If you can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. 11% of Americans say they aren’t getting enough sleep each night and up to 30% of adults complain of occasional insomnia.
Sleeping poorly, unfortunately, has wide-reaching consequences in our daily lives affecting everything from job performance to mood.
Being able to sleep like a baby doesn’t have to be a dream, however. With a little planning, Mr. Sandman will pay you a visit. Here are some tips on how to fall asleep fast.
1. Start a Winddown Routine
Ease yourself into sleep by starting a bedtime routine an hour or two before you plan on getting into bed. Just as children need some bedtime rituals, adults can reap the benefits as well by having one. Implementing some self-care and sleep-inducing habits can help prepare the body psychologically and help you feel drowsy.
Your winddown routine can include taking a warm (but not super hot) bath or shower, choosing clothes to wear the following day, writing in a journal, or reading a book. It should not include browsing your phone or laptop—the blue light mobile devices emit can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and trick your body into thinking it’s still daylight.
If you must catch up with your Instagram or Facebook feed, wear blue light blocking glasses. And accept that this decision will have determinantal affects on your sleep cycle.
On that note, you may want to avoid watching TV as well—too much stimulation can make it harder to fall asleep.
2. Make it Dark
Remember the Al Pacino movie Insomnia where his character couldn’t sleep because of Alaska’s long daylight hours? The darker your bedroom, the better. That’s because darkness helps your body produce more melatonin which will make you drowsy and more likely to fall asleep.
Total darkness is best! This means no light coming anywhere from mobile devices, air purifiers, or other appliances that have buttons or screens that light up, even if you stopped looking at them hours ago. Invest in some blackout curtains if you must to block even the moonlight out.
Shockingly, studies suggest that your body can sense light even when its received by body parts other than your eyes (such as your skin).
3. Keep the Bedroom Cool
t’s difficult to fall asleep in a hot, muggy room in the summertime that doesn’t have air conditioning. But it can also be hard to get quality sleep if your thermostat is cranked up too high.
Add to this a mattress made with traditional memory foam, which locks in body heat, and you may find yourself tossing and turning all night. So keep the bedroom on the cooler side—between 62 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit—for the most comfortable sleep.
Many of us often cannot fall asleep because of the racing thoughts in our head. This is why meditation can be a useful self-development tool to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In fact, a study found that practicing mindfulness meditation at bedtime helped participants fall asleep more easily.
You don’t have to be a monk or a yoga guru sitting on a mountaintop to know how to meditate. If you can learn to control your breathing and focus your thoughts, you are meditating.
There is no shortage of free guided meditations available on YouTube that can help you visualize pleasant images, quiet your mind, and experience less anxiety and worry so you can ease yourself into sleep.
If you want somewhere concrete to start, then pick up the book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. It’s a powerful book and how I first learned about the practice of mindfulness meditation.
5. Try the Military Method
Did you know that the U.S. army and navy trains its soldiers and pilots on how to fall soundly asleep in about two minutes? This technique works even if they’ve drunk coffee and there’s gunfire blasting away nearby.
As I’ve just mentioned, meditation can help you fall asleep faster. The military method is a variation on it.
All you need to do is completely relax every muscle in your body, starting with your facial muscles first. Relax your jaw and let all tension go.
Then relax your shoulders by letting them drop (if you’re sitting) or just envision your entire body feeling heavy and sinking into your mattress if you’re lying down.
Focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose while counting to four in your head, then holding your breath for seven seconds. Finally, exhale out your mouth (while making a “whooshing” sound) for eight seconds. This is known as the 4-7-8 method of breathing.
Now you need to clear your mind. Try to let go of all thoughts. If that doesn’t work, start repeating to yourself in your head “don’t think, don’t think” over and over again.
It may take some practice, but soldiers who do this every day usually fall asleep fast within six weeks. If it’s good enough for military personnel who are under a lot of daily stress and pressure when deployed, it can work for you, too!
6. Listen to Soothing Music or a White Noise Machine
Playing a setlist of your favorite soothing songs can help lull you to sleep, as long as you don’t play them too loudly. Nature sounds such as waves crashing along a shore and a gentle rainfall have also been known to help people fall asleep.
If your neighborhood is a bit noisy or your household has too many distracting sounds, investing in a white noise machine may also do the trick to help you get enough rest.
7. Get Weighed Down
Weighted blankets are all the rage—the gentle pressure is like a hug wrapped around your body, and the added weight can help reduce anxiety and even relieve pain. Their effects are very similar to receiving a type of physical therapy called deep pressure stimulation.
Weighted blankets are being studied for their potential ability to help people with autism, ADHD, and sleep disorders. With available weights that range from five to 30 pounds, you’re sure to find the one that’s right for you.
8. Supplement for Sleep
If all else fails, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body at nighttime and in response to environment cues like darkness. Called the “sleep hormone,” it helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and influence our sleep-wake cycles.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, then trying taking melatonin liquid or capsules.
Having said this, melatonin is a hormone produced by the human body, so you generally won’t want to take much more of this hormone than your body would produce naturally. 300 mcg would be the upper limit that I would recommend. That is the same as 0.3 grams of melatonin, which is a pretty small amount.
Of course, your dosage will depend on your body size and composition, so make sure to check with a nutritionist or your physician to figure out the right dose for you.
Because melatonin is produced by the body, it acts as a calming and natural sleep aid. I commonly used it when I was travelling frequently overseas and enduring high stress situations, such as competing with the USA Rugby Team.
Alternatively, you can try L-Theanine. L-Theanine is a supplement that promotes high quality sleep by gently inducing relaxation. Unlike other sleep supplements, it does not create drowsiness but instead it facilitates sleep through quieting the mind and reducing anxiety.
There is a lot of scientific research supporting the use of L-Theanine to improve sleep quality, because it known to reduce sleep disturbances (1, 2). Most likely, it’s effects result from its consistent ability promote relaxation.
The Skill of Falling Asleep Fast
Knowing how to fall asleep fast may require trying several of the above tips, not just one. What works for another person may not work for you, so try out a few of these suggestions to start enjoying better sleep fast.
And remember, regular exercise has many benefits, including better quality sleep, so stay on track with your workout routine.
What questions do you have about falling asleep fast? Ask them in comments below. Ready to stay in touch? Join nearly two million other readers who are learning from Cade.
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1. Saeed M, Naveed M, Arif M, Kakar MU, Manzoor R, Abd El-Hack ME, et al. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) and l-theanine: medicinal values and beneficial applications in humans—a comprehensive review. Biomed Pharmacother. (2017) 95:1260–75. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.0242
2. Sharma E, Joshi R, Gulati A. l-theanine: an astounding sui generis integrant in tea. Food Chem. (2018) 242:601–10. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.09.046