In this article, we’ll explore:
- A few reasons why you can’t sleep
- Why it can be difficult to get to sleep fast
- The ideal length of time it should take to fall asleep
- The top 7 ways to fall asleep faster - including breathing exercises and more
If you’ve ever felt like you spend more time trying to fall asleep than you spend actually sleeping, then you’re not alone. Many of us at some point will experience a sleepless night, tossing and turning, unable to drop off to sleep.
But did you know the more you focus on getting to sleep at night, the more likely it is to evade you? From meditation to breathing exercises, read on to discover 7 top tips to get to sleep fast!
Why can’t I fall asleep fast?
Stress and worry are often the main cause of not being able to sleep well. You can’t expect to hop into bed and go straight to sleep without giving your body and mind the chance to process the day and relax. To improve your chances of sleeping well, it’s essential to develop a good wind down routine.
How long should it take to get to sleep?
Trying to sleep is likely to make you physically and emotionally tense. If you are overly monitoring how long it’s taking you to fall asleep, the likelihood is you will continue to struggle to sleep. This will ultimately take its toll on your health and wellbeing.
Are you a healthy sleeper - or are you sleep deprived? Take a look at the table below to find out:
|Time to fall asleep||Type of sleeper|
|Within 15 minutes||Perfect amount of time - you’re a healthy sleeper!|
|Instantly - as soon as your head hits the pillow||Too quick - chances are, you’re sleep-deprived|
|More than 20-30 minutes||Too slow - your sleep health may be under pressure. This is a key indicator of insomnia|
1. Try breathing exercises
Relaxation exercises can be really useful to try when you’re stressed and worried. They can also help to combat sleep issues too. Whether you do this during your bedtime routine, or once you’re in bed, pick something that really helps you to feel calm and content.
The effects of deep breathing are largely psychological but it can bring about a physiological response in the body. It can normalise the heart and respiration rate which, in turn, helps to calm you.
When you’re in bed, simply focus on your breath going in and out. Experience each breath and pay attention to how this makes you feel.
7/11 breathing exercise
Why not try the 7/11 breathing exercise? This exercise can help you feel calm and relaxed and can help you avoid being consumed by negative thoughts.
Here’s how to try it:
- Breathe in deeply whilst counting to 7
- Then breathe out slowly to the count of 11
- Repeat this for a few minutes
The “4-7-8 method”
The “4-7-8 method” could also be very effective.
Here’s how to try it:
- Breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Then breathe out with a slow ‘whoosh’ sound for 8 seconds
- Repeat three to four times
2. Consider Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Sometimes our bodies - as well as our minds - are tense. Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help your body to unwind by tensing muscles and then relaxing them to release tension.
Here’s how to try it:
- Begin by focusing all your attention on your feet. Tighten up the muscles and then relax them
- Move up to the calves, knees and thighs – tighten and relax
- Move on to the stomach, chest, shoulders, arms and hands, doing the same thing
- Finally, focus on your neck and head. Relax all your muscles, feeling the tension leave your body
3. Avoid clock-watching
It’s common to watch the clock when we’re awake at night. For some of us, this can increase our anxiety levels and further prevent us from being able to fall asleep.
It’s not necessary to remove the clock, however. Simply having the clock face out of sight will help reduce any sleep anxiety. This is great if you rely on your alarm clock to get you up in the morning!
4. Control your bedroom temperature
Your bedroom needs to be cool (not cold!). Around 16-18 degrees is the perfect temperature to promote good sleep.
As you prepare for sleep, your body temperature naturally dips. Therefore, a cooler bedroom helps this process and enables you to fall asleep more quickly.
Nobody can sleep well if it’s too hot or cold. Here’s why:
- Too cold - If your bedroom is on the chillier side, you’ll shiver and your body will have to work hard to warm up
- Too hot - Hot bedrooms cause restlessness and frequent tossing and turning
5. Do a little light reading
Reading really does promote better sleep. According to a study at the University of Sussex, Dr David Lewis found that reading worked best to help people fall asleep, reducing stress levels by 68%.
It takes just six minutes of reading to significantly relax. Reading can help to forget any worries and is a great workout for the brain. It won’t be long before you start to feel your eyes closing!
6. Try mindfulness and guided meditation
Those experiencing disturbed sleep often have trouble unwinding sufficiently to get a good night’s rest. For many, excessive mental activity and racing thoughts prevent them from getting to sleep or wake them up frequently or too early.
It’s important to know how to properly relax and calm the mind. Apps such as Headspace are great as they can offer sleep sounds and guided meditation.
Try a mindfulness exercise
Here’s a mindfulness exercise you can try next time you are finding it difficult to nod off:
- Notice 5 things you can see
- Notice 4 things you can feel
- Notice 3 things you can hear
- Notice 2 things you can smell
- Notice 1 thing you can taste
7. Try ACT – Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
ACT is a mindfulness-based, values-directed behavioural therapy. Unlike Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), ACT isn’t about controlling thoughts and feeling but acknowledging them. This could include, for example, accepting that you are awake and that’s OK.
You can’t control thoughts coming into your mind but you can choose not to do anything with them. Think of them like junk mail arriving in your inbox, you know they are there but you don’t have to read them, instead you can ignore them!
You can also try playing with them, such as reframing thoughts to make them positive. Challenge those negative sleep thoughts. For instance, if you think “I’ll never get to sleep”, challenge that by saying, “How true is that, really?”
We hope these 7 tips help you to fall asleep faster. For more help and support, take a look at advice on how sleep affects your mental health and wellbeing. You’ll find guidance on how to incorporate a healthy sleep routine as part of your daily life, along with some top tips on how to get better quality sleep, every night.