Similar to eating well and having a regular exercise routine, getting a good night’s rest is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. The average adult requires approximately seven to eight hours of sleep, although this can vary widely between individuals.1
Because getting sufficient sleep is so critical, sleep deficiency or insomnia can greatly impact your quality of life. Difficulty falling asleep can be caused by a multitude of factors. However, there are many ways to improve sleep, both in quantity and quality, in order to get the rest your body needs. Prioritizing sleep, creating a calm sleeping environment, and creating a consistent sleep cycle can improve your health, mental alertness, and cognitive function. If none of these tips to fall asleep help improve your sleep, there is a possibility that you may have a sleeping disorder, and may want to consult a physician for guidance.
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the behavior, routines, and habits that affect your ability to fall asleep. Having good sleep hygiene means having routines and behaviors that promote good sleep, which can lead to falling asleep faster. Conversely, having poor sleep hygiene can mean having no behaviors or having behaviors that negatively impact your sleep.
There are many different routines and behaviors that can be implemented as part of good sleep hygiene.2 These tactics include: doing daytime exercise; adhering to a regular sleep schedule; limiting daytime naps; and avoiding electronics before bedtime.3
Another important part of having good sleep hygiene is ensuring that you are eating a healthy diet and avoiding stimulants, such as coffee or nicotine, in the afternoon or evening.
Creating a calm and peaceful sleep environment can help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Although there is no single easiest way to fall asleep, there are a series of methods that can be very useful in promoting sleepiness.
One method is to make sure your bedroom is restful and conducive for sleeping. This includes having a comfortable bed, adjusting the lighting to ensure a dark room, and minimizing the noise and disruption in the room. For many, using ear plugs for sleeping can make falling asleep much easier. Ear plugs help block out disturbing sounds during the night, allowing for an uninterrupted deep sleep.
Relaxing before bed can also help to signal to the body that it is preparing for sleep. Many find that a warm bath can relax the body. Other strategies for relaxing can include listening to calming music or doing gentle yoga.4
Watching or using screens immediately before bed should be avoided. The light from these devices can stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. It is recommended to use blue light-blocking glasses or turn off the daytime light on your devices two hours before bed to improve sleep.5
There are a variety of sleep “hacks,” or quick solutions, that some have found can help in falling asleep faster. (These solutions are recommended by sleep experts, but may not work for everyone.) One tip is to not watch the clock. This can create anxiety, keeping your mind awake and anxious. Another tip is to make sure that you are comfortable and that your room is a pleasant temperature. A third tip is to conduct breathing exercises, meditation, and/or muscle relaxation techniques help to make sure you feel relaxed while in bed.6 A fourth technique to fall asleep quickly is to make sure the room you are in is dark, to allow your mind to recognize that it's time for sleep. Lastly, if you are struggling to fall asleep, try doing something else for a short time. This can help you not associate your bedroom with daytime activities.7
If you are struggling to fall asleep, it is generally advisable to get up and do something calming, rather than lie in bed, in order to not associate the bedroom with worry and anxiety. Ideally, do something calming like reading a book or listening to music, until you feel tired enough to return to bed.
The length of time a human can go without sleeping has not been precisely determined. The longest record for sleep deprivation was set by a man named Randy Gardner in 1964; he stayed aware for eleven days.8 Generally, you will start to hallucinate and experience other severe negative effects of sleep deprivation after only three or four days.
There is no scientific evidence to show that milk is a legitimate sleep aid. Studies suggest that milk does not contain enough tryptophan in one glass of milk to induce tiredness.9 However, a warm glass of milk at night may have a comforting psychological effect that may help you relax.
There are many drinks, tinctures, or other natural remedies that promote sleep.
One home remedy to help you sleep is taking melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that tells your brain when it is time to sleep.10 For those with disrupted sleep schedules, melatonin can help induce sleepiness. Other popular natural supplements are valerian root11 or magnesium12. Another common home remedy is aromatherapy, particularly with the scent of lavender.13
© 2021 American Sleep Association.