- Trouble falling asleep: lying in bed for more than 30 minutes without being able to fall asleep
- Trouble staying asleep: waking up frequently during the night
- Early morning waking: waking in the early hours of the morning before you need to get up but not being able to fall back asleep
- Behaviours that interfere with sleep: such as snoring, grinding your teeth, restless legs, sleep walking and breathing problems
- Sleeping too much or for too long
- Excessive sleepiness or urge to nap during the day
- Excessive fatigue or lack of energy
The fastest way to sleep?
Spending more time trying to fall asleep rather than actually sleeping? You’re not alone.
Just the act of trying too hard can cause (or continue) a cycle of anxious, nerve-wracking energy that keeps our minds awake.
And if your mind can’t sleep, it’s really difficult for your body to follow. But there are scientific tricks you can try to flip the switch and guide your body into a safe shutdown mode.
We cover some science-based tricks to help you fall asleep faster.
How to sleep in 10 seconds
It usually takes a magic spell to fall asleep this quickly and on cue, but just like spells, with practice you can eventually get to the sweet 10-second spot.
Note: The method below takes a full 120 seconds to finish, but the last 10 seconds is said to be truly all it takes to finally snooze.
The military method
The popular military method, which was first reported by Sharon Ackerman, comes from a book titled “Relax and Win: Championship Performance.”
According to Ackerman, the United States Navy Pre-Flight School created a routine to help pilots fall asleep in 2 minutes or less. It took pilots about 6 weeks of practice, but it worked — even after drinking coffee and with gunfire noises in the background.
This practice is said to even work for people who need to sleep sitting up!
The military method
Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.
Exhale, relaxing your chest.
Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.
If this doesn’t work, try saying the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds.
Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep!
If this doesn’t work for you, you may need to work on the foundations of the military method: breathing and muscle relaxation, which have some scientific evidence that they work. Also, some conditions such as ADHD or anxiety may interfere with this method’s effectiveness.
Keep reading to learn about the techniques this military method is based on and how to practice them effectively.
How to sleep in 60 seconds
These two methods, which focus on your breathe or muscles, help you take your mind off topic and back to bed.
If you’re a beginner trying these hacks out, these methods may take up to 2 minutes to work.
4-7-8 breathing method
Mixing together the powers of meditation and visualization, this breathing method becomes more effective with practice. If you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or COPD, consider checking with your doctor before beginning, as this could aggravate your symptoms.
To prepare, place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind your two front teeth. Keep your tongue there the whole time and purse your lips if you need to.
How to do one cycle of 4-7-8 breathing:
Let your lips part slightly and make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth.
Then close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.
Then hold your breath for 7 seconds.
After, exhale (with a whoosh sound) for 8 seconds.
Avoid being too alert at the end of each cycle. Try to practice it mindlessly.
Complete this cycle for four full breaths. Let your body sleep if you feel relaxation coming on earlier than anticipated.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation, also known as deep muscle relaxation, helps you unwind.
The premise is to tense — but not strain — your muscles and relax to release the tension. This movement promotes tranquility throughout your body. It’s a trick recommended to help with insomnia.
Before you start, try practicing the 4-7-8 method while imagining the tension leaving your body as you exhale.
Raise your eyebrows as high as possible for 5 seconds. This will tighten your forehead muscles.
Relax your muscles immediately and feel the tension drop. Wait 10 seconds.
Smile widely to create tension in your cheeks. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax.
Pause 10 seconds.
Squint with your eyes shut. Hold 5 seconds. Relax.
Pause 10 seconds.
Tilt your head slightly back so you’re comfortably looking at the ceiling. Hold 5 seconds. Relax as your neck sinks back into the pillow.
Pause 10 seconds.
Keep moving down the rest of the body, from your triceps to chest, thighs to feet.
Let yourself fall asleep, even if you don’t finish tensing and relaxing the rest of your body.
As you do this, focus on how relaxed and heavy your body feels when it’s relaxed and in a comfortable state.
How to fall asleep in 120 seconds
If the previous methods still didn’t work, there might be an underlying blockage you need to get out. Try these techniques!
Tell yourself to stay awake
Also called paradoxical intention, telling yourself to stay awake may be a good way to fall asleep faster.
For people — especially those with insomnia — trying to sleep can increase performance anxiety.
Research has found that people who practiced paradoxical intention fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. If you often find yourself stressed out about trying to sleep, this method may be more effective than traditional, intentional breathing practices.
How much sleep do children need?
The amount of sleep we need changes with age. As a guide, children need the following amounts of good quality sleep, including naps.
Age of Child
Infants 0 – 3 months 14 to 17 hours
Infants 4 – 11 months 12 to 16 hours
Toddlers 12 – 24 months 11 to 14 hours
Pre-schoolers 3 – 5 years 10 to 13 hours (many children stop napping by this age)
Tips to help children sleep well
Create a sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – even on the weekend.
Set up a bedtime routine to follow every day. For example, bath, change into pyjamas, brush teeth, read or spend quiet time in their bedroom, lights out and go to sleep.
Relax before bedtime. Consider playing soft music or reading to them.
Make sure the bedroom is quiet and dark or dimly lit.
If your child is anxious or afraid at night, use a night light.
Keep screens outside of the bedroom. Turn off screens one hour before bedtime.
Create time for children to get outdoors and be active during the day.
Limit caffeine, such as cola or chocolate, especially in the afternoon.
Have a regular meal routine. Try to plan dinner so it is not too close to bedtime and start the day with a nourishing breakfast.
Your behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep. They can promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleeplessness.
Your daily routines – what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evenings – can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night.
The term sleep hygiene refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits can help improve your sleep health. When people struggle with insomnia, sleep hygiene is an important part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the most effective long-term treatment for people with chronic insomnia. CBT for insomnia can help you address the thoughts and behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well. It also includes techniques for stress reduction, relaxation and sleep schedule management.
If you have difficulty sleeping or want to improve your sleep, try following these healthy sleep habits. Talk to your medical provider if your sleep problem persists. You also can seek help from the sleep team at an AASM accredited sleep center.
Quick sleep tips
Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:
Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go do a quiet activity without a lot of light exposure. It is especially important to not get on electronics.
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Sleep Tips for Aging
Adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger.
There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. Some medicines can keep you awake. No matter the reason, if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day you may:
Have memory problems or be forgetful
Have more falls or accidents
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep infographic icon.
Read and share this infographic to get tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Being older doesn’t mean you have to be tired all the time. You can do many things to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some ideas:
Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, if you can. Naps may keep you awake at night.
Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. And alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake.
Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
Use low lighting in the evenings and as you prepare for bed.
Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime—they can keep you awake.
Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.
Remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.
Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment. Experts claim there’s a strong association in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom.
However, certain things weaken that association, such as TVs and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress or bed.
Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex (or masturbation). Unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years.
Your bedroom ideally needs to be dark, quiet, tidy and be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C.
Fit some thick curtains if you do not have any. If you’re disturbed by noise, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, use earplugs to have a relaxing environment.
⦿ Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. Consider the comfort of
your bed, the air temperature, and levels of noise and light.
Minimize interference with your sleep by bed partner, children, or
⦿ Caffeine is a stimulant and should be discontinued six hours before
bedtime. Know the foods, drinks and medications that contain
⦿ Nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided near bedtime.
⦿ Alcohol is a depressant, although it may help you get to sleep, it
causes awakenings later in the night. Do not drink alcohol later
than four hours prior to bedtime.
⦿ Sleeping pills alter the quality of sleep, and if used for several
weeks or months will cause disturbed sleep when discontinued.
⦿ A light snack may be sleep inducing, but a heavy meal close to
bedtime interferes with sleep. Avoid consuming chocolate, large
amounts of sugar, and excessive fluids close to bedtime.
⦿ Do not exercise vigorously within three to four hours of bedtime.
Regular exercise in the late afternoon may deepen sleep.
⦿ Take time to wind down in the evening prior to going to bed.
⦿ Have a regular bedtime and rise time, even on weekends.
⦿ If you can’t sleep, get out of bed, go to another room and do a
quiet activity until you are sleepy.
Your bedroom should feel like a sleep oasis — stress and distraction-free. While creating the right environment is, to a certain extent, a matter of personal preference, sleep experts offer these sleep hygiene suggestions that are backed by science.
- The ideal room for sleep is cool and dark. Most experts agree that the sweet spot for temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 73% of Americans say the darker the room the better. 65% of people use shades, curtains, or blinds to block unwanted light.
- Peace and quiet make for bedroom bliss. 74% percent of Americans think that quiet is crucial for getting good sleep. That said, many people rely on “white noise” or some type of ambient sound to help mask disruptive noises like car horns or highway traffic. You can also use a fan (which will do double duty, keeping your room cool) or try one of the many soothing sleepcasts or some sleep music from the Sleep experience in the Headspace app. Sleepcasts run about 45 minutes and can help create a relaxing, peaceful environment for sleep. Help create an environment that’s conducive for a restful night’s sleep — sign up and start using the Headspace app.
- Choose the bedding (and sleep position) that’s best for you. A comfortable mattress and pillows are essential for good sleep, but whether they’re soft or firm is up to you. The pillow you choose may depend on your preferred sleep position. If you’re a side sleeper (as most people are), your pillow should comfortably support your head, neck, and ear as well as your shoulder. People who sleep on their backs should consider a thinner pillow to limit stress on the neck.
- Declutter your bedroom. If your bed feels dreamy but your room is a mess, you could be at a higher risk for sleep problems. A study presented at the June 2015 SLEEP conference in Seattle suggests that those surrounded by clutter were more likely to have a sleep disorder. What your eyes see when you walk into a room can influence whether or not you’ll have an easy time falling asleep. So, as many of our parents used to say, clean up your room!
- Pick the perfect pillow for you. Pillow fill is important to consider if you suffer from allergies. Fills vary from natural choices like feathers to synthetics like rayon, foam, or latex. Look for pillows that are hypoallergenic to lessen the chance of nighttime congestion and sniffles that can keep you awake.
Take a warm bath prior to but not immediately before bedtime
Warming your body through showers or baths an hour or two before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Our body functions in a way where initially a higher body temperature (especially in the arms and feet) allows the sleep cycle to kick in, and 2 hours into the sleep phase, the body’s core temperature drops. This process of temperature regulation is important to stay asleep—it is during this time that the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin circulates in higher concentrations.
Some habits that can improve your sleep health:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.