Lying in bed awake when you want to sleep can be incredibly frustrating. Thinking of all the things you could be doing instead of struggling to sleep just makes it worse. Thankfully, there are different techniques for how to fall asleep fast that are not only effective, but even easy once you adjust to them. Depending on your temperament or lifestyle, you might find some approaches better than others. The easiest way to fall asleep is whichever way you find the easiest to do consistently.
If you are having trouble sleeping, a bedtime routine that limits your activities might be the best solution. If your brain and body learn that the bed is used for activities other than sleeping, then you might struggle to get to sleep when you hop into bed. You might want to approach this form of insomnia with stimulus control therapy. This type of therapy limits the types of activities you do in your bed. The goal is to have your body know that the bed means it’s time to sleep. With stimulus control therapy, if you get into bed and haven’t fallen asleep within twenty minutes, you should actually get out of bed and do something else. If you lie in bed awake for too long, your body and brain will think that the bed is a great place to lie awake.
Another method is called paradoxical intention. This method actually involves trying to stay awake. The anxiety of anticipating tomorrow’s sleep deprivation can end up keeping you awake. Instead, try to focus on staying awake. The idea is that if you are focused on trying to stay awake, then you won’t be anxious about not being able to sleep. You shouldn’t use stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or other drugs to try to achieve the goal of not falling asleep, because they would actually keep you awake.
Some people think the easiest way to fall asleep is with a pharmaceutical drug. While this may be true for insomnia treatment in the short term, sleep medication should really only be used temporarily. Your body can become accustomed to the sleeping pills, and you could develop a tolerance and possibly even a dependency.
If you manage to learn how to fall asleep quickly, you definitely want to remain asleep for as long as you need to feel rested. If there is some source of noise at night that wakes you up, wearing ear plugs while sleeping could be of benefit. Don’t use a pair that is attached by a cord, as you could end up getting tangled up overnight. Also, make sure to use soft earplugs; avoid ones with stiff cores, as they could be driven painfully into your ears as you shift overnight.
There are a number of ways to naturally fall asleep. Melatonin1 and valerian2 are often used as natural sleep remedies, although their effectiveness is inconclusive. Natural sleeping remedies that have been shown to work include avoiding stimulating activities, relaxation techniques, and other behavioral methods3 which do not require artificial pharmaceuticals to work.
Two hours is enough time for your body and brain to complete one sleep cycle. You will experience all four stages of sleep if you sleep for at least an hour and a half. The first two stages of sleep do not contribute greatly to feeling rested, and consist of your mind and body relaxing and slowing down. The third stage of sleep is deep sleep and is needed by the body in order to feel refreshed. The fourth stage is known as REM, or rapid-eye movement, sleep. This is when the majority of dreaming occurs. Even though waking after only a few hours of sleep may feel terrible, if you spend time in the third stage you will experience some benefits from the sleep.4
Sleep studies can still be effective even if there is only a small period of sleep observed.5 Of course, having more hours of sleep to study will provide more information for the sleep technicians and doctors. In order to increase the chances that you will fall asleep, try to maintain as much of your normal routine as possible. Even if you normally drink alcohol before bed, you should do so for the sleep study as well. Should you be unable to sleep at all during the study, another session will have to take place in order to diagnose sleep issues.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.