Ever wanted to be one of those people who just fall asleep seemingly as soon as their head hits the pillow? In this article I’ll share with you a simple three stage process that if done right, will enable you to fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed.
1. Get a Regular Sleep Schedule
Sleep is an involuntary action. No one can fall asleep at will with a simple flick of a switch. Instead, falling asleep is in large part down to our body’s natural timing.
The scientific term for how sleepy you feel is called sleep debt. The higher your sleep debt, the easier it will be to fall asleep, and to do so quickly. The two factors that determine your sleep debt are:
- How long you have been awake for, and
- Where you are in your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s own internal body clock. When your body clock thinks it’s time for sleep it will work to wind down your state of alertness so that you can drop off to sleep.
Your body clock however doesn’t keep to a regular rhythm all by itself. It requires constant daily synchronization to in order to understand the correct time. The synchronizers of the body clock are:
- What time you go to bed
- Level of daylight perceived by your eyes
- Any other regular daily activity
The good news is that these can all be controlled, giving you the power to create a good sleep schedule. The bad news is because they can be controlled, you also have the power to form bad habits that can mess up your sleep schedule and cause huge problems falling asleep.
Here are 6 simple tips you can use to optimize your sleep schedule:
Wake up at the same time each day
Try not to deviate more than 20 minutes from your wake up time, even on weekends. If you have problems oversleeping, see the article How to Stop Oversleeping to help overcome it.
No unplanned naps
Unless they’re part of an established sleep pattern, napping reduces your time spent awake between sleeps, lowering your sleep drive, making it harder to fall asleep at night. If you’re in desperate need of a nap, the best time to nap is in the early afternoon after lunch and for no longer than 20 minutes.
Have a ‘soft’ bed time
Have an hour window of when you plan to go to bed. Don’t go to bed when you’re not sleepy, and don’t stay up when you need to sleep. Be flexible, but do ensure you make time for winding down and going to sleep.
Avoid bright light before bed time
Light tells your body it’s daytime, and time to be alert. Using smartphones, tablets, or watching TV just before bed is a very good way to extend your sleep cycle, causing you to fall asleep later and later. Avoid all these at least half an hour, ideally a full hour before bed.
Time your last meal perfectly
There are two reasons for this. First, your last meal is the final mealtime your body clock can use to determine the time, and so it is the most important meal of the day as far as your sleep is concerned. Second, your body cannot sleep if it is busy digesting a meal, so ensure you don’t eat a meal within at least 2 hours of going to bed.
Don’t try and beat your circadian rhythm
When you sleep well, your body will naturally keep you fresh and alert during the day and put your body into a deep sleep at night. Don’t use caffeine or energy drinks to try and keep awake during the day. They will only serve to disrupt your natural circadian rhythm, hindering your sleep, and making you feel sleepier the next day. Not even the army uses energy drinks any more for this very reason. Also, don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. Alcohol causes you to spend less time in deep sleep, so you’re more likely to wake up in the night and feel sleepy during the next day.
For more ways to improve your sleep schedule, read How to Develop a Strong Sleep Schedule
2. Have The Right Mindset
The second stage of learning how to fall asleep fast is your mindset. While your timing causes you to get sleepy, your mind still has the power to prevent you from falling asleep. Your mindset will either grant you free passage to deep refreshing sleep, or stop it in its tracks.
Your mind is unable to differentiate between a vividly imagined event and one that is happening for real. So whether or not a stressful thought is happening for real, the body will respond. This invokes what’s called the fight or flight response, where the body pumps adrenaline around your body causing your heart to pump faster, preparing it to either fight the enemy or run away from it.
It’s one of our basic survival instincts, designed to keep us safe and out of harm, but it does us no good when the enemy is in our mind and we just want to fall asleep. There’s no way your body can fall asleep when it is put under so much stress.
There are two things that cause this situation to occur:
- Mental chatter – This can be anything from running through what you need from the supermarket, to a full night-time life planning session.
- Negative association – Your mind associates a task like falling asleep with a time and location. Your body can associate being in bed at night with anything from dread to relaxation, and your body’s stress levels will respond accordingly.
The key to this stage of falling asleep is to learn how to relax deeply. Thankfully it’s not as hard as it sounds, just follow this simple three step process:
Have the right attitude to sleep
When you think of going to bed and falling asleep, what thought or feeling comes to mind? I personally see sleep as a necessary down time, where I rest my tired body and mind, and wake up the next day feeling refreshed. It keeps me healthy and ultimately allows me to live life to the full. Others may see sleep as a waste of time, or worse, something to be feared. Your attitude towards sleep will ultimately affect your body’s biological response to the process of going to sleep. It will either fight it or allow it to happen. Take a look at the Quotes about Sleep article to understand the different attitudes, and use Affirmations for Sleep to reaffirm your relationship towards sleep.
Create a relaxing evening ritual
Nothing better prepares you for sleep like a relaxing evening ritual. 30 minutes to an hour before bed, write down all the tasks you need to do for the next day and write down any unresolved problems. Put your current thoughts and worries onto paper, taking them out of your mind, storing them to be picked up the next day. Then do something non-simulating that can help you wind down for sleep such as reading a gentle book, or listening to music or a podcast. Do this until you’re ready to go to bed.
Ease into sleep
If you do the above, sleep will come in a matter of moments, but because this article is called how to fall asleep fast, you can use this time in bed to relax deeper even more quickly. There are many ways you can do this, including:
Essentially anything that takes your mind off any remaining thoughts you may have about the day, allowing you to slip into a nice deep sleep.
For more ways to get the right mindset for sleep, read How to Relax and Naturally Drift off to Sleep
3. Boost Your Sleep Environment
Now we come to the final stage of falling asleep fast, your sleep environment. This stage comes last because with the right timing and mindset, you would be able to sleep almost anywhere. But where was your timing and mindset are the engine, your environment is your turbo boost, enabling you to fall asleep faster than ever before.
There are three steps to this, and one optional bonus step:
A good comfortable mattress is one that has the correct level of firmness, isn’t lumpy and doesn’t sag. Similarly with your pillow, it should provide a level of firmness that is comfortable and provide you with adequate support. Your mattress and pillow should provide you with comfort for any sleep position of your choosing. If you have to move around to try and get comfortable, you won’t be able to fall asleep fast, and your discomfort could cause future problems. Choosing the best pillow and best mattress for you is always money well spent.
Keep your bedroom dark
As we mentioned in the timing section above, your body responds to light with alertness and darkness with sleep. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Avoid any bright backlit alarm clocks and block out any street lighting with good blackout curtains.
Help your mind to naturally associate your bedroom as a place of relaxation by avoiding any unnecessary items, such as clutter, TVs, and games consoles. If you have limited space, at the very least reserve your bed as a place dedicated for relaxation.
Bonus Step: Aromatherapy
Not essential, but easy to implement and very effective. Scents such as lavender and jasmine have been scientifically proven to help you fall asleep faster and also sleep deeper through the night. Using aromatherapy can be as simple as lighting a stick of incense before bed, or using a special ultrasonic diffuser specially timed to release a scent at certain intervals throughout the night. Aromatherapy is easy to incorporate into your bedtime routine and the results are well worth the effort.
For more ways to improve your sleep environment, read Five Simple Ways to Improve your Sleep Environment
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And that concludes our three stages to fall asleep fast. Learning to fall asleep fast is a skill that takes time to develop, but one that will serve you well.
Take it one step at a time. Start by getting a great sleep schedule. Then concentrate on getting the right mindset. Finally, create a sleep environment that’s so relaxing, you’ll find it hard not to fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed.