Ever crawled into bed only to lay awake for hours? Or woken up during the night and spent the next 30 minutes staring at the clock willing yourself to fall back asleep? If so, you’re not alone. With the stresses of everyday life and unhealthy sleep habits being all too common, many of us find ourselves wishing we could fall asleep faster.
There’s no magic sleep switch you can flip to turn off your brain, but there are daily habits and nighttime behaviors you can do to make falling asleep much quicker and easier.
In this article, we’ll explain why sleep hygiene habits are the secret to falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting the good night’s sleep you need to feel your best. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you fall asleep in no time.
Sleep latency, also known as sleep onset latency, is the official term for the time it takes to go from wakefulness to sleep when you go to bed at night. The longer it is, the more likely you are to worry about it and the more you cut into your sleep time. But how long is too long?
As a general rule, you should fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. The average sleep latency is around 15 to 20 minutes. Difficulty falling asleep for more than 30 minutes on average is often considered evidence of insomnia.
There are some common things that, when you do them too late in the day or evening, can make it hard to fall asleep at night. These include napping, eating a heavy meal, and consuming caffeine or alcohol.
And when anxiety and depression contribute to prolonged wakefulness, it can feel doubly frustrating. Anxious thoughts can quickly multiply when you add in the new worry that you’ll never fall asleep or that you’ll get so little sleep you’ll be exhausted the next day. You might also feel anxious about getting the perfect sleep score or what your sleep tracker will tell you after a night of particularly bad sleep. You can learn more about the tangled web of anxiety and sleep here.
Unfortunately, such worries are warranted. Insufficient sleep and sleep deprivation will indeed zap next-day energy levels, making it difficult to feel and perform at your best.
On the other hand, falling asleep too quickly — as soon as your head hits the pillow, or even five minutes afterward — can be a sign of a sleep disorder or high sleep debt.
Sleep debt is a running total of the sleep you’ve missed — as compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep your body needs. Sleep debt is the number that best predicts how you feel and perform on any given day, and we measure it over the past 14 nights. When you rack up too much sleep debt — more than five hours — you’ll suffer negative impacts to your immune system, cognitive function, physical performance, and much more.
You can use the RISE app to find out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying.
Even if you use the tips in this article to start drifting off quicker, you should still keep an eye on your sleep debt to make sure you’re meeting your sleep need overall — you may be falling asleep faster, but still not sleeping for long enough.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
Want to spend less time watching the clock and more time sleeping? Follow these sleep tips to make it happen.
Usually, what we think of as a sleep problem — or a falling asleep problem — could more accurately be described as a light problem.
Light is the primary external influence on your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that governs your sleep-wake patterns in roughly 24-hour cycles. And your brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is running the show.
Located inside the hypothalamus, the SCN is a special group of neurons attuned to the roughly 24-hour cycle of changing light caused by the rising and setting of the sun. At night, darkness allows the SCN to prompt your brain’s pineal gland to secrete the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. This preps your body for sleep. In the morning when the SCN senses daylight (via the eyes and the optic nerve), melatonin production stops, signaling to your brain that the day has begun.
One easy, yet hugely important, behavior you can start doing to fall asleep faster is getting daylight as soon as possible after waking. Aim for at least 10 minutes of light exposure, or 30 minutes if it’s overcast or you’re getting light through a window.
This will help reset your circadian rhythm each morning, helping you fall asleep at the right time later that night and get better sleep overall.
Light suppresses melatonin production in the evenings, meaning you’ll struggle to fall asleep at bedtime if you spend the hours before in brightly lit rooms and looking at electronic devices. About 90 minutes before bed, dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses.
You may not have to avoid your TV and smartphone altogether, though. Research from 2022 found media use — think watching TV, listening to podcasts, or reading — in the hour before bed was linked to an earlier bedtime. If this use didn’t involve multitasking (so no scrolling through social media while watching TV) and was conducted in bed, it was also linked to longer sleep time. Just be sure to cut yourself off at bedtime; longer media use was associated with a later bedtime and less time asleep.
A 2021 study found scrolling through social media before bed didn’t impact sleep when the effects of blue light were accounted for. The biggest impact was the extra time people spend on social media, which cut into their sleep time.
So, if you do enjoy an Instagram scroll or an episode of Netflix before bed, don’t forget your blue-light blocking glasses and make sure you don’t stay up too late. (We dive into the benefits of blue-light blocking glasses here.)
Once you’re ready to sleep, make your bedroom as dark as possible to help you drift off. Use blackout blinds or curtains and an eye mask.
And if you wake up in the middle of the night, keep the lights low. If there’s not enough ambient light to get you to the bathroom, use a low-powered red light night light, and sit in dim lighting if you get out of bed to do a relaxing activity when you can't sleep.
RISE can tell you the exact times you should be getting and avoiding light each day, and remind you when you put on blue-light blocking glasses.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their get bright and avoid light reminders.
Your circadian rhythm thrives on consistency, so keep a regular wake time and bedtime. That includes weekdays and weekends. Staying up late for some Friday night fun or sleeping in for hours on a lazy Sunday morning may seem harmless, but this leads to social jetlag.
The disruption of your normal sleep-wake cycle can throw off your circadian rhythm, making it harder to wake up or fall asleep on schedule the following week. So, stick to a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible.
Whether you want to do them before bed or in bed, the RISE app lets you schedule nightly relaxation sessions and customize them by choosing guides and recordings for relaxing sounds, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training with visualization, and other relaxation techniques. You can learn more about guided relaxation exercises on RISE here.
Breathing techniques that promote relaxation can help you fall asleep faster because they help pull your focus away from anxious thoughts and onto your breath. Diaphragmatic breathing is a belly breathing method designed to lower heart rate and stabilize blood pressure. Another helpful technique is 4-7-8 breathing, where you breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then breathe out for eight seconds.
Based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama and studied extensively by University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine director Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing has been described as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
That’s because controlling and elongating the exhaling of your breath sends a signal to your brain that you’re safe and not in danger — which helps you relax.
Here’s how to do it: Touch the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth and empty your lungs of air. Next, inhale silently through your nose to the count of four. Hold the breath in for seven, and then exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to the count of eight. Repeat four times or until you fall asleep. (This is also a helpful technique to fall back asleep.)
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to go right to their relaxation audio guide homepage and get started.
If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, get up and do a sleep reset to help prevent your brain from forming an association between your bed and wakefulness or insomnia. Get out of bed and do something relaxing. You might read a book, listen to soft music, or engage in mindfulness meditation, but don’t lie down.
Remember to keep the lights low, too, to stop bright light from waking you up too much. And try not to check the time, it’ll only make you anxious, making it even harder to fall asleep.
Wait until you start to get sleepy, then go back to bed. Repeat as needed. You can also do a sleep reset if you wake up during the night and can’t fall back to sleep.
About two to three hours before your biological bedtime, your pineal gland starts ramping up its production of melatonin. This is known as dim light melatonin onset (DLMO). A few hours later, your body’s rate of melatonin production will be at its highest. In the RISE app, we call this roughly one-hour window your Melatonin Window.
Going to bed within this window of time will make it easier to fall asleep quicker. Miss the window and you’ll likely find it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
The exact timing of your Melatonin Window varies from day to day, depending on your recent sleep times (stay consistent to keep it roughly the same time) and other factors. But in the RISE app, you can add the Melatonin Window habit to your Energy Schedule to remind you of your ideal bedtime each night.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up a reminder to check their Melatonin Window.
When driving a car and approaching a red light, the smoothest way to come to a stop is to start letting off the gas before hitting the brakes. Likewise, for a smooth and efficient transition from wakefulness to sleep, it’s best to take some time at the end of the night to slow down and unwind to disconnect from the bustle and stress of the day.
To make that happen, do a relaxing bedtime routine one to two hours before bed.
Listen to calming music, read a chapter of a novel, meditate, or drink a cup of chamomile tea. This will help slow your body and brain down for sleep and distract you if you get nighttime anxiety. Having a wind-down routine also helps you avoid revenge bedtime procrastination, where you stay up late to get more me time.
The RISE app will schedule and notify you of your evening wind-down period right before your Melatonin Window. We’ve covered more on how to relax before bed here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up reminders for their personalized evening routines.
Make a hot bath or shower part of your bedtime routine. It’s not only relaxing, it’ll help you drift off faster.
Your body temperature needs to drop in preparation for sleep, and the body’s accelerated release of heat when you emerge from the warm water speeds up this process, making your transition into sleep more fluid.
Another activity you can incorporate into your bedtime routine is a brain dump. Before bed, write down your worries, your to-dos for tomorrow, or what you’re grateful for that day.
Research shows a to-do list may be best for sleep. A 2019 study found people who wrote a to-do list before bed fell asleep faster than those who wrote down tasks they’d already completed.
Use RISE’s brain dump feature to write out your next-day to dos. You’ll get a reminder of them in the morning, so you can drift off knowing they won’t be forgotten about.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their Brain Dump Habit notification
In addition to keeping it pitch-black, a big part of making your bedroom a sleep sanctuary is keeping it cool — set your thermostat between 65 and 68 degrees. Body temperature naturally drops during sleep and preventing warm room temperatures from disrupting that biological change will help you get more restful sleep.
A quiet space is also important for uninterrupted slumber, so use ear plugs and possibly a white noise machine to prevent ambient noise from waking you during the night.
A cup of coffee in the morning can help you feel more awake. That’s because caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain (adenosine is the chemical responsible for making you feel sleepy), so you feel more alert.
Drinking coffee too late in the day, on the other hand, can make it hard to fall asleep. At night, you need your brain to react normally to the adenosine it has built up during the day so that you’ll feel drowsy and drift off to sleep easily.
Caffeine can last in your system for more than 12 hours, but you don’t need to give it up altogether to fall asleep faster and avoid sleeplessness. Limit yourself to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or less if you’re sensitive, and avoid it in the afternoons.
RISE can tell you the exact time you should have your last coffee based on your circadian rhythm each day.
Remember to watch out for hidden caffeine in tea, dark chocolate, and even decaf coffee.
You can find out more about when you should stop drinking coffee here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their limit caffeine reminder.
Alcohol is one sneaky sedative. Although it may help you fall asleep initially, the fact that it causes sleep fragmentation — multiple awakenings during the night — should be enough to make you question its sleep benefits.
After all, what does it matter if you fall asleep quickly if the sleep you get is interrupted and insufficient? Bottom line: Don’t booze before you snooze. The last thing you need is more sleep debt, so avoid alcohol in the three to four hours before bed.
You can learn more about how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol here.
RISE can tell you the exact time to have your last alcoholic beverage and remind you when it’s time to switch to soft drinks.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late alcohol reminder.
As tempting as the ads promoting them make them sound, using over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids is not a viable solution for most sleep issues. Sleeping pills can cause next-day drowsiness, which may disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it even harder to fall asleep the following night.
It’s also important to note most of these pills are sedatives that produce manufactured sleep, not naturalistic healthy sleep. That means you're not getting the restorative sleep your body needs and thus risking acute — and in time, long-term — sleep deprivation.
Even natural supplements, which are not closely regulated by the FDA, can be problematic because their safety, effectiveness, and even the accuracy of their ingredients labels are often up for debate.
That includes melatonin supplements which, though increasingly popular in recent years, are really only useful in special situations, like trying to adjust to a new sleep schedule when working the night shift or dealing with jet lag in a new time zone. In general, you’ll get more reliable results by adopting habits that support your body’s natural melatonin production and circadian rhythm (like getting and avoiding light at the right times).
Naps are great when you’re trying to pay back sleep debt or need an energy boost, but they can decrease sleep pressure — the urge to sleep — making it hard to fall asleep come bedtime.
To enjoy a nap and fall asleep quicker at night, nap during your afternoon dip in energy and limit your nap to a maximum of 90 minutes (the length of a full sleep cycle). This should give you enough time to build up sleep pressure, and therefore sleepiness, by bedtime.
Check RISE for the timing of your afternoon dip each day.
You can find out more about the best nap length here.
Physical activity has been shown to shorten how long it takes you to fall asleep. One study found people had a “significant decrease in sleep onset latency” after doing moderate aerobic exercise during the day. Exercise also helped cut down how long they were awake for during the night and made them feel more rested during the morning.
But exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect and keep you up long into the night. So, prioritize a workout during the day, but avoid intense exercise (and the bright light that often comes with it) within an hour of going to sleep.
If you do want to get in some movement before bed, opt for a gentle yoga session, which can neutralize stress and calm the nervous system. Just be sure to keep the lights low.
We’ve covered more on the best time to work out here. RISE can tell you when you should be avoiding workouts exactly.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late workouts reminder.
Just as bright light, exercise, and caffeine too close to bedtime can keep you up, so too can large meals.
They can not only cause digestive problems that make it hard to drift off, eating can change the timing of your circadian rhythm, pushing back your sleep cycle.
Research shows eating high-calorie foods 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed can increase your sleep latency.
As a general rule, aim to be done with dinner two to three hours before bed. RISE can tell you the exact time you should have your last meal each day.
To learn more, we’ve covered what time you should stop eating before bed here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late meals reminder.
Anxiety can make it hard to drift off as your body’s in fight-or-flight mode. You may end up ruminating, or going over your problems again and again, late into the night.
There are a few ways you can sleep with anxiety though:
We’ve covered how to sleep with anxiety here.
If you want to learn how to fall asleep faster, the best thing you can do is practice good sleep hygiene and time these habits to your circadian rhythm to make them even more effective. When you time your light exposure just right, take time to wind down, and go to bed during your Melatonin Window, you’ll do more than set yourself up for a quick and smooth transition into sleep. You’ll also give yourself the best shot at having a full night of restorative sleep that will help energize your day.
The RISE app will give you a clear picture of your circadian rhythm, so you’ll always know the exact timing of your Melatonin Window. It also reminds you when to do 20+ sleep-friendly habits and has guided relaxation exercises to help you doze off with ease.
If you fall asleep immediately, it’s a sign you’re sleep deprived. The average time it takes to fall asleep is 15 to 20 minutes. To fall asleep faster, improve your sleep hygiene habits like getting light in the mornings and avoiding light, caffeine, large meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime.
If you fall asleep in five minutes, you could be sleep deprived. The average time it takes to fall asleep is 15 to 20 minutes. To fall asleep faster, improve your sleep hygiene habits like getting light in the mornings and avoiding light, caffeine, large meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime.
To fall asleep when you can’t, try relaxation exercises like progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing, do a brain dump, or do a sleep reset, where you get out of bed and do a relaxing low-lit activity until you feel sleepy.
To fall asleep fast with insomnia, improve your sleep hygiene. This includes getting light first thing and avoiding light, caffeine, large meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime. Relaxation exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy have also been shown to help those with insomnia.
The military method to fall asleep involves focusing on one muscle group at a time and trying to relax it. Start with your face, then move down to your chest, your arms, and your legs. Then, try to clear your mind and imagine a relaxing scene for 10 seconds.
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