Getting quality sleep is essential for your well-being.
It not only boosts your mood but also ensures that both your body and mind work effectively.
While some folks have an easy time drifting off to sleep, a significant number of people struggle to fall asleep and remain asleep all night.
Lack of good sleep can negatively impact various aspects of your mental and physical health, from learning and memory to your emotional state and even bodily processes.
Here are 20 straightforward techniques to help you get to sleep as quickly as possible.
1. Cool down your room
When you sleep, your body temperature fluctuates. It drops when you’re lying down and rises when you wake up.
If your bedroom is too hot, you might struggle with falling asleep. Adjusting your thermostat to a cooler setting between 60–67°F (15.6–19.4°C) could make a difference.
Everyone has their own comfort zone, so experiment to find the right temperature for you.
Taking a warm shower or bath before bed can also help your body prepare for sleep. As you cool off afterward, it signals your brain that it’s time to sleep.
According to one study review, a warm bath or shower taken 1 to 2 hours before sleep at temperatures of 104°F–108.5°F (40.0°C–42.5°C) resulted in improved sleep quality and efficiency.
Sleep efficiency is the amount of time you’re actually asleep, compared to the total time spent in bed.
Even a short bath or shower of just 10 minutes produced positive sleep outcomes in the study. While more research is needed, this approach shows promise.
2. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique
Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the “4-7-8” breathing technique is a straightforward way to ease your mind and body before sleep.
This method, rooted in yoga breathing exercises, involves a specific breathing pattern that helps relax your nervous system and can be used whenever you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by putting the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth.
- Breathe out fully through your mouth, making a “whoosh” noise.
- Close your mouth and take a breath in through your nose, counting to 4 in your head.
- Hold that breath while counting to 7 in your head.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making another “whoosh” sound and counting to 8 in your head.
- Complete this cycle at least three more times.
Using this breathing pattern can help you relax and drift off to sleep more quickly.
3. Stick to a sleep routine
Many folks find that maintaining a consistent sleep routine helps them drift off more easily.
Your body operates on a natural timer known as the circadian rhythm, which prompts you to feel awake during the daytime and sleepy when it’s dark.
By waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day, you’re supporting this internal clock to operate smoothly.
Once you get used to this regular sleep-wake cycle, you’ll find it easier to both fall asleep and wake up at consistent times.
Aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is generally recommended for adults.
Also, take about 30–45 minutes before bed to relax, helping both your mind and body prepare for sleep.
4. Embrace light and dark
Light exposure plays a big role in how well your internal body clock functions.
Inconsistent light exposure can mess up your body’s sleep-wake cycle, making it tough to both fall asleep and stay awake.
During the daytime, let your body soak up bright light to signal that it’s time to be alert. This can be natural sunlight or artificial light from sources like an e-reader.
In the evening, darkness helps you feel sleepy. Studies indicate that darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin levels are naturally low during the day.
So, try to get outside during the day for some bright light exposure and consider using blackout curtains to darken your room at night.
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5. Calm down with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness
Stress is a common barrier to good sleep.
Tools like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are great for calming your mind and relaxing your body, and they’ve all been scientifically proven to improve sleep.
Yoga involves specific breathing and physical exercises that relieve stress and tension from your body.
Studies have shown that yoga can positively influence sleep factors like how quickly you fall asleep, how long you sleep, and the quality of that sleep.
Meditation can increase levels of melatonin, aiding your brain in reaching a sleep-friendly state.
Mindfulness helps you focus on the here and now, which can reduce bedtime worries and improve your daytime performance.
Implementing any or all of these calming techniques can lead to a more restful night and a more energized morning.
6. Don’t stare at the clock
Waking up in the middle of the night is pretty common, but not being able to go back to sleep can mess up a good night’s slumber.
If you find yourself awake at odd hours, avoid the temptation to look at the clock, as it can make you anxious about not being able to fall back asleep.
This clock-watching habit is a frequent issue among those with insomnia and can heighten stress about sleep or lack thereof.
Worse yet, if you regularly wake up and can’t return to sleep, your body may make it a routine, causing you to wake up nightly at the same time.
If you can, remove the clock from your bedroom. If you need an alarm, position the clock so you can’t see the time if you do wake up.
7. Skip daytime naps
Folks with insomnia often feel drowsy during the day, which can lead them to nap. But daytime napping can have mixed effects on your nighttime sleep.
While brief naps can improve mood and alertness, long and late naps can harm the quality of your night’s rest.
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In a study with college students, the worst sleep quality was reported by those who took three or more naps a week, napped for over 2 hours, or napped late in the day (between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.).
Another study found that older adults who took frequent naps had poor nighttime sleep and were more likely to be overweight and less active.
Recent research also indicates that daytime naps can lead to shorter and less efficient sleep at night.
However, not all studies agree on this. To see if napping affects you, try eliminating them or limiting them to 30 minutes or less, and earlier in the day.
8. Mind your meal timing and choices
What you eat before bedtime can influence how well you sleep. Research suggests that high-carb meals might not be the best choice if you want quality sleep.
Studies show that while a high-carb meal might help you fall asleep quicker, the sleep may not be deep or restful. On the other hand, meals rich in fats might promote a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Both older and newer studies found that a diet rich in carbohydrates and low in fats negatively impacted sleep quality when compared to a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fats, even when the calorie count was the same in both diets.
If you want to stick to a high-carb meal for dinner, try to have it at least four hours before you sleep to allow ample time for digestion.
9. Tune into calming music
Music has a profound impact on your sleep quality and can be an effective treatment for sleep disorders like insomnia.
Studies, including one involving 24 young adults, showed that listening to calming, sedative music can promote deeper sleep.
Buddhist music, generated from various Buddhist chants and used for meditation, can also help in falling asleep quicker.
A study involving 50 participants showed that those who listened to soothing music for 45 minutes before bedtime experienced deeper and more restful sleep compared to those who didn’t.
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Alternatively, if relaxing music isn’t for you, using white noise to block out other sounds can also facilitate faster sleep and keep it uninterrupted.
10. Exercise, but time it right
Physical exercise has long been correlated with improved sleep quality, thanks to its ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain while decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone.
However, the key is moderation and timing. Over-exerting yourself can lead to poor sleep, and exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep schedule.
Morning seems to be the best time for exercise when it comes to improving your sleep quality. Activities that can help include:
Even moderate to vigorous exercise in the morning can significantly impact both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
11. Comfort is key
Never underestimate the power of a comfortable mattress and bedding on your sleep quality.
Research indicates that a medium-firm mattress can improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances and muscular discomfort.
Your choice of pillow can also be crucial. It affects your neck posture, and therefore, your sleep. One small study suggests that orthopedic pillows could be better for sleep quality compared to feather or memory foam pillows.
Consider using a weighted blanket, as it may reduce body stress and improve your sleep.
Finally, what you wear to bed can also make a difference. Choose clothes made of comfortable fabric that helps you maintain a pleasant body temperature through the night.
Remember, sleep is not just a ’nice-to-have,’ but a ’need-to-have.’ Taking steps to ensure a good night’s sleep is an investment in your overall well-being.
12. Unplug and wind down
The impact of electronic devices on sleep quality cannot be overstated. The blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals your body to sleep.
Moreover, the content you engage with—be it social media, news, or video games—can keep your mind active and alert, precisely the opposite state you need for sleep.
Experts often recommend a digital detox at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed to help improve sleep quality. If you absolutely must use electronic devices before bed, consider blue light filters or special eyewear to block blue light. But the best practice is to keep electronics out of the bedroom altogether, ensuring it remains a sanctuary for sleep.
13. Soothe your senses with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils for improving mental or physical well-being, has been found to effectively improve sleep quality.
A systematic review of 12 studies indicated that aromatherapy helped in enhancing sleep quality. Popular essential oils known for their sleep-promoting qualities include lavender, damask rose, and peppermint.
You can use an essential oil diffuser to fill your room with these calming aromas. Another option is to apply diluted oils to your temples or wrists before bed, but make sure you’re not allergic to the oils you choose.
14. Pen down your thoughts
For those who find their minds racing as they try to drift off, writing could be a powerful tool for better sleep. Journaling allows you to organize your thoughts, mitigate the stresses of the day, and focus your mind before bed.
Focusing on positive aspects of your day or what you are grateful for can shift your mental state and prepare you for a more restful sleep. A study involving 41 college students found that journaling led to less bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time, and better sleep quality.
For some, a to-do list might be a more practical approach. A separate study discovered that spending just five minutes writing a to-do list can help you fall asleep faster than journaling. The act of getting these tasks out of your head and onto paper can provide a sense of relief and organization, making it easier to relax.
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By adopting these sleep-friendly habits, you’re giving yourself the gift of restful nights and more productive days. Sleep is an integral part of your overall health and well-being, so it deserves your full attention and care.
15. Choose beverages wisely
While caffeine can be a helpful tool for daytime alertness, its stimulant effects can have a lasting impact that disrupts your ability to fall asleep at night. Caffeine is not just in coffee; it’s also in teas, sodas, chocolate, and various energy drinks.
As a general rule, it’s advised to avoid consuming caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime. For a nighttime drink, opt for something calming like chamomile tea, which is often recommended for its sleep-promoting properties. Other herbal teas like passionflower or magnolia bark can also be helpful.
16. Mind your sleep position
Your sleep position can make a significant difference in the quality of your sleep. While back sleeping was once touted as the optimal position, it can exacerbate issues like sleep apnea and snoring for some people.
Side sleeping, especially on the left side, has been associated with numerous benefits, including better digestion and reduced heartburn. While your personal comfort is the most important factor in choosing a sleep position, it may be worth experimenting with side sleeping if you experience sleep difficulties.
17. Opt for analog reading
Reading can be an effective way to unwind before bedtime, but the kind of reading material and the format matter. E-books and devices can emit the kind of blue light that disrupts melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
If you want to incorporate reading into your pre-sleep routine, traditional paper books are the best choice. They not only lack the disruptive blue light but also provide a different kind of engagement that can help you relax more effectively.
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18. The power of reverse psychology: Paradoxical intention
Sometimes, the pressure to fall asleep can become a significant barrier to actually doing so. This is where paradoxical intention comes into play. Instead of lying in bed worrying about when sleep will come, tell yourself to stay awake. This technique aims to reduce the performance anxiety that comes with trying to fall asleep.
While research on its effectiveness is mixed, some people find this reverse psychology method beneficial for falling asleep faster. By focusing on staying awake, you may relieve the stress and anxiety that are preventing you from relaxing into sleep.
Adopting a combination of these methods can provide a multifaceted approach to improving sleep quality. Each person’s sleep needs and responses to these techniques will vary, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find the most effective strategies for you.
19. The power of positive visualization
When you’re lying in bed unable to sleep, your mind can often become your worst enemy, filling your thoughts with worries, anxieties, and stress. One way to combat this is through positive visualization. Instead of focusing on what keeps you up, imagine scenarios or places that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation.
In studies related to insomnia and sleep onset, visualization techniques have proven effective. For instance, participants trained to visualize pleasant experiences found that they could fall asleep faster compared to when they didn’t use these techniques. By occupying your mind with positive thoughts, you’re less likely to engage with the stressors that could keep you awake.
20. Consider sleep-boosting supplements
If you’ve tried various techniques and still find it difficult to fall asleep, certain supplements may be worth considering. However, always consult with a healthcare provider before adding new supplements to your regimen, especially if you are already taking other medications. Here are some of the most commonly cited sleep-promoting supplements:
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- Magnesium: Known for activating neurotransmitters that are responsible for inducing sleep and relaxation, doses of up to 500 mg can be taken daily, preferably with food.
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan): This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep. Doses up to 600 mg per day have shown effectiveness in improving sleep quality.
- Melatonin: This hormone is naturally produced by the body and regulates sleep-wake cycles. Supplemental doses ranging from 0.5 to 5 mg, taken about 2 hours before bedtime, can aid sleep.
- L-Theanine: While not necessarily a sleep inducer, this amino acid can promote relaxation, with recommended doses of up to 400 mg per day.
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): This neurotransmitter inhibitor can calm your central nervous system, potentially making it easier to fall asleep. Recommended doses range from 250 to 500 mg but should not exceed 1,000 mg.
Sleep is a critical aspect of well-being, affecting everything from your mental clarity to your long-term health.
If you struggle with sleep quality or getting enough rest, the techniques and tips outlined above offer various avenues for improvement.
From behavioral changes like exercise and journaling to supplemental aids like magnesium and melatonin, these strategies can be tailored to meet your specific sleep needs.
The key is to be consistent and give yourself the time to evaluate what works best for you.