How to fall asleep fast

Including the most high-tech machinery and lighting for your best night of sleep ever.

How to fall asleep fast

Sleeping isn’t usually considered a high-tech endeavor. After all, it’s something we do naturally without even having to practice. But there are all kinds of complications affecting sleep, from staring at screens to noisy environments to just the everyday stress of being a human. That means almost all of us can benefit from paying more attention to how we sleep to better take care of our health.

But thinking about sleep can lead to a lot of questions, from the simple to extremely complicated: What can I do for a noisy bedroom? For a dusty bedroom? How can I fall asleep quicker, and stay asleep when I want to? What does my night’s sleep even look like anyway? How can I stop all this dang neck pain?

Luckily, a growing awareness of the importance of sleep has led to some real advances in sleep devices and other products, giving you high-tech ways to improve your shut-eye. From light therapy glasses to sleep trainers to patented pillows, there are countless gadgets and products to address seemingly any sleep-related trouble you may have.

No matter what type of “sleeper” you are—a back sleeper, a side sleeper, a thunderous snorer, a constant tosser. you get the idea—this list has a product likely to improve your nightly 8-hour nap. Get the rest you deserve with the 16 best sleep gadgets and sleep tech products on the market—including winners from the Men’s Health 2021 Sleep Awards.

How to fall asleep fast

If you’re looking for motivation to get more sleep, there are plenty of studies I could point you to, like this recent one showing that insufficient sleep causes toxic gunk to build up in your brain. Or how about this one that found sleep deprivation impacts your performance as much as being drunk. Or this unexpected finding that too little sleep makes you paranoid.

But while the research on the need to get enough sleep is as convincing as it is terrifying, I’m pretty sure that the reason so many busy professionals don’t get the recommended amount of shut-eye isn’t lack of motivation to sleep. Instead, if a newborn baby or a frantic deadline isn’t involved, I suspect psychology is often to blame.

We stay up too late because those dark, quiet hours after both the boss and the kids have quieted down for the night are the only ones that are truly ours. Or we behave and go to bed only to find pandemic stress means our minds are whirring too fast to drift off. A great many of us want to get to bed earlier, it’s just that our bodies and minds fight back against our good intentions.

A new find for my grab bag of sleep solutions

Finally getting to sleep at a reasonable hour will require different interventions depending on your particular circumstances. Which is why I always keep an eye out for tips and tricks to help sleep deprived professionals calm down and actually get the rest they crave, from essential sleep hygiene advice to mind tricks to shut off your whirring brain. Hopefully, if I round up enough of these tips, some combination of them can help every reader improve their sleep at least a little bit.

Today I’d like to add one more idea to this grab bag of better sleep advice that seems particularly well suited to our anxious times. It comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, the director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine via Vogue, and all it requires is a few seconds and a set of lungs.

The trick is known as the “4-7-8 Method,” and while its origins lay in ancient traditions of yoga, Weil says it’s thoroughly scientifically vetted. The simple breathing technique works to calm stress by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest mode.” Here’s all you have to do, according to Vogue:

Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.

Hold your breath for seven seconds.

Exhale for eight seconds, making a “whoosh” sound through pursed lips.

Repeat up to four times.

The 4-7-8 method can be used to kill stress and calm your body any time of the day, not just at bedtime. And the more consistently you use the technique, the better it works. So give it a try and see if this might be the answer to your sleep challenges.

How to fall asleep fast

When heading to bed, people often do a variety of rituals to help them prepare for a restful night’s sleep, such as taking a warm bath or doing nighttime yoga. But what about the time-honored tradition of drinking a cup of warm milk before getting under the covers? Is there any scientific evidence that drinking a tall glass will make you sleepy?

The answer, it turns out, is multifaceted. Milk contains a variety of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, that may promote sleep in different ways. Moreover, if partaking in a warm glass of milk is soothing to you for personal reasons, that can help set the stage for a successful night’s sleep, experts told Live Science.

“[One] reason warm milk makes people sleepy is because it reminds you of the person who was kind enough to give it to you when you were younger,” said Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, board certified sleep specialist in California and author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health” (Dutton Adult, 2006). The calming association may help to lower pre-sleep anxiety, he said.

On the molecular level, the tryptophan in milk has sleep-promoting properties. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid; that means the body can’t produce it, so people have to get it from their diet, according to the National Library of Medicine. Once you ingest tryptophan — by drinking milk or eating foods such as eggs, turkey, fish, soy or peanuts — your body uses it, among other things, to create the brain chemical serotonin which in turn gets converted into the sleep-aiding hormone melatonin.

Melatonin is usually produced by the brain in response to darkness and is involved in the regulation of the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or its 24-hour internal clock, according to a 2017 study in the journal Current Neuropharmacology. Serotonin, on the other hand, is known as the “happy hormone” and is known to induce both sleep and wakefulness, according to a 2002 paper published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.

In theory, eating foods or drinking milk rich in tryptophan can make us feel drowsy, because the body converts it into hormones that enhance sleep. For that same reason, there is a popular myth that eating tryptophan-rich foods, like turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, is the reason people feel drowsy after a big family dinner. But in reality, it would take a lot of tryptophan — way more than is in a glass of milk or a serving of turkey — to make a person feel lethargic.

If you were to drink about 2 gallons (7.6 liters), it might make you feel sleepy, but “you would be pretty sick” from drinking such a high volume of milk, Breus told Live Science. You might even feel nauseous — 2 gallons of whole fat milk is equivalent to more than double the recommended calorie intake for an adult.

Even if a person were to down that much milk, it’s unclear whether the high doses of tryptophan would be enough to make them feel sufficiently sleepy. Milk, after all, contains many other compounds that compete to enter our brain through our blood. Lin Zheng and Mouming Zhao, food scientists at South China University of Technology, agree that the sleep-inducing effect of tryptophan in milk is limited. “Tryptophan has to compete with other large neutral amino acids — like leucine, isoleucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine and valine — to cross the blood-brain barrier to have any effects on sleep,” they told Live Science in an email.

Because tryptophan is one of the least-abundant amino acids in milk, it may be outcompeted by other amino acids when trying to pass the blood-brain barrier.

Zheng and Zhao’s recent research on mice suggests that other compounds in milk could explain why so many people start yawning after a glass of the stuff. In research they co-authored, published online in September 2021 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a component of milk known as casein trypsin hydrolysate (CTH) was shown to have sleep-enhancing effects in mice. Hundreds of peptides — strings of amino acids — can be found in CTH, and some human studies have reported that taking it can improve the ability to fall asleep faster as well as sleep quality, or the ability to sleep with minimal disturbances.

These peptides bind to the GABA-A receptor, a receptor in the brain that helps to suppress nerve signaling and promote sleep, according to the research. “We found that peptides in CTH could significantly prolong the duration of the [sedated] sleep of mice,” Zheng said. The research team gave the mice peptides that are normally released when CTH is digested. One of the peptides, called YPVEPF, was shown to have significant soporific effects. It increased the number of mice that fell asleep quickly by about 25% and the mice’s sleep duration by more than 400% compared with a control group, according to an American Chemical Society statement.

As for the temperature of the milk, there aren’t any studies that suggest milk has to be warm in order for any of its psychological or physiological effects to kick in. When asked, Zheng said that the warmth of the milk may help raise our internal body temperatures up, which in turn increases our blood circulation and helps relax the body. But the compounds in the milk, like the peptides in CTH, bind to GABA-A receptors even if ingested cold.

Besides tryptophan, CTH and soothing associations people may have with drinking a warm cup of milk, other activities, such as doing light exercise before bed, also play a role in the act of falling and staying asleep — so there’s no fast and sure solution for the 1 in 3 of us who struggle to get enough sleep. Different kinds of sleep medication are available, all of which function differently to help us fall and stay asleep. Some suppress the activity in the central nervous system while others block hormones that make us feel awake. “There are well over 30 different [sedatives], each with a unique mechanism of action,” Breus said.

It’s worth trying different techniques, such as avoiding caffeine before bed or turning off your electronic devices that emit blue light known to keep people awake, to help you doze off.

How to fall asleep fast

There are few things more frustrating than spending a night tossing and turning, desperately trying to doze off to sleep.

But if you’re used to lying in bed awake at night, brain whirring at a million miles an hour and unable to get the sweet, sweet slumber you crave, then good news.

There’s a brilliant military technique that is said to help anyone fall asleep in just two minutes – and it might just change your life.

The trick is reportedly used by the US army to help them fall asleep in situations that are less than peaceful, such as on battlefields.

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Detailed in the book Relax and Win: Championship Performance, 1981, the technique is thought to have been developed by army chiefs to ensure soldiers didn’t make life-threatening mistakes due to exhaustion.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Relax the muscles in your face, including tongue, jaw and the muscles around the eyes
  2. Drop your shoulders as far down as they’ll go, followed by your upper and lower arm, one side at a time
  3. Breathe out, relaxing your chest followed by your legs, starting from the thighs and working down
  4. You should then spend 10 seconds trying to clear your mind before thinking about one of the three following images:
  • You’re lying in a canoe on a calm lake with nothing but a clear blue sky above you
  • You’re lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room
  • You say “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” to yourself over and over for about 10 seconds.

The technique is said to work for 96 per cent of people after six weeks of practice.

The NHS currently recommends the average person needs around eight hours of good-quality sleep every night to function properly.

It warns a lack of sleep can make people more prone to a number of medical conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.

With one in three people in the UK suffering from poor sleep, the army trick could provide some sweet relief.

If that doesn’t work, sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley says the most important factor when it comes to falling asleep is quieting your mind.

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“In order to get to sleep you need three things: a bedroom conducive to sleep’ a relaxed body and most importantly a quiet mind. You can’t go to sleep if your mind is racing and so anything you can do to slow it down will help you sleep,” he tells The Independent.

“There is no magic way of doing this, you have to find what works for you, be that reading, a warm bath, camomile tea, mindfulness, aromatherapy or listening to Pink Floyd. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it stops you worrying about the stresses of the day.”

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How to fall asleep fast

W e all have trouble falling asleep from time to time. Who wouldn’t? Our daily hectic schedules, doses of bad news pumped into our homes 24/7, and gadgets that are supposed to help us fall asleep but fall short. In fact, you cannot fall asleep because of high levels of pre-sleep tension.

Those who seem to have the most trouble sleeping are the men and women who serve our country at home and abroad. I am not sure if I could fall asleep in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan.

So how do they fall asleep? The United States Military has recommended this method for falling asleep. As a matter of fact, according to the creator of this method, you will fall asleep in 120 seconds (2 MINUTES). After practicing this method for 6 weeks there is a 96% success rate.

In the book titles, “Relax and Win: Championship Performance”, readers are taught how to improve sports performance and reduce injuries by to relax and release tension before prior to competition.

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How To Practice This Method
The first thing you want to do is clear your mind by doing the following:
  • 1. Relax the muscles in your face, including your tongue, jaw, and the muscles around your eyes.
  • 2. Drop your shoulders as low as they’ll go. Then relax your upper and lower arm on one side, and then the other.
  • 3. Breathe out, and relax your chest.
  • 4. Finally, relax your legs, thighs, and calves in that order.

So now what are you supposed to do once you have done that quiet place in your mind and body? You want to be able to picture in your mind the following three images in order.

First try to imagine you are lying in a canoe on a calm lake, nothing but blue sky above you. Soak in that sensation for a few minutes.

Second picture yourself snuggled in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room. Again don’t rush away from this image hold it as long as possible

Finally say to yourself “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” over and over for ten seconds.
After six weeks of practice, you should be falling asleep in about 2 minutes tops.

Remember To Use The Following Sleep Hygiene Practices:
Reduce Caffeine Intake

Caffeine disturbs sleep, even in people who don’t think caffeine affects them. People who have trouble sleeping are often more sensitive to mild stimulants than normal sleepers are. Caffeine is found in items such as coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and many over-the-counter medications.

Sleep is not a waste of your time so don’t skip on a full night sleep

Taking the time to sleep can seem frustrating when you have a very busy life; however, it is exactly what you need in order to support the biological process that your brain requires to maintain optimal performance. Did you know that staying awake for 17 hours or more is actually like being under the influence of alcohol? If you don’t sleep enough, your brain will not operate at top speed the next day. Sleep is also important to improve memory and regulate hormones.

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Take the TV or computer out of your room

Having distractions in your room can make it difficult for you to wind down and get restful sleep. Anything that is going to stimulate your brain or distract you while going to bed is causing you to lose sleep. It is important to associate your bedroom with sleep rather than a place to eat and watch TV. Try to make it a place that you know you can go to get restful and uninterrupted or distracted sleep.

When you’re tired go to bed

It’s difficult to stop that movie or put down that book when you start getting tired. Going to bed when you’re not tired can also be an issue. Going to bed too early can be frustrating or make it difficult to shut off your mind. Not going to bed when your body is telling you its tired can cause you to not get enough sleep.

Practice a good bedtime routine

Practicing a good bedtime routine can help your body to start to wind down and help you get restful sleep. Allow yourself at least an hour before bedtime to unwind. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities such as doing work, cleaning, or discussing emotional issues. Practicing good hygiene before bed is also helpful. Brushing your teeth and flossing, washing your face, or taking a hot bath or shower can help you wind down.

The bottom line when it comes to getting restful sleep is doing what works for you. There is no magical formula other than listening to your body.

Waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep are among the most common symptoms of insomnia. We talked to a sleep medicine specialist about what we can do to get back to sleep and get a good night’s rest.

You follow a normal night-time routine. You limit caffeine in the afternoon. You're getting good exercise and even began a meditation practice. You feel like you're doing everything right. You fall asleep easily, but you wake up in the middle of the night and you're wide awake. Sound familiar? You're not alone. An estimated 20% of Americans deal with this frustrating issue. So, how exactly can you combat this to get back to sleeping soundly? We talked to sleep medicine specialist, Scott Leibowitz, M.D., DABSM, FAASM, who helped explain why this happens, plus gave us his top five tips for falling back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.

What’s causing you to wake up in the first place?

According to Dr. Leibowitz, waking up during the night is normal. He says most people will wake up a few times during the night, but generally have no recollection of waking and are able to easily fall back asleep. However, there are times when we wake up and have trouble going back to sleep. When that happens, Dr. Leibowitz says that it is most often due to a loss of sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is the state of transition between sleep and wake. Think of those moments when you first wake up… you're confused, slow to move and want to go back to sleep. That is sleep inertia at work. When sleep inertia doesn't work, you lose the ability to fall back asleep easily. So if loss of sleep inertia is what keeps us awake in the middle of the night, how do we get it back?! Let's start by identifying common culprits that have a negative impact on sleep inertia

Medical conditions

It's always important to rule out a medical condition if you are having sleep-related issues. Sleep apnea and sleep related movement disorders can cause you to wake up and have trouble falling back asleep. Some medications can contribute to disrupted sleep as well, so it's important to make an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out any medical or prescription-related issues.

Worrisome thoughts

Consider what's on your mind when you wake up in the middle of the night. Anxiety and trouble sleeping are closely tied together. By using techniques to deal with stress and anxiety before you lay down, you allow your brain to deal with your worries while you should be awake instead of allowing them to keep you up when you need to rest. Here are some ways to start reducing anxiety and improve sleep.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a double-edge sword. It helps you to fall asleep initially but as your body begins metabolizing it, sleep becomes disrupted and fragmented which leads to middle of the night awakenings. If you're encountering sleep-related issues, it's best to limit or eliminate alcohol. (Here's exactly what happens to your body when you do quit drinking).

Environment

Think about your bedroom. Is it a restful environment? Environmental issues can be a major component of prolonged awakenings. Factors such as: a room that's too warm, sleeping with the television on, a partner's snoring or uncomfortable pillows or mattresses can all be a part of the problem.

Going to bed too early

This sounds counterintuitive, right? You often hear people say, "Go to bed early to get a good night's sleep!" And many sleep-hygiene regimens would suggest that you set a regular bed time. But there is a problem with those recommendations: they don't take into consideration how much sleep each individual actually needs.

Dr. Leibowitz explains, "My initial recommendation to 95% of the patients I evaluate with this problem is to push their bedtimes later, which helps to eliminate middle of the night awakenings. Contrary to popular belief, going to bed early in order to get a 'good night's sleep,' will more often than not cause a worse night's sleep."

Every human has a clock in their brain which controls and regulates sleep. This biological clock is unique to each individual person and it's something that we can't choose. Unfortunately, most of us also can't choose every aspect of our daily schedule: school and work all start at specific times, so we have to find ways to manage our schedules and our body's preferred sleep schedule.

What is a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT)?

The multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is a diagnostic tool that measures the time it takes an individual to fall asleep in ideal quiet conditions during the day. It objectively measures daytime sleepiness. Colloquially known as the daytime nap study, MSLT is also a standard tool used to diagnose idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy.

The multiple sleep latency test takes a full day to complete, which includes four to five 20-minute naps scheduled throughout the day with two-hour breaks in between.

The MSLT is based on the fact that the more tired you are, the faster you will fall asleep. In addition to assessing for narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia, MSLT is used to determine whether the treatments being used for sleep breathing disorders, such as CPAP for sleep apnea, are working.

How to fall asleep fast

Once the lights are out, the test will measure the length of time it takes for you to fall asleep. You will be awoken by the technologist 15 minutes later. The nap trial will end if 20 minutes pass and you have not fallen asleep. Each of the four or five naps are taken with a series of sensors that will determine if you have fallen asleep. These sensors, consequently, also determine the sleep stages, as part of the MSLT is to look at brain patterns and REM sleep, which can be used to determine sleep problems. During the test, your brain waves, muscle activity, and eye movements are also closely monitored and recorded.

Scores, while difficult to calculate, are relatively easy to understand:

0-5 indicates severe sleepiness

5-10 indicates sleepiness is troublesome

10-15 indicates sleepiness is manageable

15-20 indicates that sleepiness is not much of a problem

Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause a multitude of problems, especially during a work or school day when you should be alert. The MSLT is usually recommended if hypersomnia or narcolepsy are suspected. In these cases, the person can fall asleep even in the loudest or brightest of environments. The typical procedure of the test, which takes approximately seven hours to complete, is reviewed with the individual beforehand. The most important preparation is that they must avoid all caffeine and stimulants before the start of the study.

Generally, the multiple latency sleep test is performed after an overnight sleep study. The first nap of the study is done 1.5 to 3 hours after you wake up from this study and about an hour after a light breakfast. After the sensors are placed and connected to the computer, you are asked to lie still in the dark, quiet room and attempt to fall asleep. The sensors will indicate to the technologist whether or not you have entered the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep.

It will take approximately one to two weeks to get the results of the study.

The results are read by a sleep specialist, a neurologist, or a clinical neurophysiologist and are sent to the ordering physician (generally, the primary care physician).

How much does an MSLT cost?

The price of an MSLT varies from sleep center to sleep center. Hospital-based tests generally cost more than free-standing, non-hospital sleep center tests. The price for an MSLT can range from $600 – $2200.