If you feel like you struggle to sleep at night, then you are not alone. More than half of older adults in the United States suffer from insomnia.
There are some medications that may cause insomnia. Some medical conditions can make it difficult to sleep as well.
Anxiety is the #1 issue which keeps adults awake at night, even when they are tired.
If you struggle to fall asleep at least three times per week, then knowing how to fall asleep faster and easier will help you obtain the restorative rest you require.
There are several ways to help your body begin to drift off toward sleep. Here are the methods which are proven to work.
#1. Stop forcing yourself to sleep.
For the average person, it requires 10-30 minutes to fall into the first phases of sleep. If you’re lying in bed awake after 30 minutes, then you could be establishing a routine of insomnia.
Don’t force yourself into a restful state. Get out of bed and do something instead.
Stay away from the electronics. Do an activity which requires you to use your brain and your hands at the same time.
Good options include putting a jigsaw puzzle together, journaling, coloring, or even a brief session of meditation.
By getting up, you remove the stimulus that your brain may associate with insomnia and your bed. It resets that value to represent sleep instead.
It can be difficult to get out of bed. If you spend a lot of time in bed awake, however, then it will become your worrying place.
Try to make sure your bed is reserved for sleeping and intimate activities only.
#2. Get rid of the alarm clock.
If you keep your phone by your bed, try putting it on the other side of the room. That way you will not be tempted to check the time every few minutes.
If you have an alarm clock by your bed and you’re struggling to fall asleep, then get rid of it.
Constantly checking the time increases the amount of stress and anxiety you feel.
You start to worry about what may happen if you are unable to get to sleep. Then you begin to worry about the anxieties which kept you up in the first place.
This creates a negative cycle where the end result is almost always insomnia.
You may require an alarm to wake up at the right time in the morning. That is fine.
Keep the clock away from where you can see the time and you may find it becomes easier to fall asleep.
#3. Check the temperature.
When the human body begins to fall asleep, most people experience a small drop in body temperature.
Encouraging your body temperature to drop may help you to fall asleep faster on nights you struggle to get to sleep.
The best bedroom environment for sleep is one that is cool and dark. It is also important for you to be comfortable as you attempt to fall asleep.
Darkness helps the brain understand that it is time to make melatonin, encouraging you to get to sleep.
The lower temperatures enhance the effects experienced by the body.
Try to make your bedroom be 67F or less for the best possible results. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum bedroom temperature of 60F.
#4. Keep yourself awake.
Instead of forcing yourself to go to sleep, change the dynamic. Force yourself to stay awake.
When you force yourself to stay awake, it creates moments of micro-sleep. You may not reach a full state of rest during these moments. Micro-sleep does reduce activity in your thalamus, which begins the process of shutting down the brain.
On the other hand, if you force yourself to keep your eyes closed, the brain begins to create more internal activity.
This method works best when insomnia is an occasional issue. It may offer a night or two of rest from chronic insomnia, though for most, it is not a long-term solution.
#5. Use sounds which encourage rest.
A quiet room is often conducive for sleep. For some people, however, a room with noise is required to find the rest they need.
The key to finding a helpful noise to fall asleep faster and easier is to use one which does not stimulate your brain.
White noise is a popular option. It drowns out other sounds to create a consistent environment.
If you sleep with a fan of some type, or there is a CPAP therapy machine in the room, then you have white noise in the bedroom.
Pink noise is another option. It uses louder sounds on the lower frequencies, which can be helpful for those who suffer from regular tinnitus.
There are many different colors of sound which may be helpful. Use options that play the sounds for 8+ hours, or the length of time you plan to sleep, to avoid prematurely waking up.
A second option to consider is sleep-assistance programming. There are two excellent options available.
These products combine soothing sounds with advanced brainwave entrainment to provide the foundation for a better night of rest.
It creates the environment of comfort your brain requires for sleep while encouraging brainwaves at the correct frequencies to be produced.
There is a third option that may work for some individuals in this category as well: comfort sounds.
A comfort sound can be anything. It might be a favorite television show. It could be old-time radio programming. It could even be a baseball game on the radio.
Comfort sounds are helpful for individuals who feel that their lives are chaotic. It creates a sense of peace, allowing sleep to come faster for them.
If you fall into the third category, make sure to set a timer that will turn off the equipment which produces the sounds for you.
Otherwise, you may find yourself waking up when the sounds change during the night.
#6. Take a hot shower or a hot bath before bed.
During the summer months, the heat from the day may not always dissipate from the bedroom.
Even with a fan on, or an air conditioner running, the temperature of the room may be too high for a comfortable resting experience.
In this scenario, one option to try is to take a hot shower about 60 minutes before you plan on lying down.
By taking a hot shower, you raise your body temperature. Stepping out of the shower encourages your body temperature to decrease.
That process begins to slow down your metabolism. It prepares the body for sleep in the near future.
A hot shower can also be very relaxing for your muscles after a long day, further encouraging sleep to happen.
The occasional shower before bed can be helpful for moments of acute insomnia. To maximize the benefits of this option, consider adding it to part of your usual bedtime routine.
That way, your body and brain will be ready to embrace sleep because they know it is what you plan to be doing next.
#7. Warm up your hands and feet.
Having a lower body temperature can be helpful when encouraging sleep. When your extremities are too cold, however, the opposite effect occurs.
That happens because cold feet and hands cause the body to maintain, if not increase, current body temperatures. Your brain registers that your extremities are cold, so it works to correct the problem.
By keeping your hands and feet warmer, you’re encouraging the rest of your body to reduce its overall temperature, which then encourages sleep.
There are several ways that you can safely warm up your hands and feet as you get into bed.
Consider sleeping with a fresh pair of socks on to keep your feet warm.
Use rechargeable hand-warmers or foot-warmers to target cold areas.
Sleep with a hot water bottle at your feet.
When more heat reaches your extremities, the blood vessels near the surface of the skin will begin widening.
This encourages heat loss and better blood circulation.
#8. Add lavender to your bedroom.
Lavender offers a unique effect for some individuals.
Its aroma helps to reduce blood pressure levels, calm the nerves, and encourage more relaxation.
Even a brief exposure to lavender or its essential oils can help some people fall asleep faster and easier.
There is a secondary effect to consider as well. Those who sleep in rooms which are scented in lavender often wake up feeling more refreshed and energetic.
Not every person responds well to scents. Some people may find that it makes them feel like throwing up when they smell it.
Other possible side effects include chills, headaches, and skin reactions.
Lavender essential oils may also interact with certain medications.
If you do not experience any uncomfortable effects from lavender, then breathe it in deeply.
Start exposing yourself to this scent about 10 minutes before you intend to go to bed.
It can help to clear your mind and relax the body, creating the right environment for sleep.
#9. Take a sleep aid.
There are several sleep aids that are available for purchase today. One of the most common items used for better sleep is melatonin.
Your brain produces melatonin when it encourages the body to get to sleep.
It is created by the pineal gland and is available to purchase as a pill, capsule, or dissolving method.
Adding more of this hormone, right before bed, encourages the body to fall asleep faster.
Some people, however, have a negative reaction to taking melatonin.
It may cause stomach upset, muscle cramping, headaches, nausea, dizziness and daytime fatigue.
Some people have used melatonin for up to 2 years safely. It is usually intended to be a short-term solution for insomnia.
The added benefit of taking a sleep aid is that it encourages the body to reach all cycles of REM sleep and deep sleep for a fully restorative process.
A sleep aid should not be taken by women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding without consulting with their doctor first.
Individuals who are taking a prescription sleep aid should not mix products like these unless their doctor has approved such activity.
Do not use a product containing melatonin if you are currently being treated for depression, an autoimmune disorder, or a seizure disorder.
Any products which contain melatonin may raise blood sugar levels. People taking hypertension medication may see an increase in their blood pressure after taking a sleep aid such as this.
If you struggle with insomnia for more than a night or two, then you might give these options a try.
They work with the sleep-inducing signals which are produced by your brain.
#10. Use sleep-inducing breathing patterns.
Dr. Andrew Weil created a breathing exercise which he calls the 4-7-8 method.
There are six basic steps that must be followed to use this breathing pattern to encourage faster and easier sleep.
Take the tip of your tongue and place it just behind your upper teeth. You’ll feel a ridge between your gums and the rounded part of your upper palate.
Then completely exhale through your mouth, keeping your tongue in place. The sound of your breathing will likely be quite loud.
Now close your mouth and inhale through your nose. Mentally count to four.
Then hold your breath. Mentally count to 7.
Exhale completely through your mouth again, keeping the tongue in its location. Mentally count to 8.
Repeat the previous five steps 3 more times.
Dr. Weil suggests that using this breathing technique can help some people fall asleep in 60 seconds or less.
The goal of this breathing technique is to increase the overall levels of oxygen in the blood. This process will also release more carbon dioxide from the lungs.
The combination can relax the muscles and slow down the heart.
Another breathing pattern to consider is called nadi shodhana. It is one of the common forms of breath control, called pranayama, found in Yoga.
To practice this breathing pattern, alternate between your nostrils for inhaling and exhaling. This helps the body to relax because breathing through the nose creates a signal of relaxation.
Find a comfortable position. Keep your back in proper posture. Then close off the left nostril as you inhale. Then close off the right nostril as you exhale. Repeat as you feel it is necessary.
You might also try the Double Down breathing technique.
If you exhale twice as long as you inhale, then you will also increase oxygen levels and decrease carbon dioxide levels over time.
Doubling your exhale time also helps to reset the central nervous system to create a balance between it and your circulatory system.
#11. Sleep by a fire.
If you’ve ever sat by a fire, then you know how relaxing the experience can be. When you stare at the flames of a fire, it lowers your blood pressure.
Being near a fire also calms feelings of anxiety. It even encourages us to be more sociable to one another.
Not everyone has the opportunity to sleep by a fire. There are still some ways that you can bring the elements of fire to your bedtime routine to encourage better sleep without a fireplace.
The easiest method is to play a video which contains authentic fire sights and sounds.
Play this video in the background for best results. If you stare at an electronic screen, the blue light may counteract the relaxing effects the sounds of the fire create.
Consider using the “warm light” settings to remove elements of the blue light spectrum. Some devices may have a night-time mode that will do this for you.
Another option is to incorporate elements of fire into your evening routine. You could eat by candlelight dinner, for example, or sit by a fire pit in your backyard.
Even a basic audio recording of a crackling fire can be enough to encourage some individuals to relax in a way which encourages sleep.
#12. Use progressive relaxation techniques.
Progressive relaxation is a form of meditation. It allows you to focus on specific elements of the body which may be triggering your sleeplessness.
Begin at your toes. Tense the muscles in your toes quickly. Then relax them. Work your way up your legs.
Keep moving upward until you reach your neck, then head.
Make sure that you are tensing the muscles for at least 5 seconds. Then relax them for 30 seconds. Repeat that cycle if you don’t feel a difference in your body tension.
If you experience a pain point during this option, evaluate the potential cause of the trigger.
Has stress caused a muscle knot? Is there a bruise or some other type of injury? Focus on that point and use this technique to begin reducing the bothersome symptoms being experienced.
Some people may find it easier to begin with their head and neck, then work their way down. If one method doesn’t seem to work for you, then try the other.
On its own, progressive relaxation may not be enough to encourage faster or deeper sleep. When used with these other options, however, it can make a big difference when dealing with a bout of insomnia.
#13. Use tapping techniques.
Acupuncture is used by many for a myriad of health benefits, including more restful sleep.
Visiting an acupuncturist right before bed is not usually possible. Thankfully, you can still take advantage of these benefits by using tapping techniques which create acupressure.
There are several places on the body which benefit from acupressure when you’re trying to encourage sleep.
Right above your nose, between your eyebrows, you’ll find a small depression that feels lower than the rest of your skull.
Apply light, gentle pressure at this location for about 60 seconds.
There is another depression on the top of your foot, located between your big toe and second toe. Press that area somewhat firmly until you feel a dull ache.
Massage or tap on your ears lightly for about 60 seconds.
If anxiety is your primary trigger for insomnia, there are additional tapping points which you may benefit from acupressure.
There are two locations near your eye, underneath it centrally and just to the side, which help to reduce anxiety when tapped.
Central locations on your chin and upper lip benefit from acupressure as well.
Your collarbones have a tapping point at their curvature, located just beneath the neck.
There is also a tapping point underneath your arm, just above your first rib, that may also produce results for some.
As you apply acupressure, it may be helpful to repeat positive affirmation as a mantra.
Something simple, such as, “I will fall asleep faster tonight,” can be enough to encourage sleep.
#14. Do something silly.
Remember all the fun things you used to do during your childhood?
They seem pretty silly if you see adults doing them. That silliness, however, might be the key to unlocking your ability to fall asleep faster and easier.
Any activity which offers a mesmerizing effect offers a potential sleep benefit.
You could choose to blow bubbles. You might watch the waves come in during sunset at the beach.
Try sitting near the banks of a creek or river. Watch the trees wave about in the wind.
Anything that you remember doing during your childhood that seemed like fun qualifies as an option here.
Not only do these activities bring back fond memories, which creates inner peace, they also help to take your mind off the fact that you’re dealing with some insomnia at the moment.
#15. Splash yourself with cold water.
When you are immersed in cold water, your body creates two responses. It will lower your blood pressure and your heart rate.
If you splash your face with cold water for 30-60 seconds, you can trigger this response.
Here’s the issue: if you are constantly using this method to encourage your body to reach a soothed state for sleep, it will eventually become resistant to your efforts.
Try a cold shower for those moments when you need a full body reset because you’re struggling to sleep. It may be uncomfortable. It will likely make you shiver. It will also trigger this response.
For those who don’t like the idea of shocking their system with cold water, consider using an ice pack. Place it at the joint where your neck meets your back for about 20 minutes. You’ll feel a similar result occur here as well.
In the winter months, you can accomplish this effect by stepping outside without warm layers of clothing.
#16. Sleep naked.
Not everyone has the luxury of sleeping naked. Use this option at your discretion, with your own comfort levels.
Sleeping naked comes with four key health benefits.
- You lower your skin temperature, which increases the amount of deep sleep you receive each night. That will also reduce the number of times you wake up each night.
- It will reduce your stress levels because your body is able to process cortisol more effectively.
- It speeds up your metabolism because calories are required to produce enough warmth for you to stay asleep while naked.
- It gives you confidence. Not only does sleeping naked feel good with the right set of sheets, it makes you feel more comfortable about who you are at a core level.
It is also more comfortable to sleep naked because wearing certain types of underwear, for men and women, can be very constrictive.
If you have a partner, then sleeping naked creates more personal, intimate contact. Skin-on-skin contact with a partner produces more oxytocin, which helps you to feel better about life in general.
#17. Find a new pillow.
The wrong pillow does more than creates discomfort in your head, neck, or back. It may also lead to poor sleep quality and insomnia.
Your neck should be aligned with your back in a way that is natural, no matter what sleeping position you prefer.
Your pillow must be able to support your preferred sleep position. If you sleep on your side, then a pillow designed for sleeping on your back may be disruptive.
If you have switched your pillow and it feels comfortable, your actual sleeping position may be causing your insomnia. Sleeping on your side can place strain on your organs that may cause you to toss and turn at night.
Sleeping on your stomach flattens the spine, which encourages lower back pain to develop.
Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees, in addition to your regular pillow, if you continue experiencing insomnia.
You might try placing a pillow underneath your hips, back, or neck for extra support too, depending on your preferred sleeping position.
Are You Ready to Fall Asleep Faster and Easier?
There are several ways to encourage your body to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and make sleep an easier process. Some options may work for you. Others may not.
The most important component of a good night of rest is to create a routine which encourages it.
Make sure you’re using your preferred options every night to help your body and brain recognize that you’re getting ready to go to bed.
It may also be helpful to remove certain stimulants from your routine.
Try to avoid caffeine after lunch. Some people may wish to avoid eating within 3-4 hours of their regular bedtime.
It may be helpful to abstain from electronic devices or watching television 60-90 minutes before you wish to go to bed.
Certain products may be helpful as well.
We all require restorative rest to accomplish our daily goals.
By incorporating ideas like these into your daily routine, you’ll be giving yourself the best chance to get to sleep faster and easier every night.