Some people struggle to fall asleep at night, which can take its toll on their health and wellbeing. Learning how to fall asleep fast can help.
It is normal to take around 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Some variation between people is not necessarily a sign of a problem. However, anyone routinely struggling to fall asleep may have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia.
Falling asleep fast can take some practice. Over time, the following methods may help individuals to fall asleep quickly.
No method can guarantee that a person will fall asleep in 10 seconds. However, the final stages of the military method might help people achieve this.
The military method
This method derives from U.S. military practices. The 1981 book Relax and win: Championship performance by Lloyd Winter gave it some popularity.
The full military method takes 2 minutes, but the final 10 seconds are the key to falling asleep:
- Briefly tighten then relax the facial muscles. Allow the tongue to relax.
- Drop your shoulders toward the ground and allow the arms to dangle loosely by your sides.
- Inhale and exhale at a normal pace while relaxing the chest.
- Relax the thighs and lower legs.
- Allow the mind to clear, letting thoughts come and go without dwelling on them or passing judgment.
- Picture a relaxing scene, such as floating in a boat watching blue skies, or lying in a black hammock surrounded by soothing darkness. If it is not possible to visualize either scene, repeat the mantra, “don’t think.”
- You should fall asleep within 10 seconds of performing step 6.
It is important to note that no research supports the effectiveness of this method. While various online blogs and forums reference it, studies are necessary to prove it is a reliable method for falling asleep within 10 seconds.
Breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation may help people to fall asleep. None of these techniques can guarantee that a person will fall asleep within 2 minutes.
The 4-7-8 breathing method
- Begin by placing the tip of the tongue against the skin behind the upper front teeth, keeping it there throughout.
- Breathe out fully through the mouth, making an exhalation sound.
- Close the mouth and breathe in quietly through the nose to the count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 7. Breathe out fully through the mouth, making an exhalation sound, to the count of 8. This is one breath.
- Repeat step 3 a further three times, for a total of 4 breaths.
Dr. Weil states that this exercise is a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” It becomes more effective with practice and should help people fall asleep within minutes, once they master the technique.
Counting breaths is a straightforward but potentially effective breathing technique. To count breaths:
- Close the eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then, allow the breath to come naturally — do not intentionally make it slower or faster.
- Count each exhalation up to a count of five and then begin again. Do not count inhalations. If you forget your count, start again at 1.
A person will find practicing breathing techniques easier with practice.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a popular technique for those with anxiety. According to one article, it may also help individuals to fall asleep faster and to get better quality sleep.
To perform this technique, tense each group of muscles in the body before consciously relaxing them again.
- Begin by tensing the muscles in the face, then relaxing them.
- Relax the muscles in the neck and shoulders
- Continue relaxing all the muscles, moving down the body to the toes
Individuals may fall asleep shortly after they have finished the exercise or in the middle of it.
Guided progressive muscle meditations, available online, may be helpful for beginners.
Those who wish to fall asleep within 5 minutes can dedicate more time to sleep-inducing techniques and exercises, including those listed above. They can also try:
Meditation and guided visualization
Guided meditations and visualizations are common types of relaxation training.
An article in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that mindfulness-based meditation can reduce sleep problems at night and sleep-related daytime impairments.
Guided visualizations involve imagining pleasant and peaceful scenes that foster relaxation of the body and mind. People may gently drift off to sleep while meditating and visualizing relaxing scenes.
Sometimes, the pressure to fall asleep quickly can prevent individuals from nodding off. Paradoxical intention, which is loosely related to reverse psychology, can remedy this.
To practice paradoxical intention, purposely try to stay awake while in bed. It may reduce the performance anxiety about falling asleep, allowing the anxiety to diminish.
One article indicates mixed results for studies on paradoxical intention, with some studies showing it to be more effective than controls, while others found no benefit. However, it is worth a try, especially if other methods do not work.
Other ways to foster better sleep include:
Proper sleep hygiene
Changing daytime and pre-bed habits can make falling asleep easier and may improve sleep duration and quality:
- A 2017 article suggests getting plenty of exercise throughout the day, but do not exercise close to bedtime, as it can cause stimulation.
- Performing stretches before bed may help improve sleep quality, according to an older article.
- Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants for several hours before bedtime.
- Do not eat greasy, fatty, or spicy foods before bed.
- Ensure that the bedroom is not too hot or too cold — 60–65°F may be best for optimal sleep.
- Keep the bedroom dark, reduce sources of lights, such as digital clocks, and consider wearing an eye mask if necessary.
- Try to keep noise to a minimum, and use earplugs if it is not possible to reduce sounds inside or outside the home. Try using a white noise machine or app to block out disturbing sounds.
- Ensure that the mattress, bedding, and nightwear are comfortable and clean.
- Spray lavender on bedding before lying down. Some animal studies indicate that regular use of lavender can cause a more rapid sleep onset and a longer sleep duration.
A bedtime routine
A routine tells the body that it is time for sleep. Pre-bedtime routines can be simple or elaborate, depending on a person’s schedule and preferences.
It is best to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day. Other steps in a bedtime routine may include:
- reading or listening to classical music in the 30–60 minutes before sleep
- having a cup of chamomile tea an hour before going to bed
- avoiding TV, phone, and computer screens for before bed
One study reports that bathing 1–2 hours before bed helped people fall asleep an average of 10 minutes faster than usual. Taking a warm bath or shower allows the body to cool down afterward and signals the brain that it is time for sleep.
This technique involves fostering a link between an individual’s bed and sleep to improve sleep quality. People following this technique should:
- only go to bed when they are tired and get up if they do not fall asleep within a set time (typically 15-20 minutes)
- only use the bed for sleeping or sex, and not for eating, reading, or any other activities
- get up at the same time each day
- do not “clock-watch” while in bed, as this encourages wakefulness
Sleep restriction therapy
People typically combine this approach with stimulus control therapy. Sleep restriction therapy involves tailoring the time spent in bed to sleep needs.
For example, those who lie in bed for 9 hours but only sleep for 7 should not spend more than 7 hours in bed.
Individuals should begin by keeping a sleep diary to work out the average amount of sleep they get. Add 30 minutes to the average sleep time to account for time spent falling sleep.
It can be helpful to work with a doctor or sleep specialist when practicing sleep restriction therapy.
Some supplements may help people to fall asleep. It is a good idea to speak to a doctor before taking any new supplements, especially for individuals who take other medications or have health conditions.
Children can benefit from many of the same techniques and methods as adults, including:
- getting plenty of daytime physical activity
- having a wind-down time before bed, where they avoid stimulating activities, foods, and drinks
- avoiding screens
- practicing child-friendly meditations, visualizations, or breathing exercises
- having a pre-bedtime bath
- reading books
- listening to soothing music
- creating a proper sleep environment with comfortable bedding, the correct temperature, and a lack of excess light (except for a night-light if necessary)
Getting to sleep can be a challenging task for some. It typically takes most people 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. However, certain methods and techniques can reduce this time, especially if individuals practice them regularly.
Good sleep hygiene, a healthful sleep environment, and a bedtime routine are important factors in ensuring that people fall asleep quickly and enjoy a good quality slumber.
Those who have concerns about their sleep should see their doctor if sleep hygiene practices or other techniques do not improve sleep duration and quality.