There’s nothing more frustrating than lying in bed, struggling to get to sleep. In fact, if you spend too much energy trying to simply will yourself to sleep, you can experience anxiety over being unable to sleep. Lack of sleep symptoms can be agonizing, which is why knowing how to fall asleep fast using the best ways to fall asleep is an important skill. Here are a few tips to fall asleep.
The best way to fall asleep is by practicing consistent sleep hygiene. Practicing good sleep hygiene means giving sleep the importance it deserves in your daily routine. It means setting aside time specifically for getting ready to sleep.
One key part of good sleep hygiene is limiting stimulants and stimulating activities before bed. Do not drink coffee, alcohol, or smoke or vaporize nicotine prior to sleeping. If you are accustomed to consuming any of these substances in the afternoon, try to reduce usage.
Another good sleep hygiene practice is to only use the bed for sleeping. Avoid using a smartphone or tablet while lying in bed. These devices are designed to be stimulating, and if your body and brain associate being in bed with being stimulated, you may have trouble sleeping.
If you have tried these methods and still have trouble falling asleep, sometimes the easiest way to fall asleep is through what is called paradoxical intention. If you concentrate on staying awake, you will be relieved of the anxiety of not being able to sleep, which can actually lead you to fall asleep!1
Although effective in the short term, sleep drugs are not really among the best ways to fall asleep. Many sleeping medicines are only approved for short-term usage, and they may be habit-forming. If you feel you just can’t get a good night’s sleep without medication, you should only use sleep medication in the very short term while you establish better sleep hygiene habits. Always seek a doctor’s advice when considering sleeping medication.
Using alcohol to initiate sleep may be a fast way to begin sleeping, but is not the best way to fall asleep. Although alcohol is a powerful sedative that may help initiate sleep, the sleep is not restful. There are fewer periods of REM, or rapid-eye-movement, sleep, an important stage of sleep for feeling rested. Later in the night, as the body begins to counteract the effects of the alcohol and as the alcohol is broken down by the body, sleep degenerates. More time is spent in very shallow levels of sleep, and there is actually increased wakefulness.2
Unfortunately, you can’t get all the benefits of a full night of sleep in two hours. Your brain and body need adequate sleep on a consistent basis in order to remain healthy. However, if you are only able to get a short amount of sleep, try to get at least two hours. Two hours is enough time to pass through the four stages of sleep3, including deep sleep. This provides a fraction of the rest you need, but is better than no sleep whatsoever.
If it regularly takes you two hours to fall asleep, then you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. If you have difficulty initiating sleep, remaining asleep, or sleeping for as long as you would like to sleep when there is no clear reason why you cannot do so, you may be suffering from insomnia. If the sleep difficulty occurs three or more nights per week for three or more months, then it is quite possibly insomnia and you should seek medical advice.
Different people require different amounts of sleep per night. Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep per night in order to avoid lack of sleep effects. There is a small group of people that are natural “short sleepers.”4 These short sleepers have a variation in a gene which causes them to require less sleep, sometimes even less than five hours per night.5 Don’t use a clock to determine how much you should sleep. Instead, trust your brain and body, and if they are showing signs of tiredness, then you should probably get more sleep.
You want your body and brain to consider the bed to be the place for sleep, not the place for anxiety about not being able to fall asleep. If you find that you can’t fall asleep after being in bed for twenty minutes, get out of bed and do something else. Avoid stimulating activities, and don’t consume any stimulating substances like caffeine. Return to bed when you feel sleepy. One thing is certain: lying in bed and having trouble sleeping is not the best way to fall asleep.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.