How To Fall Asleep Fast

photo of a woman in bed at night using her mobile phone

Are you reading this article in bed because you just can’t sleep tonight? Have you had a run of sleepless nights and need some tips to improve your sleep in general?

I’ve suffered from periods of insomnia for many years, so I know how frustrating and draining it is to lie awake for hours on end, night after night.

I also know what helps me personally, having tried everything under the sun (and moon!) to help me sleep better over the years.

In this article, you’ll find some practical techniques to help you fall asleep faster tonight. I’ll also suggest ways to approach sleep during the daytime that you might like to consider trying in the future.


  1. If you’re in bed now and can’t sleep
  2. Tips to help you fall asleep faster tonight
  3. Ways to improve your sleep in general

If you’re in bed now and can’t sleep

photo of a man lying awake in bed using their mobile phone

If you’re reading this on your phone or tablet in bed, it’s probably not the best time to recommend changing your sleep schedule or doing exercise!

Having said that, if your gut feeling is that you should get up and go for a walk to shake the frustration and try to fall asleep again later, then go for it.

Sometimes it can be helpful to have a restart if you’ve been lying in bed for a while. I also find it helps cool the bed a bit if you get up for 10-15 minutes, especially in the summer or if you have a warm memory foam mattress.

If it’s 3 a.m. and that sounds like a ridiculous idea, here are some simple and practical techniques you could try.

mini infographic with five key tips to help you fall asleep right now
  1. First, take a deep breath and tell yourself you’re not going to stress about being awake. Easier said than done, I know, but give it a go.
  2. Are you using your phone or tablet? In the settings, turn on the blue light filter or night mode if you’re going to continue using it. Ideally, turn off any visual electronic devices and focus on sleep once you’re finished with this article.
  3. Do you feel too hot or too cold? Take a minute to adjust or change your bedding if it doesn’t feel right. Perhaps open a window, turn on the air conditioning, fan or heating to make yourself comfortable.
  4. Have you been in bed for a long time trying to sleep? If so, get up for 10 minutes. Sit in another room with dim lighting, read a book, or do a quiet activity you find relaxing.
  5. Are you feeling sweaty, hot, or uncomfortable? Have a quick shower or wash in low lighting.
  6. Go back to bed (or stay in bed) and do the relaxation exercise below until you fall asleep.

A relaxation exercise to do in bed

  • Lie on your back with your arms by your side.
  • Take a minute to focus on your breathing.
  • Don’t try to change it for a minute – just notice how it is.
  • Now breathe slowly through your nose for a slow count of four.
  • Hold for a count of two seconds.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth for a count of four.
  • Repeat until you fall asleep or can’t focus on it any longer.
  • If four seconds is uncomfortable for the inhale or exhale, it’s okay to change the timing. The important point is that you focus on your breathing, and try to breathe slowly and calmly.

Tips to help you fall asleep faster tonight

photo of a woman sleeping in bed

If you’re worried about sleeping well later tonight, there are some positive steps you can take during the daytime to improve your chances of sleeping better later.

1. Be active during the day

  • Do some exercise. Even going for a walk or doing some stretching can help. It might be best to avoid very intense exercise close to bedtime though, unless you have no other free time to do it.
  • Spend some time outside in the sunlight, especially in the morning or early afternoon if possible. This is helpful as your internal body clock is influenced by the natural daily cycle of light and dark.

2. Food and drink

  • Avoid caffeine or energy drinks in the afternoon.
  • Don’t eat a heavy, fatty, spicy, or sugary meal late in the evening. Keep the evening meal lighter and healthy if possible, especially if you sometimes find that you lie in bed with digestion problems.
  • Don’t drink alcohol late in the evening. If you do, keep it in moderation and drink water too.
  • If you’re hungry before bed, only have a light snack.

3. Relax before going to bed

  • Dedicate 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed to unwind.
  • Stop working or checking emails at least an hour before bed.
  • Write a to-do list for tomorrow if your mind is full of plans and worries.
  • Don’t do anything stressful or have upsetting conversations shortly before, or once in bed.
  • Turn the lights down, and do something relaxing. For example: read a book, write, draw, do yoga, meditate, talk or play with family, friends or pets.
  • Avoid using screens before bed. Turn off the TV, mobile phone, tablet, or computer at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • If you can’t put your phone or tablet aside, use a blue light filter.
  • Have a relaxing bath or shower.
activities for sleep mini infographic

4. Prepare your bedroom and bed

  • Only use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Relax in another room before going to bed.
  • The ideal bedroom temperature for adults is approximately 66 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 21 degrees Celsius). Infants and older adults may need a slightly warmer room temperature though. Try to create that temperature with the heating, windows, fan, and appropriate bedding for the season.
  • Make sure the bedroom isn’t stuffy. Unless it’s freezing outside, opening a window to let fresh air in can help.
  • Use clean sheets and covers.
  • Is it noisy? Ask others in your household to be quieter. Try to block as much sound as possible with earplugs, headphones, white noise, or music. For more ideas, check out all my other tips to reduce noise in bed.
  • Is it dark enough? Turn off all lights and try to completely cover the windows. Consider getting blackout blinds.

5. Enjoy the calmness and coziness of the bed

  • Remember that it’s normal to take 10 to 30 minutes to fall asleep, so don’t stress out if you take a while to drop off.
  • Stay calm and enjoy the cozy, warm and safe feeling of being in bed. This is a space that you should feel happy to be in at the end of a long day, and it might help to focus on the warmth and snug feeling instead of worrying about falling asleep.
  • If you tend to have a busy mind when you go to bed, try doing a relaxation technique in bed until you feel sleepy.
  • There are some excellent guided meditation apps you can listen to before going to bed, or even when you’re in bed. I recommend checking out Headspace, Let’s Meditate, or Calm.

Ways to improve your sleep in general

In my experience, there’s no magic technique guaranteed to make anyone fall asleep quickly on any given night. Even strong sleeping pills don’t work equally for everyone.

However, it certainly helps to understand which health and lifestyle choices can affect your sleep. And how your bedroom environment, attitude and approach to sleep, and daily routine all play a key role.

If you’re reading this section, I imagine you’ve probably had more than your fair share of sleep problems. It’s frustrating, and I can understand if you spend a lot of time wondering why you suffer from bad sleep when others seem to be able to fall asleep anywhere, any time.

I recommend reading through the previous sections if you haven’t already, as there are some practical steps that I won’t be repeating here. In addition to those techniques, there are some other long-term approaches to sleep that are worth considering.

photo of a woman sleeping on the grass in a park

1. Consult your personal physician or doctor

If you often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you should consult your doctor.

People sometimes think sleep is less important than illness or injury, and not something to bother their doctor about. Sleep deprivation can have negative consequences though, so it’s important to address ongoing sleep problems and any underlying conditions.

Furthermore, there are dozens of different sleep disorders beyond the typical ones most people know like insomnia, snoring, or apnea. So although you might label your problem insomnia, your specific symptoms may need further investigation.

Many different physical and mental health conditions, as well as medications, are associated with sleep problems. Your doctor can help work out if there’s a connection and treat the condition.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown in clinical trials to be as or more effective than sleeping pills.

For that reason, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that doctors offer CBT before hypnotic medication.

And in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service also suggests that CBT can help people with insomnia.

CBT for insomnia usually involves several components, such as:

  • Stimulus control (e.g. only using the bedroom for sleep).
  • Sleep restriction (e.g. not spending longer than needed in bed).
  • Cognitive strategies (e.g. replacing fear about not sleeping well with positive feelings).

This is something you can speak to your doctor about. There are also online CBT courses you could consider.

3. Tackle stress and anxiety during the day

For many people, the normal stresses of life can cause both short-term and long-term sleep problems.

Even if you don’t have chronic insomnia or another sleep disorder, it’s normal for sleep to be affected when life is particularly challenging. And major life events and changes can be stressful times.

Relationship difficulties, a new job, bereavement, moving home, exams, financial trouble, family worries, sickness – these are just a few examples of major life stressors.

In my personal experience, it’s helpful to do simple relaxation exercises in bed. It’s even better to tackle anxiety and stress during the day on an ongoing basis.

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Try self-help, such as mindfulness.
  • Ask your doctor for a referral to a counseling service.
  • Stay physically and mentally active.
  • Use your support network – talk to family and friends about how you feel.
  • Take some ‘me time’ a couple of nights a week to do activities you enjoy.
  • Help others, such as through volunteering. The NHS has an interesting article about how helping others improves our own mood.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits and addictions, like alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs.
  • Develop better time management skills if it’s an issue for you.
  • Do yoga, meditation, Chi Kung, Tai Chi, or another relaxing exercise. If you enjoy group classes, you might be able to find one locally. If not, watch online videos, get a book, listen to podcasts, or use an app. These are all good sources of lessons and discussions around exercises that can promote relaxation and support good mental health.

4. Be consistent with good sleep habits

You may have already heard some of the standard advice about good sleep habits. It’s often called sleep hygiene and refers to behavior that helps or hinders sleep.

Here are some of my personal favorites, which I know from experience help me fall asleep faster in general:

Good sleep habits

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time every day, which is easier to control than when you fall asleep.
  • Avoid naps or siestas in the daytime.
  • Create a bedtime ritual that’s calm, free from bright light and screens, and makes you feel positive and less stressed.
  • Invest in your bedroom and bedding. Use the most comfortable mattress, covers, and bedding that you can reasonably afford.
  • Make your bedroom a clean, calm, airy cool, and dark space to be.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing for 10, then try again. Avoid suffering in silent darkness for hours on end.
  • Try to tire yourself out both mentally and physically every day. If you notice you sleep badly after a lazy Sunday of binge watching an awesome series on Netflix with a giant bowl of popcorn and a bottle of wine, maybe it’s time to add in a little extra energy expenditure even on your day of rest, fun or recovery. This tip was a key discovery for me personally. It really helps to avoid the habit of only exercising during the week.

5. Have reasonable expectations of how long it takes to fall asleep

The title of this article raises an important point: how long should it take you to fall asleep anyway?

According to, it’s normal to take 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you drift off the minute your head hits the pillow, it might be a sign that you’re sleep deprived.

I can appreciate that 20 minutes of lying awake in the darkness can seem like a very long time, especially with an overactive mind. So it’s helpful to remind yourself that it’s normal to stay awake for a while. Try not to get into a vicious circle of worrying about falling asleep, and do what you can to relax.

graphic saying: 10 to 20 minutes is how long it takes most people to fall asleep

6. Don’t just rely on sleep tracker data

Sleep trackers can provide interesting insights, but there’s a potential downside to relying on them too much.

Researchers have found that people don’t always interpret the data correctly or get caught out by inaccuracies. That, in turn, causes anxiety about their sleep.

If you use a sleep tracker, try to keep in mind that they aren’t perfect and nd that sometimes the data can give a worse impression of your sleep than the reality.

It’s important to assess how you actually feel and track your sleep consciously. If you wake up feeling okay, that’s all that really matters.

But if you regularly wake up feeling lethargic and tired, and struggle through the day, then it’s something to raise with your doctor.

Your views and ideas

Do you have trouble sleeping? How long does it normally take you? What helps you fall asleep quicker, or does nothing seem to work?

Leave a comment below!

16 thoughts on “How To Fall Asleep Fast”

  1. Hi Ethan,

    This website is a treasure trove of information and just really good advice. I’ve had trouble with sleep since I was a little girl. I cannot recall a time when I didn’t need something to help me sleep. What finally helped initially was finding meditation audio podcasts to relax me. (Tara Brach was my go-to for a long time.) I’m currently trying to adjust what I take at night to all but assure I get some good rest. I just got my GABA powder in the mail today and will hopefully replace the benadryl that I’ve been taking with melatonin for at least 8 years. The benadryl works pretty well but my sinuses are so dried out, it’s time to find a better alternative.

    Thank you for hosting such a helpful website! Elizabeth

    1. Hi Elizabeth
      You’re very welcome, and thanks to you too for the positive words.
      Yes, taking Benadryl, or any antihistamine, for sleep for years will likely have consequences.
      Have you tried a podcast called GetSleepy? I really like that one!

  2. Hi Ethan.
    I have a problem with sleeping due to anxiety and fear. Whenever I manage to fall asleep for a few minutes, I’ll suddenly wake up with my heart pounding. I rarely sleep at all throughout for the past few days.
    It is really affecting my mental health. Please help me.

    1. Hi Talatu
      I can understand how difficult this is. Do you know what is causing fear and anxiety? If it’s an ongoing issue, it’s something to discuss with a medical professional. It might also help to do some self-help work, for example trying mindfulness techniques, which you can learn online, through a book or phone App even.

  3. It’s rare to sleep uninterupted for 7-9 hours…Wouldn’t it still be OK if your total sleep adds up to 7-9 hours?? I wake up at least twice during the night…(

    1. Hi Martin
      That’s right I think. In fact, there are some experts that argue that it’s fine to have quite a long wake up in the night, and sleep in 2 or 3 phases. As long as you sleep enough each time to go through the different sleep stages, it’s not an issue to wake up at least twice.

  4. These tips are really amazing. One thing I would like to add is one should take a cold shower before going to bed. This will also help you in getting to sleep fast.

    1. Hi David
      Thanks for your comment and compliment about the article. I think having a lukewarm shower can definitely help – though perhaps not in the winter! I definitely find just being clean and fresh when I get into bed makes a difference.

  5. Janet Cummings

    I can not relax. I constantly feel the need to move. I am extremely restless from the waist down & toss and turn for hours on end. I sleep well after 3AM. In the morning Iam so relaxed & comfortable that I can’t seem to get out of bed before 10 or 11 AM. By that time I have spent 12 hrs in bed but only slept fo about 6 and half the day is wasted.

    1. Hi Janet
      Thanks for your comment. Do you get a burning, or itching feeling in your legs when you lie in bed? If so, you might want to do some research into disorders like restless legs syndrome.
      And it is probably the case that you are spending far too long in bed. It’s better to only be in bed for the time you actually need to sleep for to function well, plus a bit more to read, relax etc. Have a look into what’s called sleep restriction therapy, which might give you some food for thought.

  6. I’ve been trying to get to bed around 10-11pm and get up at 7am for the past 2 weeks, but I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I’ll toss and turn all night and it takes a few hours to get to sleep if I manage to sleep at all. I’ll often be awake at different times throughout the night too. Before I was trying to get to bed earlier I was going to bed around 2-3am every night, sometimes even 4am. I would get to sleep in within 10-20mins and I would sleep until I got up with no troubles at all. Last night I didn’t get to sleep until 2am, and I slept perfectly, no restless or broken sleep. I’ve been struggling with deciding if it’s better to try to get to sleep early and probably not sleep well, or just go to bed at 2am and get a really good, but not so long sleep, as I would still need to get up at 7am. I’ve tried a lot of different things to try to help me get to sleep earlier but nothing seems to work. I’ve also been reading about different sleeping disorders and I think I have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

    1. Hi Rebecca
      Thanks for your comment. It’s possible that you have delayed sleep phase disorder, but also possible that you don’t need 8-9 hours sleep to function well. How do you feel when you only get 5 or 6 hours? Can you work fine, feel fine and not be sleepy all day? You could try keeping a sleep diary to assess how much sleep you get and how you feel and function. That way, you can work out how much sleep you really need. If it turns out that you don’t need 9 hours, then there’s little point in going to bed so early, and then getting upset that you’re not falling asleep, as that can cause the kind of stress that will further affect your sleep.

  7. I have night terrors and nightmares a lot and they are keeping me up all night long because they like to see me scared and alone. I’m not sure if I will be able to get sleep tonight. And I am avoiding sleep because of this.

    1. Hi Rachel
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand why you’d be worried about sleep if you regularly have nightmares or night terrors. It’s not a pleasant experience, and can make you feel like going to sleep isn’t the relaxing experience it’s supposed to be.
      I think though, that when you start to avoid sleep because of anxiety about what might happen, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. You could mention this to your doctor to get their advice and support as a good first step. But I’d also look for self-help advice about nightmares, and see if you can start to tackle it that way as well. You can find lots of advice online, including my article about nightmares here.

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