Updated January 11, 2021While it’s normal not to fall asleep instantly, some of us may toss and turn for hours every night. Difficulty getting to sleep may be due to many reasons, including a lousy bedtime routine, stress, an unidentified sleep condition, a too-early bedtime, or even sleeping too much.It’s aggravating to spend more time trying to fall asleep versus actually sleeping, and studies show that the longer it takes for you to fall asleep, the worse your sleep quality is.This article can help you start snoozing in only a couple of minutes. While it takes some practice to teach your body how to fall asleep fast, by incorporating these easy relaxation methods into your nightly routine, you can get to sleep sooner and enjoy some well-deserved rest.1. The 4-7-8 Breathing MethodTry the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, a simple, yet effective relaxation method to help you fall asleep rapidly. Dr. Weil also recommends using this relaxation technique when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, not just when you’re trying to fall asleep.Controlled breathing techniques can reduce stress in the nervous system and minimize excitatory stimuli, preparing your brain and body for sleep.Follow these steps to complete the 4-7-8 breathing method:Press the tip of your tongue against the top of your mouth, just behind your front teeth.Exhale from your mouth while making a “whooshing” sound.Inhale from your nose for 4 counts.Hold your breath for 7 counts.Exhale through your mouth and make the same whoosh sound for 8 counts. You can pucker your lips if this action feels awkward.Repeat this process at least three or four more times until you fall asleep.Controlling your breathing and holding your breath has a sedative result. It increases the oxygen in your bloodstream, lowers your heart rate, and leaves you feeling lightheaded.2. Count Your BreathsAnother straightforward breathing technique is counting your breaths until you fall asleep. This method keeps your attention on one thing—your breathing—forcing you to ignore any potential stressors keeping you awake.Follow these simple steps:With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths before allowing your breathing to come to you naturally.Count each exhale from 1 to 5 counts.Once you’ve counted 5 exhalations, begin to count again starting from 1.If your mind wanders off at any time and you lose count (but you haven’t fallen asleep yet), simply start counting your exhalations again at 1.3. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)If deep breathing isn’t helping you, try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Progressive muscle relaxation is a deep muscle relaxation technique where you intentionally tense and relax your muscles.Dr. Edmund Jacobson first developed PMR in the 1920s as a method to relieve anxiety, but recent studies find this technique to be an effective way to fall asleep rapidly and improve insomnia.Follow these steps to relax your muscles and help you get to sleep:Inhale and contract all the muscles in your face for 5 to 10 seconds. Try scrunching your nose, raising your eyebrows, and squeezing your eyes shut.Exhale audibly while releasing the tension in your muscles.Continue contracting and easing your muscles, moving through all of your body’s muscles. Start from your shoulders and arms down to your thighs, calves, and feet.Some people may fall asleep after finishing this relaxation exercise while others can fall asleep while completing it.4. Imagine Peaceful ScenariosInstead of lying in bed thinking about your worries and stressors, occupy your thoughts by imagining a happy and peaceful place to help you get to sleep. Some insomnia patients who utilized this form of “imagery distraction” were able to fall asleep faster at nighttime.There are two visualization methods you can try to distract your thoughts and help you sleep while in bed:Imagine yourself in a calming environment, such as a beach, forest, or park, and focus on the sights, scents, and sounds of that place.Imagine yourself completing a repetitive task, something like counting sheep, kneading dough, or shooting soccer goals.5. Force Yourself to Stay Awake (Paradoxical Intention)While this sounds counterintuitive, research shows paradoxical intention, or telling yourself to stay awake, may actually help you fall asleep faster.For people who stress about not getting enough sleep, such as people with insomnia, telling yourself to try and stay awake can be effective if traditional breathing or relaxation techniques aren’t helping you fall asleep.By forcing yourself to stay awake, there’s less pressure and stress around falling asleep, eventually leading to you relaxing and sleeping.6. Try a New Sleeping PositionSometimes, you might be struggling to fall asleep due to having an uncomfortable or awkward sleeping position. The pain an awkward sleeping position causes can keep you awake and make it hard to stay asleep even if you do manage to drift off.The three primary sleeping positions are back, stomach, and side sleeping. However, you may switch between these positions throughout the night.Back sleeping is traditionally the “best” sleeping position, but modern research suggests it can be uncomfortable for some, aggravating sleep apnea symptoms, causing snoring and heartburn.Experts agree stomach sleeping is the worst position to sleep in. It’s harsh on your back, uncomfortable for your neck, and makes it difficult to breathe.In general, sleeping on your side is most preferred and is linked to the best quality of sleep.7. Practice Good Sleep HygieneSleep hygiene is an all-encompassing technique to improve your habits around sleeping and is one of the most valuable steps to ensuring you sleep well. Having good sleep hygiene can enhance your sleep quality and make it easier to fall asleep.Here are a few ways you can improve your sleep hygiene:Follow a consistent sleep schedule to improve your circadian rhythm.Avoid long, daytime naps. Limit naps to no longer than 30 minutes.Maintain a regular cardio exercise routine, but avoid vigorous activity before bedtime as it is a form of stimulation.Turn off all electronic devices at least 60 minutes before sleeping. Try reading, journaling, or taking a bath to relax instead.Do not ingest caffeine for 4 to 6 hours before sleeping, including coffee, energy drinks, sports drinks, and some chocolate.Limit overly salty, greasy, or spicy foods in the evenings. If you’re hungry at night, stick to a high-carb snack, such as whole-grain toast or fruit. Foods high in magnesium, such as avocados, dark leafy greens, and dark chocolate.Keep your room cool. The ideal bedroom temperature is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.Only use your bed for sleeping, not working, eating, using laptops, or watching TV.Ensure you are resting on a high-quality bed, such as a memory foam or hybrid mattress.FAQsWhat is sleep anxiety?Sleep anxiety is the stress or fear of not getting to sleep at night. However, the anxiety it causes only makes it harder for individuals to fall asleep, leaving people awake for hours and ruining their sleep.If you struggle with sleep anxiety, try subduing your anxious thoughts by focusing on deep breathing or daydreaming about positive images.How long should it take to fall asleep?Typically, it should take somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. However, external factors such as stress or anxiety can make it take longer to fall asleep. On the other hand, extreme exhaustion or sleep deprivation can sometimes make you fall asleep faster.Should you stay up if you can’t sleep?Even a couple of hours of sleep is better than not sleeping at all.If you’re struggling to fall asleep for longer than 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed. Staying awake in bed for too long might confuse your brain and cause it to identify lying in bed with staying awake, in turn making it harder for you to sleep.Rather than staying in bed, try washing your hands and face with cold water, sitting upright in the dark, or reading under a yellow-toned lamp. During this time, fight the temptation to pull out your phone or watch TV. The blue light your electronic devices emit delays melatonin release, only making it harder to fall asleep.Once you feel eventually tired again, lay back in bed, and try sleeping.Why can’t I sleep at night?There are several reasons you may be struggling to sleep at night. This inability to sleep may be a sign your circadian rhythm is off and confused. It may also be a result of consuming too much caffeine, napping for too long, anxiety or depression, using electronics before bed, or a bad diet.However, if you seemingly have all of these factors in check and are still unable to sleep well, you may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. At that point, it’s worth reaching out to your doctor for medical advice and treatment.How much sleep do you need by age?Based on how old you are, you’ll need more or less sleep to feel fully rested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is how much sleep you need per day based on how old you are:0 to 3 months old: 14 to 17 hours4 to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours1 to 2 years old: 11 to 14 hours3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours6 to 12 years old: 9 to 12 hours13 to 18 years old: 8 to 10 hours18 to 60 years old: 7 or more hours61 to 64 years old: 7 to 9 hours65 years or older: 7 to 8 hoursConclusionGood-quality sleep is vital for your physical and mental health, mood, energy levels, and overall well-being. While merely laying in bed is nice, it’s not the equivalent of actual sleep. So, take the necessary steps, including altering your nightly routine, completing deep breathing and relaxation methods, and purposeful daydreaming, to skip restless nights and get some rest.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. 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