How to fall asleep fast: 11 science-backed hacks

Struggle to power down when your head hits the pillow? Try these tactics to fall asleep faster

How to fall asleep fast: expert tips and tricks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are some night when all you want is to fall asleep fast - but your body just won't play ball.

Whether it's caused by a racing mind, a full tummy or the effects of alcohol, being unable to fall asleep can be a major source of frustration - something that will only fuel your insomnia further.

But happily, help is at hand. Below you'll find 11 hacks to help you fall asleep fast, backed by experts and scientific research...

1. Breathing exercises

Are you a ball of stress when you go to bed? Try this NHS-recommended breathing exercise to relax your mind and body so you can switch off. 

Lie in bed, arms away from your sides, palms facing up. Breathe deeply but naturally in through your nose, counting steadily from one to five (or as far as you can comfortably). Without pausing, breathe out gently through your mouth, counting to five again. Keep going for 3-5 minutes.

2. Eat more leafy greens

In a study by researchers at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, taking a magnesium supplement improved how quickly insomniacs dropped off. Up your dietary intake with leafy greens such as spinach to up your magnesium intake naturally, or alternatively consider a supplement.

Leafy greens

(Image credit: Adolfo Felix/Unsplash)

3. Try visualization

Visualizing a relaxing scene, such as a beach, has been shown to help insomniacs drop off 20 minutes earlier than normal in research published in the journal Behaviour Research And Therapy

4. Set your bedtime

Having a set time to go to bed and get up helps to regulate your body clock. So as well as setting a morning alarm, set one at night that signals it’s time to end your day.

5. Try essential oils

It’s not just an old wives’ tale, the soothing scent of lavender really can help you drop off more quickly – and make sleep feel more satisfying - according to various studies. Try using a pillow spray or else invest in one of the best essential oil diffusers.

6. Don’t count sheep

A study by Oxford University researchers found when insomniacs were instructed to do so, they actually took longer to drop off. Ewes-ful intel. 

7. Avoid afternoon caffeine

It takes five hours for half of your caffeine intake to be removed from your system, so it can take double that for it to totally clear. Try banning it 10 hours before bed.

8. Try writing therapy

A common cause of failure to catch the sleep train is churning over worries. The simple act of brain dumping this on to paper can help flick your ‘off’ switch (and give you confidence you won’t forget ‘to-dos’ come morning). Keep a notepad and pen by your bed to help make pre-bedtime writing therapy a habit.

9. Don’t try too hard

Research from the University of Glasgow split insomniacs into two groups - one tried to sleep as normal, the other had to lie with their eyes open and try not to nod off. The ones battling the Sandman dropped off first. Go figure. 

10. Keep your feet warm

A study in the journal Nature found that warm feet are linked to falling asleep. So if yours are cold, pop them on a hot-water bottle. It opens up blood vessels, which causes a drop in body temperature, telling your body it’s time to snooze. 

11. Try a weighted blanket

A recent study by researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, examined the effects of a weighted blanket on participants for a four-week period. 

The results were extremely encouraging. The participants reported "significantly reduced insomnia severity, better sleep maintenance, a higher daytime activity level, and reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression and anxiety." The participants were said to be 25 times more likely to have their insomnia severity decrease by 50% or more.


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