10 ways to fall asleep fast

It's 2:48am. You're completely awake, tossing and turning, wishing you could slip into slumber because your alarm clock is scheduled to go off in just a few hours. You've got an immensely busy day tomorrow, and you can't afford to be sleep-deprived.

Susan Mathison
Susan Mathison

It's 2:48am. You're completely awake, tossing and turning, wishing you could slip into slumber because your alarm clock is scheduled to go off in just a few hours. You've got an immensely busy day tomorrow, and you can't afford to be sleep-deprived. But for whatever reason, you just can't fall asleep...

We've all been there.

It's one of the most annoying situations, especially when you feel drained and depleted, but your mind just won't "shut off" and allow you to catch some shut-eye.

Fortunately, there are so many things you can do to help yourself fall asleep faster, and sleep more deeply. No doctor's visit required!

The next time you're wide awake at an unreasonably late hour of the night, here are 10 things you can try:


Shut down screens

If you've got a hunch that staring at your phone, tablet, computer, or TV screen is messing with your sleep, you're correct. Digital screens emit a blue-toned light, which confuses the hypothalamus portion of your brain into thinking that it's time to wake up. Which means, if you're scrolling through the latest Instagram or Facebook updates while you're lying in bed, you're not inducing sleepy feelings, you're actually keeping yourself wide awake.

Ideally, turn off all the screens in your bedroom several hours before bedtime. As a second-best case scenario, switch your devices to "night mode," which changes the screen coloration from blue-toned to a warmer yellow hue. It makes a difference!

Read an actual book

Not a Kindle book. A real book. Choose one that's fairly slow-moving, not a gripping, page-turning thriller that's going to keep you awake. I know plenty of people who swear that reading an actual book for 3-5 minutes is better than taking an Ambien!

Take a warm bath or shower

Studies show that taking a warm bath or shower at bedtime can help you sink into sleep faster. Even a warm foot bath can help. A warm bath is soothing and relaxing, and it also triggers a drop in your body temperature once you step out of the tub, which helps you fall asleep faster.

Cool down your room


As your body temperature drops, it signals to your body, "Now it's time to go to sleep." That's why taking a bath or a shower (see above) is a good move, but it's also important to keep your bedroom nice and cool. Turn on your fan to a gentle setting, turn down the thermostat, or crack a window. Try to get your bedroom down to about 60 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.

Visualize a happy scenario

Close your eyes and imagine your next birthday party, your next vacation, a fishing trip to the lake, or anything that feels positive and comforting to you. Picturing a happy scenario inside your mind has a direct effect on your body. Your breathing will become slower and deeper, your stress hormone levels (called "cortisol levels") will drop down, and it becomes easier to relax and fall asleep.

Try a bedtime yoga video

Certain types of yoga, like Vinyasa Yoga, are designed to be energizing and stimulating. But other forms of yoga, like Yin Yoga, are designed to send you into sleep. Here's a 20-minute yoga practice that you can do right before bedtime, or anytime you're feeling wired and restless. Grab a blanket and a few pillows and get ready for the coziest yoga routine of all time!

Try a bedtime meditation

Listening to a guided meditation that's specifically focused on sleep can be incredibly soothing. If you head over to YouTube and type "bedtime meditation" into the search field, you'll find over 132,000 options. Definitely worth a try.

Listen to raindrops, ocean waves, or some other ambient sound


Your brain interprets slow, gentle, rhythmic sounds as a "non-threat," and these types of sounds can help you to relax and fall asleep faster. YouTube to the rescue, once again! Here's over 11 hours of soothing ocean waves. (Ahhh... I can practically smell the salty ocean spray.)

Write down anything that's stressing you out

If your mind is racing with all of the important things you need to do tomorrow, or later this week or month, get a notebook and write everything down. Knowing that you've got everything down on paper can bring an immediate sense of relief, because you know you're not going to forget anything. I often do this at night when my brain feels a little too crammed, and it always works wonders for me.

Count your blessings

It's so easy to dwell on the negative aspects of your day, mentally replaying a conversation that didn't go well, berating yourself for a mistake you made at work, or ruminating on something you wish you'd done differently.

All of that negativity adds up, and it can send you into a frantic, sleepless state. To bring yourself out of that tailspin, count your blessings. You write down three things you're grateful for, or you can mentally replay three things that you successfully completed over the last day.

If you're dubious about this, you can set your skepticism aside. According to a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes each night helped study participants to sleep longer and feel better the next day. Yes, gratitude really works!

If you tried everything on this list and you're STILL not feeling sleepy, please make an appointment with your physician for some professional guidance, and/or prescription sleep medication if that turns out to be necessary.

Getting good-quality sleep is not optional. It's essential for your mental and physical well-being. So please, seek out the professional support that you need.

Wishing you an early bedtime, a full night's rest, and sweet dreams.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created Email her at .

Related Topics: HEALTH
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