Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Lying in bed and feeling like you’ll never rest is incredibly frustrating. Try these 6 tips to fall asleep more easily.
If you need to fall asleep quickly, you should just lie back and count sheep for easy, instant rest, right? That folksy method may be a staple of popular culture, but a 2012 study (1) found that participants who used it actually took longer to fall asleep. Participants who instead imagined tranquil scenes, like a sunset, a waterfall, or mountainside fell asleep about 20 minutes faster.
Surprised? We were, too. That’s why we found these six science-backed ways to help you fall asleep.
1. Practice meditation
If you’re stressed about not being able to sleep, meditation may help by reducing cortisol levels (2) so you feel more relaxed. In a 2015 study (3), mindfulness meditation helped improved sleep quality by reducing worry and improving mood.
There are different types of meditation, including mindfulness, visualization, and guided meditation, so you can experiment to see what works best for you. Guided sleep podcasts are an easy way to start.
2. Set a cut-off time for caffeine
Caffeine keeps you awake by stimulating your nervous system, so, naturally, drinking it late in the day won’t help your body slow down for sleep. The stimulant reaches its peak in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes and stays in your system for 6 to 10 hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (4).
Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least six hours before you want to go to sleep. If you don’t, you may lose about an hour of sleep (5).
3. Take melatonin supplements
Your body naturally produces melatonin, which is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland just above the middle part of the brain. It regulates the circadian rhythm clock of your sleep-wake cycle.
Usually, your melatonin levels start to go up after the sun sets, stay elevated most of the night, then drop when the sun rises, signaling you to wake up. Using strong overhead lights in your home at night can block the production of melatonin, making it harder to go to bed.
Taking a melatonin supplement may help you fall asleep faster, along with taking other steps to better sleep. Try taking it 1 to 2 hours before bedtime and plan to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep. It’s not habit-forming, but melatonin can cause drowsiness that may affect balance.
4. Shut off your devices
Not only does using your phone to check the news or to work before bed stimulate your mind (and cause stress), it also exposes you to blue light. Blue light doesn’t actually appear blue, but it’s the wavelength of device screens and LED lights. This bright light is great for the day, but bad for the evening because it tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime and suppresses melatonin production (6).
LED light bulbs also let off blue light. Consider swapping the light bulbs in your bedroom for incandescent bulbs or smart LED bulbs that filter out blue light.
5. Sniff some lavender
Using aromatherapy may help you fall asleep faster. Try putting a few drops of lavender essential oil in a diffuser or sniffing a few drops on a cotton ball. Lavender oil may improve anxiety (7) and has been shown to promote deep sleep (8).
6. Avoid eating big meals late at night
Your body does a better job digesting food when you’re sitting up, not when you’re curled up in bed. If you have issues with acid reflux, lying down at night will make it feel worse, so you should avoid your food trigger, which could include spicy, rich, or fatty foods; citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks. The National Sleep Foundation (9) recommends eating dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to give your stomach enough time to empty itself.
1. Harvey AG, Payne S.The management of unwanted pre-sleep thoughts in insomnia: distraction with imagery versus general distraction. Behav Res Ther. 2002;40(3):267-77.
2. Jacobs TL, Shaver PR, Epel ES. Self-reported mindfulness and cortisol during a Shamatha meditation retreat. Health Psychol. 2013;32(10):1104-9.
3. Black D, O’Reilly GA, Olmstead R, Breen EC, Irwin MR. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances. JAMA Intern Med. 2015:175(4):494-501.
4. Sleep and Caffeine. Sleep Education. Accessed March 9, 2019.View resource
5. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-1200.
6. Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E463-72.
7. Conrad P, Adams C. The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman – a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2012;18(3):164-8.
8. Goal N, Kim H, Lao RP. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int. 2005;22(5):889-904.
9. Foods That Keep You Up At Night. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed March 9, 2019.View resource