Written by: Ellen Craft
Updated March 12, 2021
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, which is the general clinical term for difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, is common and reported to occur in up to one-third of adults (1). On average, adults take 20 minutes (2) to fall asleep, though 25% of people take over 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Since many people struggle to drift off to sleep, some resort to alcohol or over-the-counter (OTC) sleep-aid methods to fall asleep faster. However, these remedies can come at a high price. Alcohol has been shown to disrupt the second half of sleep (3). OTC sleep medications (4) are recommended for occasional difficulty with falling asleep, but their safety and effectiveness over long-term use are not well-established.
Rather than turning to a nightcap or OTC methods to induce sleepiness, consider trying the following time-tested guidelines that can help make falling asleep easier. From keeping a consistent sleep schedule and a regular exercise routine, to avoiding electronics and caffeine before bedtime, these seven tips and tricks can help you unwind with peace of mind, and ultimately fall asleep faster.
1. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Sticking with a consistent sleep/wake schedule (5) is one key to falling asleep faster and warding off sleep issues, such as insomnia. If you have an inconsistent sleep schedule, including staying up late or sleeping in on weekends, your light exposure patterns become altered. This alteration delays the body’s circadian clock, which makes falling asleep more difficult.
Strive to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day — even on weekends — for optimal sleep hygiene. A consistent sleep schedule can help facilitate falling asleep.
2. Increase Your Level of Exercise
Exercise has been shown to be one of the most beneficial behaviors for promoting sleep. Whether it’s light, moderate, or vigorous, regular exercise and increased levels of daily physical activity are associated with quality slumber and lower rates of sleep disorders, including insomnia.
Research shows that people with chronic insomnia who exercise moderately just once reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by 55% (6) later that night. Regular exercise over time continues to improve insomnia. One reason for this may be that exercise helps realign the body’s internal clock (7).
To help decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep at night, try increasing your exercise and activity level during the day.
3. Try Some Bedtime Yoga
Yoga is well-known for its benefits, and one of the most researched is its positive association with sleep quality. One study found that 59% of adults who practice yoga (8) for health reasons report that it improves the quality of their sleep.
And for those who struggle to fall asleep at night, another study found that yoga helps people fall asleep more quickly (9). To help calm your mind and body and induce slumber, try some gentle yoga before bedtime.
4. Avoid Using Electronic Devices Before Bedtime
Although it’s hard to deny the conveniences of technology — seemingly everything is a quick click or tap away — it isn’t doing you any favors when it comes quickly falling asleep. Instead, the more you use your devices in the evening, the more elusive sleep can become.
Devices such as tablets, cellphones, and laptops emit blue wavelength light (10), which has been shown to disrupt sleep and cause you to feel alert by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. To fall asleep more quickly, avoid using your devices within an hour before bedtime (11).
5. Limit Your Caffeine Intake—Especially Close to Bedtime
Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant (12) in the world, and it is commonly found in beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. In addition to enjoying some of the traditions associated with these beverages, many people also appreciate the energy boost they receive from the stimulating effects of caffeine.
However, the same caffeine that helps offset your fatigue during the day can be responsible for negatively affecting your sleep (13) at night. Studies have shown that drinking caffeinated beverages can decrease both the total amount of sleep and the quality of sleep a person receives.
Caffeinated beverages also cause an increase in the amount of time it takes to fall asleep (14), especially if consumed in the hours before bedtime. Tapering off your caffeinated beverages in the evening can help with drifting off to sleep at bedtime.
6. Make Your Diet More Sleep-Friendly
Your diet represents an important component of sleep hygiene. To help get to sleep faster, strive to include specific sleep-promoting foods (15) in your meals. Recent studies have confirmed that many foods and nutrients can help induce sleep. These include foods high in tryptophan (like turkey, cheese, and fish), melatonin (such as cherries, tomatoes, and walnuts), and carbohydrates (found in bread or pasta), as well as nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins.
In general, studies have found that fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains that are high in fiber, and vegetable oils that are low in saturated fat are recommended as part of a sleep-promoting diet (16). Including these foods and nutrients in your diet may help you feel drowsy and fall asleep more easily.
7. Try Melatonin to Improve Sleep Quality
If you find yourself counting sheep each night in an effort to fall asleep, you may want to take melatonin supplements, which help regulate circadian rhythms. The timing of your sleep-wake cycle can be altered by a dysfunction or misalignment of the circadian clock (17), which can lead to a variety of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, including difficulty falling asleep. For those who struggle to fall asleep, recent studies have shown that taking a melatonin supplement can help improve sleep quality (18), as well as reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Fall Asleep Quickly
If you’ve been looking for ways to fall asleep more quickly, you may want to try these tips. They can help you rest easier by promoting relaxation for faster slumber, while avoiding the possible side effects that often result from using alcohol or OTC medications to promote sleep.
If you continue to have trouble falling asleep, or if you are concerned you may have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with your doctor or a health professional.
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- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24892891/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know Accessed on March 7, 2021.
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