Insomnia Driving You Insane? Try These Simple Tricks to Fall Asleep Fast
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As with anything you want to do fast, whether it’s running a 5K in 15 minutes or doing 40 push-ups in one minute, training helps. Even when it comes to falling asleep quickly.
If you’re struggling with unwinding, there are a few strategies you can apply to accelerate the process — but many of them become more effective the more you put them into practice. Here are some of the most popular and effective ways to fall asleep fast.
1. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You can take a course or find guided YouTube videos online for the basics of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). “It’s a technique that has been used for decades,” explains Dr. David Neubauer, M.D., a psychiatrist and sleep specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“It involves tightening and loosening muscles throughout the body, usually starting at your feet and working your way up. But it can be another sequence.” Along with relaxing your muscles, PMR can also distract your mind from worries and wandering thoughts that interfere with falling asleep.
2. Practice the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Breathing deeply has been found to help mitigate stress and reduce anxiety, which can help with falling sleep fast. The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for seven counts, and exhaling out slowly for eight counts.
“The numbers aren’t really all that important,” explains Dr. Neubauer. “The basic idea is to inhale deeply, hold the breath, and then exhale very slowly, which is the tricky part because we’re used to breathing out quickly.”
This style of respiration stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system. It might also ease anxiety because you’re more slowly releasing carbon dioxide, which helps regulate the body’s response to anxiety.
3. Focus on Staying Awake
One big drawback to trying to fall asleep quickly is that it can backfire. “Sometimes people are trying too hard to fall asleep and it causes stress,” explains Dr. Neubauer. “Sleep is a passive event.”
So, rather than attacking your sleep technique like a kickboxing class, a bit of classic, reverse psychology — or “paradoxical intention therapy” — could do the trick. “If you’re having trouble falling asleep, thinking about staying awake can distract you. Once you’re not worried about falling asleep, your biological rhythm can occur naturally.” Note: this method does not mean pinching yourself or forcing yourself to remain conscious.
4. Cool Your Room
Studies have found a strong link between sleep, ambient temperature, and core body temperature. And some have even suggested a link between melatonin and lower core body temperature. As a result, it may be easier to fall asleep in a cool room than a hot one.
“Similar to the way the dimming of light after sunset signals melatonin, your core body temperature is on a downward slope when you’re going to bed,” explains Dr. Reeba Mathew, M.D., co-medical director of the Memorial Hermann Sleep Disorders Center-Texas Medical Center. “We don’t know the exact reason, but it’s harder to fall asleep in warm conditions.”
5. Take a Warm Bath or Shower
If you’ve ever felt sleepy after taking a hot shower or soaking in a warm bath, the reason also has to do with core body temperature and its connection to sleep. “Although the water is warm, once you’re out of the shower, your body starts to cool off,” says Dr. Mathew. “Your blood vessels will be dilated from the warmth and that also helps the body dissipate heat.”
6. Listen to White, Pink, or Even Brown Noise
“White noise is comforting,” explains Dr. Neubauer. “It’s like a sound blanket.” The internet is glutted with white noise machines designed to mask noise or keep your room from being deafeningly quiet. (If you’re a city dweller who has ever spent a sleepless night in the country, you know there is such a thing as too peaceful.) “Some people associate white noise with a harsh technical sound, so now you have pink noise and brown noise that have more comfortable frequencies to listen to.”
How Fast Is Too Fast?
While what falling asleep quickly means is very subjective, on the flip side, falling asleep too quickly is not necessarily healthy. “If you fall asleep in under five minutes, this is not necessarily a good sign,” explains Dr. Michael Breus, a.k.a. the Sleep Doctor. “It’s actually a sign of sleep deprivation. In general, 15 to 20 minutes is a normal sleep onset latency (SOL) window, or the time it takes the average person to fall asleep.”