How to Fall Asleep Instantly
Do you wish you could turn off your thoughts at night?
Learning how to fall asleep instantly for most people means learning how to deal with an over-active mind. The aim of this article is to give you practical advice about how to do just that.
Are you frustrated by hearing the same old suggestions like 'try chamomile tea', or 'do some exercise'?
If so then you have come to the right place to learn a better way of dealing with the real problem at night—your own thoughts.
It's also important to understand that Insomnia is often caused by an underlying health condition; especially long-term or chronic insomnia.
If you regularly have sleep problems, you may need to talk to a medical professional to find out if there is another health condition that might be causing it.
What usually stops you from sleeping well?
- 24% worry, stress or anxiety
- 3% noise
- 1% my partner
- 58% over-active mind
- 1% light
- 11% feeling uncomfortable
- 1% medical condition
This poll is now closed to voting.
Part 1: Calming an over-active mind
Over several months I ran two polls in this article to find out what really keeps people awake at night. You may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone in being kept awake by your own mind.
In the first poll of over 1,000 people, the overwhelming majority voted for either an over-active mind (58%), or worry, stress or anxiety (24%).
You can see the exact results, above.
This poll shows that most people believe they are being kept awake at night by their own thoughts—much more so than ambient issues such as noise, light or general comfort.
Poll about nighttime thoughts
What kind of thoughts keep you awake at night most often?
- 3% Thinking about work
- 1% Worrying about money
- 6% Relationship problems
- 2% Worrying about family or friends
- 1% Health concerns
- 8% Thinking about something that happened today or in the past
- 13% Thinking about something happening tomorrow or in the future
- 24% Random thoughts
- 38% Many of the above going round and round in my head
- 5% Other
This poll is now closed to voting.
Which came first, the insomnia or the night-time worries?
The second poll was intended to find out more about the exact kinds of thoughts that were keeping people awake.
Interestingly, the top-two categories receiving votes were thoughts going round and round, or random thoughts. The third largest category was worrying about something happening in the future,
So taking this into consideration, this article is going to address two thoughts:
- That your thoughts are keeping you awake, so you would like advice on how to 'turn them off'
- That you might not know all the general advice given for insomnia, so would like to read that afterwards
Don't allow stress to build: take positive action.
There are many mindfulness books. I personally recommend the book that worked for me, 'Peace Is Every Step' available below on Amazon:
Mindfulness Techniques - One of the Best Ways to Calm Your Mind
There are a number of ways of trying to deal with a racing mind, for example:
- Taking sleeping pills or any other substance which might knock you out. This is not the best long-term solution at all
- Learn all about good sleep hygiene and hope that putting it all together helps you fall asleep quickly. This is very important, and I will discuss this later.
- Try out relaxation exercises before going to bed. This can also be helpful, and again will be covered later
- Learn how to deal with your own thought processes long term.
This fourth option is by far my preferred method of dealing with the problem. And this is why I recommend looking into something called 'mindfulness'.
Mindfulness is about learning to both 'live in the moment' and to take better control of your thought processes rather than allowing them to run wild all the time. I can recommend it personally because I found that it made a massive difference to my own sleep problems. So how did it do this?
It worked because it enabled me to come to terms with my thought processes during the day, and consequently at night. By following the structured learning program that mindfulness books and courses teach, you will learn some useful tools such as:
- Being able to stop the auto-pilot that your mind works on. This can help stop the same thoughts and worries going round and round in your head
- Understanding that your mind may be trying to solve emotional problems or worries in a way which will not work. This means you can then try to stop worrying about certain issues in a way which you know will not help you
- Learning how to be more relaxed and at ease with your own thought processes. This can then help you stop stressing about the fact that you are stressing!
From the moment you first start trying the exercises and understanding how your mind can work against your best interests, you can start to feel that you will be able to control your random thoughts and worries much better.
Mindfulness is becoming a popular self-help path for psychologists and counselors to recommend to people who experience anxiety, depression, stress amongst other issues.
So if you believe that it is your mind and thoughts keeping you awake, then I cannot recommend highly enough looking into mindfulness as a way to overcome this.
Part 2: Good sleep hygiene, and other advice, too!
Most advice you will find about falling asleep quicker consists of what you are about to read. The following sections look into all the changes you can make to your way of thinking about sleep, your patterns and lifestyle choices etc. These are also important to consider, and in fact putting together as many of these as possible might make a huge difference to your ability to fall asleep.
What to do during the day
Changing your attitude towards sleep and establishing a healthy pattern are two of the most important things when learning how to make yourself fall asleep instantly.
- You need to make sleep a priority in your life; don’t just regard it as something that you do at the end of the day and that you hope happens. When it comes to bedtime, regard it as something that is just as important as any other part of your day and don’t let things eat into that precious sleep time. Work can wait until tomorrow. This essentially involves changing your attitude towards sleep, and you can do this just by deciding to do it. Learning how to fall asleep instantly may mean you have to change your attitude towards sleep.
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. We are creatures of habit for a reason, and a regular pattern gets our mind and body used to the idea that this period of time is for sleep and for sleep alone. If you can, extend this through the weekend as it will reinforce the pattern even more effectively.Combine this with the first idea of sleep being a priority, so that you stick to these times as much as possible. Furthermore, our body actually has an internal clock which has particular times of the day that it releases melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. This 24 hour repeating pattern is a circadian rhythm, and understanding it can help you plan your sleep better. If you decide on a regular sleeping pattern, and stick to it, then you are taking ownership of your sleep time, and this will only serve to increase the chances that you will be able learn how to make yourself fall asleep instantly.
- Try not to be afraid of not sleeping enough. Try to develop the attitude that you can function perfectly well even if you lose some sleep. Insomniacs have been found to be much more worried that they won't be able to function the next day if they lose sleep. Actually we are much better at functioning with a bad night or two of sleep than we sometimes fear. So if you are taking a while to drop off, don't start worrying that you won't be any good the next day.
Make sure you are not staying awake due to diet, alcohol, smoking and exercise.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal, spicy food or sugary food 4-6 hours before bedtime. You can have a light snack though. Good food to eat before bed includes milk, cereal bananas and light protein-containing foods. Any food that contains Tryptophan may help you fall asleep quicker. Your diet alone can keep you awake, so pay attention to this and you will have a better chance of falling asleep quickly.
- Avoid alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. If you think you can't sleep without alcohol, then it's important to address this. Alcohol can seriously reduce the quality of the second half of the night's sleep and decrease the amount of time spent in deep sleep. It can also wake you up in the middle of the night due to the effects of withdrawal or just to go to the toilet! A very heavy night's binge drinking can even affect the next night's sleep due to uncomfortable physiological complaints such as heart palpitations and sweating. If you want to know how to make yourself fall asleep without alcohol, then the answer is in the tips in this article, but if you have a problem with alcohol itself, then you may need to seek help for this.
Switch to decaf in the evening if you can't resist coffee...
- For many people one of the easiest ways to train yourself how to fall asleep instantly is simply to cut out caffeine for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime, or longer if possible. This includes coffee, tea, some soft drinks like coke, energy drinks that contain caffeine or taurine, and even chocolate which is known to contain caffeine in varying quantities. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others or their body processes it more slowly, so just because your partner can have a coffee before bed and still sleep doesn’t mean that you can! You may find that you can’t have any caffeine all afternoon. To be really sure you could only drink it before lunch time, or even better, not at all if you find you are sensitive to it. Caffeine alone has the potential to ruin your chances to be able to fall asleep fast, so really think hard about this suggestion.
- If you are a smoker, try not to smoke before bedtime. It is a stimulant after all, even if you feel like it relaxes you. Smokers can also find themselves waking up in the night due to the body craving nicotine. It would be best of course to quit altogether, but understandably that is not an easy thing to do, and beyond the scope of this article to address properly. It is, however, another choice you can make that will ultimately contribute in learning how to fall asleep fast.
- Try to do some exercise every day. This is one of the best ways to fall asleep instantly. Of course not everyone is able to, but even if it is just getting out of the house for a walk or sitting outside for some fresh air, it can help. It’s best though not to do strenuous exercise in the 2 hours immediately before bedtime as exercise can release chemicals in the brain that could make it difficult to fall asleep instantly. There have been recent studies to suggest that exercise is not actually conducive to sleep, but it is so beneficial for many other reasons that unless you find good reason to believe it is directly impacting on your personal quality of sleep, it's probably best to stick with the exercise idea!
- Try not to nap during the day. If you absolutely have to, or you come from a country where this is culturally the norm, try to keep it to 40 minutes or less.
Remember, exercise tires you out, and if you are tired at bedtime there is a better chance you will be able fall asleep fast.
Create a good sleep environment
- Use the bed, and the bedroom itself if possible, for nothing other than sleep and sex. Again this is about conditioning our body and mind that once you are in bed, the only activities that will happen are sleep or sex. Don’t watch television, use a laptop or gaming console or do work. You could even go so far as to move the bed time reading ritual to another comfortable spot in the house.
- Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and comfortable bedding. This can be expensive, but it is a worthwhile investment to have good quality bedding and a decent mattress. If you find that you can never fall asleep fast when you sleep somewhere else, at friends or families' houses or in a hotel, try taking your favorite pillow with you. It's amazing how having a pillow that you are not accustomed to can lead to trouble sleeping.
- Try to ensure the bedroom is dark and quiet. Some people can sleep with music on or with a light on, but not everyone. If you do find music helps, have a read of my article which lists great music to fall asleep to. If you do need silence though, and you need to use earplugs from time to time, for example when there is random noise that you can’t control and is not usually present, this can be helpful, but it’s not advisable to use them every night. Make sure you research and choose the best ear plugs as well so as not to cause you discomfort. Whatever suits you best in terms of the sleeping environment, you need to try and ensure you have it if you want to learn how to fall asleep instantly.
Remember, no TV or other screens just before bedtime. This is an essential part of good sleep hygiene.
Getting ready for bed
- Establishing a bedtime ritual should help teach your mind how to fall asleep faster. It’s good to turn off electronic equipment for this ritual and read a book, do some relaxation or meditation techniques if you like that sort of thing, or something else that is not too stimulating for the mind or body. You could also have a relaxing drink like milk, a good old fashioned malted drink like Horlicks if you can find one that doesn't contain too much sugar, or just plain water. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you set aside a little bit of time and actually keep it in mind as your bedtime ritual that is important. All this will help you teach yourself how to fall asleep instantly.
- Try to keep your body cool when going to bed. Some people will advise a warm bath to relax you, but the body prefers to be at a cooler temperature to fall asleep fast so you need to decide whether the relaxing effect of the bath is more important to you. If you do have a bath, make sure it is a couple of hours before bedtime, as your body prefers to be in a process of cooling down to go to sleep. So if you just come out of the bath and into bed, your body will be too hot. Having a window slightly open can also help, though some will argue that the draft can cause its own problems! Make sure you have appropriate bedding: having different covers for different times of the year is a good idea so that you are not too hot, particularly in the summer. Having just a light sheet to cover you when it is hot is better than sleeping with no cover at all, as it can provide a feeling of comfort and protection. Learning what is the most comfortable bedding for you is an essential part of learning how to fall asleep fast.
- Don’t take your worries to bed with you. Some people find that they can dedicate a part of the day to dealing with worries and problems. Whilst not everyone is able to have this level of self control, it’s hard to make yourself fall asleep instantly if your mind is preoccupied by things that make you tense, stressed or worried. This is another reason why having a relaxing bed time ritual can be especially important to prevent you going to bed and having the mind flood with worries the minute the light is switched off. Again, if you are having trouble with switching off, then maybe try some relaxation techniques. There is a section on this coming up. And as mentioned above, you can always try mindfulness techniques which may well help you learn how to fall asleep instantly by switching off that busy mind.
Remember to establish a relaxing bedtime ritual. Set time aside to enjoy a calming drink.
When you've gone to bed, but still can't make yourself fall asleep fast.
- If you still can’t sleep after 10-30 minutes, there is no point in lying there trying to make yourself fall asleep and entering the negative cycle of clock checking and tossing and turning. Get up, go into another room and do something else for 20 minutes, such as one of the bed time ritual suggestions above, and then go back to bed. It's even been suggested that if you get up and do something really boring, you could condition your mind to not want to stay awake because you know the result is having to do something incredibly boring!
Talk to your partner if they are the reason you can't sleep
- It's possible that by now you may have learned how to fall asleep by following these techniques, if it weren't for one thing that is a bit beyond your control: your partner! If you find that your partner is disturbing your sleep, which could be due to snoring, teeth grinding, sleep talking, tossing and turning or wanting to be in physical contact with you in a way that prevents you from sleeping in a comfortable position, then you need to talk to them about it.
- Try to have an honest and friendly discussion with them during the day about how it is affecting your sleep, and try to work out what you can both do to improve the situation. If your partner likes to sleep in the spoons position, but this in uncomfortable for you, then you need to have a chat and find a position that is comfortable for the both of you. Either that or it's separate beds at an early age! You can always tell you partner that you are trying out techniques to teach yourself how to fall asleep instantly, and you need their help. This is more likely to get them to work with you rather than blaming them for your trouble sleeping.
Remember to get out of bed and do something else if you can't fall asleep fast.
Relaxation techniques to do to help you fall asleep
Learning how to fall asleep fast sometimes involves a bit of preparation work, like some relaxation. Three of the best relaxation techniques that you can use, either during the day or just before going to sleep, to help calm your mind down and reduce your stress, anxiety or worry levels are:
- deep breathing
- progressive muscle relaxation
- visualization meditation.
Here are some video tutorials that explain these well.
If you have the time and patience, you could learn the breathing technique in the first video, follow it with the muscle relaxation method in the second video, and then finally choose one of the guided meditation exercises at the end. If time is short and you want an immediate guided relaxation session, then choose one of the last 2 videos, find a comfortable spot and enjoy a few minutes of calm.
As you will have seen if you read the poll above, most people say that an over-active mind or stress is the main cause of their insomnia. So if you want to know how to fall asleep instantly, you need to know how to calm your mind and lower your stress levels. Meditation is proven to do this.
Deep breathing tutorial
Youtube is full of videos demonstrating deep breathing. This one isn't exactly set in the most calm of places with relaxing background music, but the explanation he gives as to how to breathe from your belly is very thorough. You can use his technique either sitting or lying in a comfortable place where you won't be disturbed.
Progressive muscle relaxation tutorial
This next tutorial is an excellent guided muscle relaxation tutorial. You can find a comfortable spot, standing, sitting or lying down and listen to the video and try the technique out for yourself.
Sleeping Pills and Herbal Remedies
Should you take sleeping pills or herbal remedies to make yourself fall asleep? This is a question most insomniacs will eventually ask themselves. The following information may help you make your mind up.
Melatonin is becoming more and more popular for people who are having trouble sleeping, especially since it is freely available in shops in many places. It is a naturally produced hormone in the human brain, involved with keeping our internal body clock working. It can be useful for some sleep problems, but research is still inconclusive.
Many insomniacs in desperation to find something that will break through the despair and frustration of insomnia end up considering sleeping pills. The most important point to make when discussing sleeping pills is that the only person you should really listen to about this is a qualified doctor or health care professional. The internet is full of information about sleeping pills, and there are many places you can buy them online. However, you really should talk to a professional before taking any medication, and avoid buying medication online that you need a prescription for in your country. Taking pills is also likely to mean you give up trying to learn naturally how to fall asleep instantly.
There are a number of issues commonly associated with sleeping pills such as:
- side effects
- drug tolerance
- drug dependence
- withdrawal symptoms
- interactions with other medication you are taking
- hiding a serious underlying health condition which could get worse
Sure, sleeping pills may help you get to sleep, but these risks cannot be ignored.
Sleeping pills may help you fall asleep quickly, but at a price.
The Chamomile plant
Again, although you can usually access herbal remedies more easily than sleeping pills, it is still a good idea to consult your doctor about whether they would be right for you taking into account any other medication you are taking and your own medical history. Whilst not all doctors will have much to say about herbal remedies, there is no harm in double checking that whatever you decide to try will be safe for you.
Unfortunately there is not an enormous amount of research to prove that herbal remedies actually work either. That doesn't mean they don't, just that researchers have not spent much time investigating them scientifically. So in many ways it boils down to word of mouth. But in my opinion, if drinking a cup of herbal tea helps relax you, then that is enough to make it valuable in helping prepare the mind and body to fall asleep fast.
Natural remedies are usually based on one or more of the following:
- Lemon Balm
- Passion Flower
- American Skullcap
- Bitter Orange
You can find these in many different forms in health food shops, chemists, supermarkets, online and many other places. There are so many options for how to take them, such as in pure form, ready made tea or herbal pills.
One that is very popular in the UK is 'Kalms'.
But really, the best insomnia cure in the long run is to follow the techniques above and not to resort to pills or remedies. Sometimes they can be useful to break the cycle of poor sleep, and this is what most doctors would advise anyway - sleeping pills in particular are not something to take every night for long periods of time. Sure, they answer the question of how to fall asleep instantly very neatly, but they also raise many more questions
What are you most likely to try and change after reading this article?
So hopefully if you've been wondering how to fall asleep quickly, you'll take some of the advice in this article away with you and start to see results. The key is to experiment with as many different strategies as possible. Everyone is different, and you may find just one or two ideas make all the difference for you and help you learn how to make yourself fall asleep instantly, or you may find you need to take on board as many of these ideas as possible to create the perfect conditions to beat insomnia.
Sleep well and sweet dreams!