How to Fall Asleep Fast
Adequate quality and quantity of sleep are vital for staying healthy, both physically and mentally. While for some people dozing off is a straightforward affair, falling asleep fast can be a struggle for many. It's pretty normal to take about 20 minutes to fall asleep at night. Some disparity between people isn't necessarily a source of concern.
However, if you're routinely spending more time trying to catch some z's due to revenge bedtime procrastination or other underlying conditions, rather than actually sleeping, it may be a sign of a problem. Bear in mind that not getting enough sleep can interfere with your ability to carry out your daily tasks, thus affecting your general performance at school or work. It can also take its toll on your health and well-being in several ways.
Long-term inability to sleep (insomnia), for instance, can lead to various medical conditions, like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. We'll cover some basic information about sleep, including the sleep process and what might be stopping you from getting the quality sleep you need. We'll also share some tried and tested steps you can take to help you reset your routine and fall asleep faster.
Understanding the Process of Falling Asleep
Generally, your sleep-wake cycle is significantly influenced by the circadian drive and the homeostatic sleep drive. The homeostatic sleep drive is somehow similar to hunger. The longer you stay without sleeping, the higher your homeostatic drive will make you sleep.
The body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) also influences wakefulness. For most individuals, this drive switches off at around 10 or 11 o'clock and can help initiate sleep.
The process of transitioning from wakefulness to sleep also involves alterations in your brain's neurotransmitters. During the day, there are various transmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that help in promoting wakefulness.
As you start adjusting into nighttime, some of these neurotransmitters begin to shut off, thus turning on the nighttime circuitry. This, in turn, transmits impulses to your brain, telling it's time to switch off, rest, and restore.
How Long Should It Typically Take to Fall Asleep?
If you often find yourself moving restlessly in bed, you might ponder whether or not it should take you a specific amount of time to fall asleep (sleep latency). For adults, normal sleep means falling asleep within 8 to 20 minutes after lying down for the night.
Sometimes, you may have a hard time switching your brain off due to various factors (as we will discuss below). Alternatively, you might fall asleep instantaneously, especially if you previously had a difficult night of sleep or a particularly exhausting day.
So, What Makes This Process Difficult for Some People?
While numerous factors can prevent sleep, the most common causes are:
Stress - Stressful situations throughout the day can cause sleep deprivation. This is because the mind is left racing over thoughts, making it impossible to achieve preparation necessary for sleep.
Caffeine - Consuming large caffeine contents such as coffee, dark tea, energy drinks, or soda can make you stay awake and result in sleep problems.
Nicotine and alcohol consumption - Chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes often leads to sleep deprivation. Drinking alcohol before bed can result in trouble falling asleep.
Insomnia - Insomnia is a complex sleep disorder that results from days worth of sleep deprivation. Certain underlying health conditions such as sleep apnea, avid reflex, and chronic pain may result in insomnia. Without treatment, chronic insomnia can result in causing obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Insomnia can be treated through Cognitive Behavior Therapy or over-the-counter clinical sleep medicine, including melatonin and CBD oil.
Tips and Tricks to Falling Asleep Fast
The techniques used in facilitating restful sleep are based on muscle relaxation and mindful relaxation. You’ll also want to make lifestyle changes that will help you improve your sleep hygiene. Combined together, these tips help you fall asleep fast and overall improve sleep.
Create a Consistent Sleep Pattern
You've probably heard about the value of sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up time. But with the various changes to your weekly calendar - doctor's appointments here, early duty calls there, as well as weekends when you can actually sleep as much as you want - it can be pretty challenging to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
However, it would help if you kept in mind that irregular sleep patterns can significantly interfere with sleep as they interrupt your body's circadian rhythm. As your body's regulatory system, the internal clock signals your body to feel alert at sunrise but sleepy during the night.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help your circadian rhythm keep a regular schedule. Once the body adjusts to this routine, it'll be much easier to go to bed and wake up about the same time each day. This is because your internal clock will be able to predict when to induce sleep.
It's also vital to get about 7-9 hours of sleep each night (optimal sleep duration for adults). Remember to give yourself about 30 to 45 minutes to wind down at night before bed. This enables your mind and body to relax as they prepare for sleep.
Overall, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as this greatly impacts how fast you fall asleep and your sleep quality in general.
Lower the Temperature
Your body temperature typically changes as you fall asleep. It warms up when you get out of bed and cools down when you lie down to rest. If your sleep environment is too hot, you might have difficulty falling asleep. That said, adjusting your thermostat settings to a cool temperature of about 60 to 67°F (15.6 to 19.4°C) could help.
Taking a warm bath can also help speed up the temperature changes in your body. Cooling off afterward can send signals to your brain to switch off. Note that individual preferences will vary, so opt for the temperature that suits you best.
Use the Military Method
The military method was first reported by Sharon Ackerman to assist soldiers to fall asleep while in stressful environments. Sleep is vital for soldiers since it allows them to remain active during the daytime and avoid making mistakes with dire consequences. This technique involves:
- Lying in bed in a comfortable position.
- Initiate breathing exercises, taking in big breaths and exhaling out.
- Release the tension in the jaw, forehead, and eyelids. As you do this, the body begins to relax starting from the upper body down to the thighs towards the lower legs.
- After relaxing the body, begin clearing the mind by repeating "don't think" over and over again whenever a thought creeps into your mind, visualizing a happy memory, imagining a scenic environment such as a field full of flowers with bright sunshine.
In doing so, your mind will relax and allow you to fall asleep quickly.
Try Autogenic Training
Johannes Heinrich Schultz, a German psychiatrist, created autogenic training from the theory of hypnosis. The relaxation technique uses several statements to curate a relaxed atmosphere in the nervous system, which then allows falling asleep faster. How it works:
- While relaxing in bed, center your focus on your breath and say, "I am completely calm."
- Shift your attention to your arms and say to yourself, "My arms are very heavy,"" I am entirely calm" six times.
- Move your attention to the legs and say to yourself six times, " My legs are heavy " and "I am completely calm."
Perform this technique with different parts of the body every six times while paraphrasing the statements to match each body section. When all the steps are complete, you should feel warm and relaxed. Repeat the steps until you feel ready to fall asleep.
Practice Body Scan
The body scan is a relaxation technique that promotes fast sleep. It involves bringing attention to yourself through small and slow movements on various parts of the body. Here, you'll have to center your attention on one section of the body at a time with the intention of relaxing that particular area.
How it works:
- While relaxing on your back comfortably, start intentionally moving your head in slow motions until you begin to feel your body relax
- Advance to the shoulders, moving them slowly until they completely relax
- Continue progressing slowly with each body section taking as much time as needed to promote total relaxation
- Once the body is fully at ease, you'll have an easy time falling asleep fast
Try Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga
Various research has proven that mindful meditation can help overcome sleep disorders. Meditation eliminates stressful thoughts and promotes mental clarity and relaxation, which leads to falling asleep.
To meditate, begin by:
- Sit or lie in a naturally comfortable position.
- Take your time to feel your surroundings when you are ready, close your eyes
- Take large breaths in and exhale periodically while focusing your attention on your breath cycle.
- Shift your attention to yourself and when intrusive thoughts come up, acknowledge them and release them from your mind.
- Try meditating for about 5 minutes at the start while building up resilience for longer sessions.
Yoga is also said to promote good sleeping behavior. Through breathing techniques and body movements, yoga allows you to release tension built up in your mind and body. This, in turn, helps you stay asleep longer and fall asleep faster.
Eat Foods Rich in Proteins, Carbs, and Vitamins
Certain foods have been associated with promoting peaceful sleep. These foods naturally improve sleep. They include;
Foods rich in tryptophan - Tryptophan is a naturally occurring substance that promotes good sleep. These foods include nuts, chicken, turkey, eggs, bananas, and milk.
Complex carbs - These whole grains, such as oatmeal and whole-wheat crackers, help you sleep faster and better.
Fish - Rich in vitamin B6, fish promotes better sleep through the hormone melatonin, facilitated by vitamin B6.
Kale - High in calcium, this green leafy vegetable motivates the sleep hormones to work and helps you sleep better and faster.
Fruits - Pineapple, tart cherries, oranges, and bananas decrease oxidative body stress and activate the sleep hormones, making you fall asleep faster.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a strategy that involves stressing different muscles in the body periodically and then relaxing those muscles in set groups. This is done by:
- Start by lifting your eyebrows which in response tightens the forehead muscles. Slowly release them, which releases the tension built up from the temples.
- Compress your eyelids shut, and then in slow motions, allow them to relax and fall over your eyes peacefully.
- Smile as wide as you can, focusing on building tension in your cheeks and jaw, then slowly release them and concentrate on feeling each muscle relax on your face.
- Repeat this sequence on your shoulders, fingers, stomach area, legs, and finally finish it up with your toes.
Once your whole body is relaxed, you will naturally fall into a deep sleep very fast.
Ditch the Tech Before Bedtime
Browsing the internet before sleeping is a common practice in this era of modern technology. Staring at the blue screen quite often leads to unwanted sleep issues. The majority of these devices release a blue light that imitates daytime sunlight which causes sleep issues.
To sleep fast, putting your technology devices away before bedtime will largely increase the chances of falling asleep and facilitate quality sleep. No matter how difficult it is, try as much as you can to part with technology while in bed, as it is necessary to promote healthy sleeping habits.
Create a Conducive Sleep Environment
Quite often, a cluttered, dirty room can prevent the mind from relaxing and interrupt your sleep schedule. This sort of living situation can feel overwhelming. To prevent this, maintain proper clean hygiene by clearing the trash out of your room, folding clothes, and picking up items from the bed and floor.
Keep your room cool by opening the windows during the day to improve air circulation. In doing so, your room will feel peaceful and embody the relaxation feel, which will help you fall asleep fast. Keep the room dark also to encourage restful sleep.
You can also:
- Invest in a comfortable mattress. The mattress in your bed heavily impacts the quality of sleep. Using a bad mattress can make you switch positions at night, and wake up several times with back and shoulder pain. Such conditions disrupt sleep and make it difficult to fall asleep fast. Having the right mattress can promote deeper sleep sessions in a relaxed state. The right level of firmness and ergonomic standards provide body support and eventually help you fall asleep fast.
- Use weighted blankets. These are heavy blankets used to create pressure on the body and stimulate the release of serotonin in mind. The pressure from the weighted blanket promotes calmness and relaxation.
- Put your socks on. Having cold feet can often prevent you from falling asleep. When your feet are cold, the blood vessels constrict, which results in less blood circulating, which ultimately sends signals to the brain to remain awake. Therefore putting on your socks assists by dilating your blood vessels which allow the brain to allow you to sleep.
No matter how difficult it is to sleep fast, avoid obsessing over it as it can worsen the situation. Staring at the clock while trying to sleep can only make your sleep anxiety worse. Place your phone facing down so that you are not tempted to keep checking the time or engage in pointless late-night surfing the internet.
Remember, falling asleep is meant to occur naturally; therefore, taking your mind off the focus to sleep will allow you to fall asleep even much faster. Allow your mind to relax by staying awake, and sleep will naturally take over. It's also important to remember that ADHD and anxiety can interfere with your sleep pattern. If the situation worsens, seek help from a trained sleep specialist to identify the underlying issues that may be disrupting your sleep and offer a viable treatment plan.
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