When someone is unable to fall asleep, they can take medications that induce sleep. However, natural techniques such as avoiding screens before bed, reading, doing gentle exercises, or practicing mindfulness may also help.

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.

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.

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Many people living with insomnia can lie in bed wondering how to fall asleep. When this happens, a person can try using the tips below. Some are long-term lifestyle changes, while others are short-term solutions to try at 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.

Learn more about the best time to sleep and wake up here.

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.

Learn about the ideal nap length here.

4. Get some exercise during the day

Physical exercise has a positive impact on sleep quality.

One 2017 meta-analysis found 29 studies that concluded that exercising may be able to improve the quality or the duration of sleep.

Another 2021 study found that exercising for 60 minutes 4-5 times a week for a period of 8-12 weeks can significantly improve primary insomnia, which is the difficulty in falling or staying asleep.

However, it may be a good idea not to exercise too close to a person’s bedtime, as that may actually disrupt 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

The idea that using a mobile device, especially before bed, might be detrimental to sleep is not new.

One 2021 study found that using a mobile screen for more than 8 hours a day or for at least 30 minutes before going to bed can negatively affect sleep. Keeping the mobile device near the pillow while sleeping had a similar association with worse sleep quality.

Like this study, much of the current research has been based on 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 mobile devices in this way may not be as susceptible to sleep disturbances.

More research is necessary for 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 taught patterns that could interfere with a person’s sleep.

A 2021 randomized trial study examining the impact of bedtime reading on sleep showed that sleep improved for 8-22% more people in the intervention group that read before bed compared to the control group that did not.

However, while reading before bed can be relaxing, it may be best to avoid actually reading in bed. A person with insomnia who wakes up in the middle of the night should read in a different room using a dimly lit light.

It is also a good idea to avoid books that might cause strong emotional responses, which could prevent a person from relaxing sufficiently in order to fall asleep.

7. Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates wakefulness and can disrupt sleep patterns. It takes about 3-5 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off. 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 can often disrupt 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. Don’t wake yourself up

When a person relaxes before bed, they will usually feel sleepy.

A person who is having a hard time falling asleep may actually want to avoid doing things like brushing teeth, removing make-up, washing their face, or entering a brightly lit bathroom right before they get in bed.

It is better to do these activities at least half an hour before bedtime and then take some time to relax in a dimly lit, non-stimulating space before heading to bed. This way a person does not disrupt their natural pre-bed sleepiness.

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.

Specifically, certain foods might prevent a person from getting quality sleep. For example, though the evidence on this is mixed, some research indicates that eating refined carbohydrates could interfere with sleep quality or trigger insomnia.

Additional research shows that avoiding processed foods and eating a healthy diet comprised of low glycemic index (GI) foods can have a positive influence on the ability to fall and stay asleep. Good foods to eat include whole grains, nuts, low and nonfat dairy, fruit, and vegetables.

However, no matter what a person eats, 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 recommends 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. However, the evidence for this is mixed, and the benefit may depend on the way the oil is administered, such as topically vs. as an inhalation.

Learn more about aromatherapy here.

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.

In a 2019 study, subjects who listened to music before bed reported sleeping better than those who did not.

However, a person’s response to music will depend on their personal preferences. Sometimes, music can 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 minds 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.

Doing this 1-2 hours before bed for at least 10 minutes may be particularly beneficial, according to research.

Learn more about the benefits of hot and cold showers.

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 books. 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.

Learn more about melatonin for sleep.

19. Use a comfortable bed

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 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.

On the one hand, it is a sedative that induces sleepiness, but on the other hand, it can negatively affect the quality of a person’s sleep.

For people already living with insomnia, even a small amount of alcohol could make the condition worse.

Learn more about how alcohol affects the body.

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.