when taken mid-afternoon, typically between 1 and 3 PM. This is when many people experience a dip in energy, so a boost of quick sleep can be perfect.

However, if you constantly find yourself needing long or frequent naps, it might indicate inadequate nighttime sleep. This can be associated with increased sleep fragmentation Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and poorer sleep quality.

Address Stress and Anxiety

The overworking culture comes with many inlets of stress and anxiety. And stress often Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source casts a shadow on our sleep patterns.

In the realm of uncertainties contributing to stress and the resulting insomnia, following a consistent, predictable routine can provide a sense of normality. This includes waking up, meals, exercise, and bedtime schedules.

Deep breathing exercises can help with progressive muscle relaxation Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and can help ground the mind, reducing anxiety before bed.

Minimize Screen Time Before Bed

In today’s technology-driven world, many of us end our days by scrolling through our phones or catching up on entertainment. However, using screens before bed can negatively impact your ability to fall asleep early.

Screens like phones, tablets, and computers emit a high amount of blue light. This blue light exposure at night tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. It suppresses the natural release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, and shifts your circadian rhythm. This makes it harder to feel sleepy at an appropriate bedtime.

Experts recommend avoiding screens 1-2 hours before your target bedtime. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and shut your laptop. If you can, get the TV out of the bedroom and similar devices out of the bedroom, save perhaps your cellphone for emergencies or to serve as an alarm clock.

If you need to wind down before bed, try opting for screen-free activities. Read a book, take a warm bath, or engage in relaxation techniques.

If you do use screens at night, enable night mode to filter out blue light. Adjust the screen brightness as low as comfortable. And avoid stimulating content – no work emails before bed! Putting at least an hour of screen-free time before bed can help preserve natural melatonin release.

Sleep expert Dr. Jing Zhang suggests that research shows Verified Source ScienceDirect One of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources. View source red light promotes sleep while blue light promotes wakefulness. So you might find it easier to go to sleep at night when you turn on a red light in your bedroom, and turn on your regular white light in the morning if you don’t have sufficient sunlight to help you wake up.

Incorporate Relaxing Activities

As we mentioned, instead of screens, incorporate relaxing techniques into your pre-bed routine to help transition your body and mind into sleep mode. Try taking a warm bath, practicing gentle stretches, or sipping herbal tea for sleep.

Reading before bed is another screen-free option, but stick to print books rather than e-readers to limit blue light. Write in a journal about your thoughts and plans for tomorrow. This can help clear your mind before sleep.

Deep breathing exercises are also recommended to lower stress and anxiety. Breathe in through your nose, hold for a few counts, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat as you feel your body relaxing.

Pick two to three calming activities and do them in the same sequence each night as part of your regular sleep routine. This repetition can help cue your brain that bedtime is near.

Importance of a Consistent Sleep Schedule

As we mentioned, being consistent is key when training your body to go to sleep early. Go to bed and wake up at the same times daily, even on weekends. This helps anchor your circadian rhythm so you easily feel sleepy at your set bedtime.

Making small, gradual shifts is better than suddenly trying to go to sleep earlier than usual. Move your bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier every few nights until you reach your target.

Sticking to a steady sleep schedule may be tough some nights, but try your best to keep bedtime within 30 minutes of your goal. Limit naps and avoid sleeping in more than an hour past your normal wake time when possible, as it will help you fall asleep fast at night.

FAQs

How do I stop staying up late?

To break the habit of staying up late, establish a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. Create a calming bedtime routine, limit screen time before bed, and avoid caffeine in the evening. Gradually adjust your bedtime earlier, making small shifts until you achieve a desired sleep schedule.

Is it okay to sleep late but 8 hours?

While obtaining a full 8 hours of sleep is essential for overall well-being, consistently sleeping late may disrupt your circadian rhythm and impact sleep quality. The body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is optimized when aligned with a consistent bedtime.

Therefore, we advise aiming for a sleep schedule that allows for both adequate duration and synchronization with your body’s internal clock, while leaving enough time in the morning that you don’t feel rushed to get ready for your day.

Why is it so hard for me to sleep early?

Disruptions to your circadian rhythm, often caused by irregular sleep schedules, can make it challenging to fall asleep early. Other factors contributing to difficulty in falling asleep are stress, excessive caffeine intake, or exposure to blue light from screens. External factors like noise, room temperature, or light can also hinder your ability to sleep early. Sometimes, your chronotype may simply make it harder to fall asleep fast at an earlier bedtime.

Creating a calming bedtime routine, minimizing screen exposure before sleep, and addressing stress through relaxation techniques can help establish a healthier sleep pattern and make it easier to fall asleep early. If issues persist, consulting a healthcare professional may provide personalized insights and solutions.

How can I sleep early at night naturally?

To naturally encourage early sleep, establish a consistent bedtime routine. Limit screen time and light exposure before bed, engage in relaxing activities like reading or gentle stretching, and create a comfortable sleep environment.

Avoid stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime, along with other stimulating food and drinks or heavy meals before bed. Consider incorporating calming practices such as gentle stretches, deep breathing exercises, or journaling to help your body wind down naturally. These healthy habits promote a natural transition to sleep at an earlier hour.

What is the best bedtime for good sleep?

The ideal bedtime for good sleep varies among individuals, but generally falling asleep between 8:00 PM and 12:00 AM aligns with natural circadian rhythms. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed. Experiment with different bedtimes to find what suits your body’s natural rhythm and allows for a full and restful night’s sleep. Consistency is key to establishing a healthy sleep routine.

Conclusion

Sleep is the most crucial and the most overlooked pillar of well-being. It affects all aspects of our lives, including physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities.

Sleeping early helps you in various ways. You get to have a more productive time in the 24-hour clock and stay alert when you need it. The path to better sleep is often through intentional, simple, conscious choices.

Following a consistent bedtime routine, syncing with your body’s cycle, and taking foods that support—at least do not disrupt—your sleep cycle can facilitate quality sleep.

If you are struggling with your sleep schedule, start small. Aim to go to bed earlier, even if 10 minutes, than yesterday.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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