How to fall asleep faster

How to fall asleep faster

When I first struggled with insomnia, the more pressure I put on myself to find out how to fall asleep faster, the less likely sleep was to happen.

I’d enter a downward spiral of anxiety and end up even more awake.

It sucked.

Desperate to sleep, I’d fire up the laptop and trawl the depths of the interwebs searching for advice on how to fall asleep faster.

I would find suggestions for more long term changes I could make to my life. Like cutting down on caffeine or eating healthier (which are both useful points).

But what I needed in that moment was suggestions for things that I could do right now. Something to help my wide awake brain to shut off at 4am. An ‘In case of emergency break glass’ type deal.

If this sounds familiar then we’re alike, which is why I’ve written the guide I wish I had back when I was struggling to figure out how to fall asleep faster.

This will help you know what to do when you can’t sleep so that you can have more energy in the day to live your life to the full.

 

Also, I have included a FREE cheat sheet at the end of the post turning the best of these ideas into action points.

If you want results immediately and don’t have time to read the full article, scroll to the bottom and download the FREE cheat sheet now.

If you do have time to read the detailed article, here are 7 Shortcuts for getting to sleep in Record Time.

 

 

1) CBT for Sleep 

Image - Cartoon of a brain asleep in bed

This was one of the biggest factors in changing my sleep habits and my number one tip in learning how to fall asleep faster. It’s the longest section in the list and the most important. It will show you how to relax your mind.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches us to use techniques that focus on mental or ‘cognitive’ factors. With sleep, this often means not being able to switch off, or stop or control worrying.

There are increasing amounts of research being done with CBT towards sleep every day.

A recent study revealed 86% of participants who completed 3 sessions of CBT found their ability to sleep had improved.

Action Points
  • Learn my own CBT based technique below:

 

Below are a few ways to explore thinking using CBT. Along with my own individual way of applying it.

When we worry we often focus on the worst case scenario (I know I used to). Instead of entering a spiral of negativity, we need to problem solve, focus on how we will cope and come up with a plan.

This way our mind will be clear from worry and we will be a step closer to learning how to fall asleep faster.

diagram of a poor sleep cycle - negative emotions - negative behaviour - negative thoughts

While searching for how to fall asleep faster we can begin to worry and quickly become paralyzed with fear.

However, when we’re problem-solving we’re taking action and doing something about it. This makes us feel in control instead of helpless.

For this reason, I like to start the CBT exercise by getting out of bed and sitting at a desk.

Leaving your bed may sound counter-intuitive when wanting to get to sleep, but if you’re awake now the chances are you’ve missed your current ‘sleep gate’ anyway. (A sleep gate is an open window of time in which your body will allow you to fall asleep).

We need to reset our mind so we can be in the right state for sleep when the next sleep gate arrives.

Step 1 – Define

 

First, write down the problems or thoughts occupying your mind.

So let’s say for example you’re worried you’re going to lose your job tomorrow. (This is just an example. It can be anything, big or small. Each of us is unique and so are the worries we carry).

 

Step 2 – Challenge

image of a notebook

Now that we have written our worry down, we’re going to challenge it.

We’re trying to create a balanced view of how likely the problem is to occur using evidence for and against.

Draw two columns underneath the problem and fill both out with two headers. Label one- ‘Evidence For’ and the other – ‘Evidence Against’. This is in relation to how likely this problem is to occur.

Even if you’re certain the problem will occur it’s still worth doing this.

Similarly, if your anxiety relates to something in the past ask yourself the question, “Why am I worrying about this now? “ Use the answer to that question as the definition of your problem.

 

Make all worries relevant to the present in order to better understand them.

Now it’s time to fill in both columns. Be fair and balanced. If it helps, pretend you’re talking to a friend. What compassionate and impartial advice would you give to them if they were in your situation?

Chances are you’d be less harsh to your friends than you would yourself. You might not consider the problem to be as big as it seems to you.

Let’s stay with our example of ‘worrying about losing your job’. You may end up focussing on a mistake you made at work and interpret this as evidence for you to lose your job.

In this case, look at the times your employers have praised you. Or the situations where you’ve seen people make a worse mistake than you and remain employed.

It’s about looking for positive examples to contrast the negative. List as many things as you feel are relevant on both sides, there are no limits.

The key is to create a balanced and accurate view of reality. This may take a little bit of work to focus on the positive side, especially if you are in a particularly low mood.

Stick with it and force yourself to look at both sides.

Remember to treat the advice you give yourself with the same compassion you would when advising a friend.

 

Step 3 – Solve

Next, ask yourself “Is there any way the worst case scenario could actually be a blessing in disguise?” That might seem a bit ridiculous (and maybe even an annoying question), but you never know.

The famous author Napoleon Hill once wrote: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

I personally have known people devastated about losing their jobs that have gone on to start successful businesses.

They look back with relief at the dark days that used to plague them. You never know what’s right around the corner.

Anyway, I’m rambling… What we need to do here is brainstorm solutions to our problems.

If we go back to our example of ‘worrying we might lose our job’. We need to ask why that would be a problem.

We might be worrying we can no longer pay the bills. So we can ask ourselves the question, “How can I pay the bills if I’m fired?” Brainstorm answers then write them down on a new page. It might look like this:

Problem: What if I lose my job?

Solutions:
  • We might look for other work and get an even better job.
  • We could move back in with our parents so we don’t have to pay bills. We could then use that time to work on a business.
  • Stay at a friend’s short term.
  • Get a loan until we can get an even better job.
  • Downsize and move to a smaller place.
  • Have some friends or a tenant move in with us to help cover the bills.
  • Sell up and go travelling.

The key now is to make a decision, which of the solutions you have found is the best one to take?

Score each one of them out of 10 to help narrow it down.

Pick your best solution.

Aaaand… We’re done!

You don’t need to think about the problem anymore. You can let yourself off the hook, knowing you’ve spent a good amount of time searching for a resolution for how to fall asleep faster from a position of logic, objectivity and compassion.

No further exploration of that issue is required.

Trust yourself. You’ve now made the best choice you can with the information available to you.

Once we get ourselves into this mindset we can accept our concerns, refocus our mind and let go.

Remember nobody’s supposed to be perfect. Forgive yourself and sleep will follow!

 

 

2. Change the temperature of your bedroom

image of a thermometer

My aim is to come at this from as many variables as possible so this one is a little less intense.

The reasons we struggle with sleep can be different for each of us.

The more of these tips you implement, the more likely your sleep will improve.

So, here we go.Want to learn how to fall asleep faster? Try lowering the temperature in your bedroom.

Simple as that.

A cooler room temperature can help induce sleep. As a rule of thumb try having your bedroom at a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

The National Sleep Foundation believes that if your room is “too hot, it may interfere with your body’s natural dip and make you more restless through the night. Studies indicate that some forms of insomnia are associated with an improper regulation of body temperature.”

Action Points

  • Make sure you bedroom is not too hot or too cold. The best temperature is around 65 degrees.
  • If that feels too cold add some extra layers while keeping your head cool.
  • If you find that your bedroom is too hot then try opening a window or turning off the heating in your bedroom.

 

3. Learn how to fall asleep faster with the 4-7-8 Technique

image of a woman on a beach used in the how to fall asleep faster blog

Now we’re going to look at a technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. A Harvard-trained medical Doctor, who has developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique based on pranayama.

An ancient Indian form of yogic discipline around the regulation of breath.

This one is a little more experimental!

Dr. Michelle E. Gordon, of Northern Westchester Surgical Associates General, tried the technique and while she didn’t actually manage to fall asleep in a minute. She did say: “The breath does elicit a sense of relaxation and calm. I teach it to my patients as a means of keeping calm when having anxiety over surgery or post-operative anxiety. It works”.

I have tried this myself and have found it puts me into a calmer frame of mind and helps aid my sleep. Especially when combined with the CBT method above.

Although I have to admit, like Doctor Gordon, I rarely fall asleep within one minute. But it definitely helps.

I’ve been told it takes 2 months to properly master this how to fall asleep faster tip, but I’m a little sceptical. I think it works right away.

Action Points

  • Try the 4-7-8 technique:

1)      Place the tip of your tongue lightly against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the entire exercise.

2)      Exhale completely through your mouth, while making a whoosh sound.

3)      Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose to a count of four seconds.

4)      Hold your breath for seven seconds.

5)      Breathe out completely through your mouth. Make a whoosh sound to a count of eight seconds. (This is one breath).

6)      Repeat the cycle three times.

 

 

4. Change the questions

image of mountains used in the how to fall asleep faster blog

Since creating this tip I use it almost every night. It’s based on the technique of mindfulness.

It involves focussing on relaxing thoughts instead of anxious ones.

An article on sciencenordic.com (a Nordic scientific research website) explains the importance of mindfulness: “As we start gaining control of our thought patterns, the brain activity in the areas responsible for our emotions – the limbic system, the amygdala and the striatum – starts to calm down”.

This is key knowledge when learning how to fall asleep faster.

Calming our mind by swapping intense and stressful questions for relaxing and positive ones.

You will soon forget what you were initially worrying about and as a result, fall asleep quicker.

Carolyn Gregorie a senior health writer at the Huffington Post believes that “Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasizing may even make us more mindful. Research has found that those whose daydreams are most positive and most specific also score high in mindfulness”.

There’s plenty of ways you can do this, I like to make mental lists of fun things:

You could list your top 5 favourite memories with your best friends or your top 10 superhero films.

Make these lists in your head as you lie in your bed, eyes closed ready for sleep.

Action Points

  • Make a series of positive lists until you fall asleep. E.g. What are your 5 favourite memories of your best friends?
  • If you had to assemble a team of 5 superheroes who would they be?

 

Tip: Try using this tip after you’ve tried the first CBT based technique for great results.

 

 

5. Have a hot bath

image of a bath used in the how to fall asleep faster blog

During the evening, your body temperature dips.

A study carried out at Cornell Medical Centre in New York revealed that when soaking in a hot tub, your temperature rises and the quick cooling period afterwards leads to you feeling more relaxed.

Other benefits of hot water is a reduction in body tension, it relaxes the muscles and reduces general anxiety.

Readers Digest writes, “A soothing hot bath is always calming, and raising your body heat may help regulate mood and anxiety.”

Adding a few drops of lavender to the bath will add an additional relaxing effect.

Action Points

  • Run a hot bath and soak in it for 20 – 30 minutes.
  •  A hot shower is also effective if you’re worried about how long it will take to run a bath.

 

 

6. The Invisible Counsellor Technique 

image of eyes in the sky

I almost wasn’t going to include this one because of all the tips in learning how to fall asleep faster, it’s a little more out there… But it helps me a lot when I can’t fall asleep.

It ties in with our first point, CBT for sleep and involves the reframing of attitudes and emotions.

Napoleon Hill, a famous new thought author from the early 1900’s created a technique called ‘The Invisible Counselors’. It allowed him to feel as though he were tapping into the mind of anyone living or dead to gain advice, perspective and guidance.

Within his mind, he frequently conducted interviews with several legendary characters including Lincoln, Aristotle, and many other inspirational people.

Obviously, he didn’t literally talk to the dead, nor did he believe he was. The exercise was about creating a voice of reason or an alternate persona to bounce ideas around with.

Hill said, “While the meetings with my counselors may be purely fictional and exist only in my imagination, they have led me down a glorious path of adventure, rekindled my imagination of true greatness…”

 

The idea of tapping into the unconscious was also used by Thomas Edison.

Mind Power News writes, “Thomas Edison used his superconscious mind regularly to come up with hundreds of brand new ideas and inventions”.

This is something I use but with a slight twist. While Hill used it to gain wisdom into philosophy and business, I use it to counsel my overactive mind. So what we’re going to do is create our very own counsellor / mentor to help reframe our own negative thoughts.

The more we work on these techniques in learning how to fall asleep faster, the more effective they will become. This is because we’re forming and strengthening new neural pathways and patterns of thought.

As well as helping you to sleep, you will find yourself happier and more open to positive experiences and opportunities in life.

Action Points
  • Lie in bed with your eyes shut. Choose someone fictional or living who you consider to be both positive and wise. It can be anyone, fictional Tolkien character Gandalf the Grey, or maybe self-help author Tony Robbins. Pick whoever you like. The key thing is that they’re positive and intelligent characters whose advice you trust and respect.
  • Turn any negative thoughts which may be ruminating in your mind into a question or statement and say it in your mind as though you were having a conversation with your invisible counsellor.

The rule is you can be as negative as you like but you have to let your fictional counsellor reply.

For example, if you’re learning how to fall asleep faster because you feel like you have too much to worry about, you would say to your invisible counsellor: “I deserve to sleep because I have too much to worry about”.

They will most likely reply by challenging that belief or reassuring you it isn’t true. Or maybe asking you to be more specific and challenging and reassuring you about those beliefs.

This is because you’re reframing your viewpoint away from yourself and through another persona.

  • From this you will find your negative beliefs are challenged, you discover new solutions to problems and more importantly, you will feel calmer and more positive. If you follow these tips your invisible counsellor will show you how to fall asleep faster.

 

 

7. Listen to a guided meditation for sleep audio

image of meditation

Meditation was one of the most useful techniques I found when I was searching for how to fall asleep faster.

study conducted at UCLA involved a series of participants with sleep problems enrolling in a mindfulness meditation course.

It trained them to be more aware of their emotions and thoughts.

The study found the participants showed “Better stress regulation… Less anxiety, depression and anger compared to a group of students that received relaxation training”.

Sara Lazar (a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School) took a group of people through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program. After completing the programme Sara found there were decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.

These changes were not present in the control group, which suggests they had not occurred purely from the passage of time.

Action points

  • Practice mindfulness meditation for 15 – 30 minutes at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Check out some of the meditation audios I use:

 

Jason Stephenson

Fragrant Heart

Meditation for Beginners

 

 

Conclusion

After following these tips on how to fall asleep faster, sleep should no longer be an obstacle to overcome.

It’ll be a source of energy, success, and happiness.

So here’s what you need to take action on next.

I’ve put together a FREE short cheat sheet of all my best tips listed here telling you what to do and more importantly in which order to do them.

Following it will take just a few minutes to implement and the results will ripple throughout your entire life.

Enter your e-mail to get the PDF.

Better yet, print it out and scotch tape it to your bed, so you can have it to hand whenever you find yourself struggling to sleep.

It can be your, ‘in case of emergency break glass’ document.

If you’ve found this article to be useful please do let me know by leaving a comment below or sharing it using the social buttons.

Well, this is me signing off, best of luck with sleeping my friend.

 

Ian

 

Acknowledgements:

Brain vector designed by Freepik

Ian Jordan

30 year old human male from the United Kingdom, I’m a self help author and former insomniac.

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