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How can you fall asleep fast?

Don’t you wish there was a quick and easy trick for falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow? Unfortunately, for many of us it is not that simple. So, is there a secret trick for how to fall asleep fast? Well, sleep is an automatic process, like breathing. In order to fall asleep fast, there are three physiological systems that need to be perfectly aligned.

First, you need to be sleepy. The longer you are awake during the day, the more “sleep drive” builds up in the brain. If you have a long nap in the afternoon or evening, it may be a little more difficult to fall asleep fast.

Your biological clock has to be synchronized with your bed time. So, if you’re a bit of a night-owl it will be easier to fall asleep fast if you go to bed on the later side.

Your mind needs to be very calm and your body relaxed! If you are feeling stressed about your day or anxious about falling asleep, your Fight or Flight system may get activated…making falling asleep fast darn near impossible!

The above three systems need to be fully functional in order to ensure you fall asleep fast! While it may sound ironic, reminding yourself that you cannot force yourself to fall asleep is the first step in falling asleep fast. There are several things that you can do to improve the odds of falling asleep quickly and getting healthy sleep throughout the night.

  • Try not to crawl into bed until you’re feeling sleepy. You want to train your mind that it is okay to fall asleep as soon as you crawl into bed!
  • If you rarely feel sleepy, make sure you have an evening “wind-down” time that starts at least an hour before you plan to sleep. During this wind-down time, try to engage in activities that are calming for the mind and relaxing for the body.
  • Try not to nap during the afternoon. This includes dozing in those late evening hours! Napping or dozing reduces your “sleepiness” and can affect the strength of your body’s drive for sleep when you crawl into bed.
  • Get up at the same time every single day. While it may not sound intuitive, getting up at the same time every day strengthens your biological clock making it more likely you’ll be getting sleepy around the same time each night.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine can be great to wake you up in the morning but it can block your body’s natural sleep drive at night.
  • Don’t go to bed if you’re really hungry BUT don’t eat a huge meal right before bed either. Both can affect your ability to fall asleep quickly.
  • Make sure you create the “ideal context” for sleep. This generally means having a sleep environment that is quiet, safe, comfortable, dark and cool in temperature.

SleepRate can retrain your sleep system and help you learn how to fall asleep fast. The SleepRate sleep improvement program measures your sleep for a week to get a baseline sleep assessment. SleepRate will then customize a sleep improvement program to help you reach your sleep improvement goals. Using a sophisticated algorithm based on heart rate variability, SleepRate will determine exactly how long it takes you to fall asleep every night. It will then guide you through a step-by-step program where you, and your brain, learn techniques that enable you to fall asleep fast. The sleep improvement program, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi), was developed at the Stanford University Sleep Clinic and adapted by SleepRate for use on a mobile platform.

Dr. Blair is a licensed clinical psychologist and is board certified in behavioral sleep medicine. Dr. Blair is on the adjunct faculty at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. She has a private practice in Palo Alto and San Francisco, where she works with individuals and couples with sleep complaints.

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