Being unable to fall asleep can be frustrating and have consequences for the next day. However, people can learn to fall asleep faster using some simple, natural tips and tricks.
When someone is having difficulty falling asleep, one solution is to take medications that induce sleep. However, such medications are not an ideal long-term solution.
Certain natural methods — such as having a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding screens before bedtime, reading before bed, doing gentle exercise during the day, and practicing certain mindfulness techniques — can help.
Different things work for different people, so take some time to experiment to find what works.
This article looks at 21 natural methods that people can use to help them fall asleep quickly.
Many people who struggle with sleep lie in bed wondering how to fall asleep. When this happens, try using the tips below. Some are long-term lifestyle changes, while others are short-term solutions to try in the moment.
1. Create a consistent sleeping pattern
Going to bed at different times every night is a common habit for many people. However, these irregular sleeping patterns could interfere with sleep because they interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is a selection of behavioral, physical, and mental changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. A primary function of the circadian rhythm is to determine whether the body is ready for sleep or not.
This is heavily influenced by a biological clock that releases hormones to induce sleep or wakefulness. Going to bed at the same time every night helps the body clock predict when to induce sleep.
2. Keep the lights off
Cues such as light also influence the circadian rhythm, which helps the brain and body judge when it is nighttime. Keeping the room as dark as possible when going to bed might help bring on sleep.
3. Avoid napping during the day
Taking naps during the daytime, particularly those that last longer than 2 hours, can also disrupt the circadian rhythm.
One study found that college students who napped at least three times per week and those who napped for longer than 2 hours each time had lower sleep quality than their peers who did not.
After a poor night’s sleep, it is tempting to take a long nap. However, try to avoid this, as it can adversely affect a healthful sleep cycle.
4. Get some exercise during the day
Physical exercise has a positive impact on sleep quality.
One review that looked at 305 people over 40 years old with sleeping difficulties found that moderate or high intensity exercise programs led to improvements in sleep quality. The study also found that participants took their sleep medication less frequently while participating in an exercise program.
It is currently unclear whether or not exercising at different times of day has an impact on sleep.
When taking on an exercise routine, it can be difficult to know where to start. Learn more here.
5. Avoid using your cell phone
Currently, there is much debate about whether or not the use of cell phones at bedtime affects sleep.
One study in college students found that those who scored high on a scale of problem phone use, such as addictive texting behavior, had a lower sleep quality. However, there was no difference in the length of time they slept.
Much of the current research is in students and young people, so it is unclear whether or not these findings extend to other age groups. Studies also tend to focus on problem phone use. People who do not use their phone in this way may not be as susceptible to sleep disturbances.
More research is necessary in this area to understand the extent to which phone use can impact sleep.
6. Read a book
Reading books can be relaxing and may help prevent anxious thought patterns that could interfere with a person’s sleep. However, it is best to avoid books that might cause strong emotional responses.
7. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates wakefulness and can disrupt sleep patterns. Therefore, it is best to avoid caffeine for at least 4 hours before going to bed.
In some people, consuming caffeine at any time of the day could have a negative impact on sleep quality. For these people, it may be best to avoid caffeine altogether.
8. Try meditation or mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, which often disrupts sleep. Using these techniques can help calm an anxious mind, distracting the person from busy thoughts and allowing them to fall asleep more easily.
A study in older adults with sleeping difficulties found that mindfulness meditation improved sleep quality, compared with people who did not practice mindfulness.
9. Try counting
A longstanding method of inducing sleep is counting down slowly from 100. There are several ideas about why this may work, including boredom and distracting the individual from anxious thoughts.
10. Change your eating habits
What a person eats, particularly in the evening, can have an impact on their sleep. For example, eating a large meal within 1 hour of going to bed may impair a person’s ability to sleep.
Digesting a meal can take at least 2–3 hours. Lying down during this period can cause discomfort or feelings of nausea and slow the digestive process in some people.
It is best to allow the body enough time to digest a meal before lying down. The exact time this takes will vary from person to person.
11. Get the room temperature right
Being too hot or too cold can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to sleep.
The temperature at which people feel the most comfortable varies, so it is important to experiment with different temperatures.
However, the National Sleep Foundation recommend a bedroom temperature of 60–67°F (16–19ºC) to promote sleep.
12. Try aromatherapy
People have long used aromatherapy to induce relaxation and sleep.
Lavender oil is a popular choice for helping with sleep. A study in 31 young adults found that using lavender oil before bed had a positive impact on sleep quality. The participants also reported having more energy after waking up.
13. Find a comfortable position
A comfortable sleeping position is essential for sleep. Frequently changing positions can be distracting, but finding the right spot can make a big difference to the onset of sleep.
Most people find that sleeping on their side is the best position for a good night’s sleep. Learn about the benefits of side sleeping here.
14. Listen to music
Although this may not work for everyone, some people benefit from listening to relaxing music before going to bed.
A person’s response to music will depend on their personal preferences. Sometimes, music may be too stimulating and induce anxiety and sleeplessness.
15. Try breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are a very popular relaxation technique. Practicing deep breathing or doing specific patterns of breathing can help people de-stress and take their mind off anxious thoughts. This can be a powerful tool for getting to sleep.
A common option is 4-7-8 breathing. This involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This type of deep, rhythmic breathing is relaxing and can promote sleep.
16. Take a hot bath or shower
Taking a bath or shower can be relaxing and help prepare the body for sleep. It can also help improve temperature regulation before bed.
Hot and cold showers have different benefits. Hot showers can help promote sleep. Learn more here.
17. Avoid reading e-books
E-books have become increasingly popular over the past few years.
They have backlit screens, which make them ideal for reading before bed in a dark room. However, this could negatively affect sleep.
One study gave young adults a printed book and an e-book to read before bed. The researchers found that when using the e-book, the participants took longer to fall asleep.
They were also more alert during the evenings and less alert in the morning compared with when they read the printed book. Such results suggest that e-books could have a negative impact on sleep.
However, the study only involved 12 participants. The researchers also used a study design that meant that the participants read both types of book. It is difficult to determine whether or not exposure to both reading conditions biased the results.
Few reliable studies exist in this area, and more research is necessary to draw any firm conclusions.
18. Take melatonin
Melatonin is known as “the sleep hormone.” The body produces it to induce drowsiness and sleep in line with the body clock. People can also take it as a supplement to increase the chance of getting to sleep.
19. Use a comfortable bed
The National Sleep Foundation recommend that to get a good night’s sleep, people may want to sleep on a mattress and pillows that are comfortable and supportive. Investing in a comfortable mattress could have a positive impact on sleep quality.
20. Avoid noisy environments, if possible
Noise can be distracting, prevent the onset of sleep, and lower the quality of sleep.
A 2016 study found that participants had significantly worse sleep in a hospital setting than at home. The authors of the study found that this was primarily due to the increased level of noise in the hospital.
21. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Drinking large amounts of alcohol before bed can have an adverse impact on sleep. Alcohol is problematic because it can induce feelings of restlessness and nausea, which can delay the onset of sleep.
Getting to sleep naturally is the best way to ensure that the mind and body get the rest they need.
Trying the methods above can increase the chance of falling asleep without needing to use any sleep aids.