When I was younger, I suffered from insomnia. It wasn’t uncommon for me to need one to two hours to fall asleep.
Until you go through that, you never really understand the value of being able to fall asleep quickly or, well, normally.
Nowadays, I pretty much couldn’t fall asleep faster if I tried. But, after so many years of my childhood having to go through that, I’ve never forgotten what it felt like and appreciate every moment of my now-normal sleep habits.
A lot of things can contribute to how fast you fall asleep, perhaps most notably getting your stress and anxiety under control. Before you try any sort of tricks or fixes, you really need to identify if you’re just overly stressed and/or anxious.
However, if you feel you’ve got a handle on that and you either believe you might have insomnia or you’d like to condition your body to take quick naps in the afternoon or simply fall asleep instantly at night, there are several tricks you can try. And many are backed by science.
Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
– Thomas Dekker
Here are five critical steps to help you go to sleep faster:
1. Cool down
Your body temperature is one of the single most important factors to determine how quickly you fall asleep. Why? Because it’s tied to your internal clock.
In fact, darkness triggers a natural drop in temperature in the body, which researchers believe happens to help us sleep faster and more easily.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, a bedroom temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Other methods include taking a cold shower before bed, splashing your face with water, or wearing socks so that the warmth in your body is dispersed away from your center (sounds odd, but it works).
2. Don’t lie down until you’re tired
This might sound counterintuitive if you stick to a regular bedtime, but there’s good reason for it. It’s more of a protective step, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
While it’s smart to stick to a set bedtime, especially if you’re an early riser, if you’re having trouble sleeping, then laying down for bed before you’re tired can eventually condition your mind and body to associate your bed with things other than sleep like ruminating, worrying, using your smartphone or watching TV, This, in turn, makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
Psychology expert Richard Wiseman for the University of Hertfordshire says “the key is to avoid associating your bed with being awake.”
Instead, take time to work your brain or do something else that will expend your energy until you begin feeling tired. The more you condition your bed to be associated with sleep time and nothing else, the faster you’ll fall asleep when you finally decide to lie down.
3. Use the 4-7-8 method
Made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 method is a breathing technique thatcan help you not only fall asleep faster, but even “fall asleep in under one minute.”
The instructions are pretty simple. And, if you have any experience meditating, this will feel pretty familiar:
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. It should stay there for the entire exercise
- Exhale strongly all of the oxygen from your lungs. You should hear the air exiting your lungs
- Inhale normally through your nostrils for four seconds
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale once again up to eight seconds
Repeat this exercise a total of four times before stopping.
4. Picture somewhere that makes you relaxed and happy
This might sound like one of those things that your friend offers as a suggestion without any sort of data to back it up, but turns out going to your happy place really does help.
In an Oxford University study, participants who were asked to picture a location that makes them happy and calm fell asleep as much as 20 minutes faster when compared to a control group.
This is a great strategy to use in combination with the 4-7-8 method.
5. Try to stay awake
Are you tired of trying to get to sleep? Well then, screw it. Stop trying to fall asleep and start trying to stay awake.
No, I’m not telling you to give up. What I am telling you, though, is that trying to stay awake has actually been shown to make it easier to fall asleep.
A study conducted the University of Glasgow found that participants who were instructed to try to keep their eyes open and stay awake not only fell asleep faster, but they also had less anxiety related to their sleep performance when compared to a group of participants who tried to fall asleep normally.