If you’re ever tossed and turned at night trying to fall asleep due to insomnia, you aren’t alone. In fact, about a third of adults worldwide report experiencing insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulties falling or staying asleep.
Normally, people fall asleep within 10 to 30 minutes of laying down and closing their eyes, says Lori Neeleman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Intermountain Healthcare.
But if you feel like you regularly take longer than this, you should consult your doctor who can help determine if you have an underlying condition. However, in most cases, you may just need to improve your sleep hygiene.
1. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day
Going to bed and waking up within the same two-hour window every day will reinforce your circadian rhythm, says Abhinav Singh, MD, medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center.
This will help you feel tired around the same time each night, so you can fall asleep faster.
2. Practice meditation to fight insomnia
Meditation practices can help engage your body’s natural relaxation response, helping you fall asleep quicker and fight insomnia, Singh says.
If you’re new to meditation, try a simple body scan, which brings focused attention to different areas of your body. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by taking two or three deep breaths.
- Bring your attention to your feet, noticing any sensations or tension you’re holding in that part of your body.
- Visualize the tension leaving your body as you exhale.
- Repeat—moving up to your calf muscles, then thighs, and all the way up your body.
3. Try the military method
The military method, a form of visualization, can also help your body relax and get your mind off anxious thoughts that may be keeping you awake and insomnia.
Begin by clearing your mind and relaxing your face muscles. Move down your body relaxing other muscle groups, like your shoulders, chest, arms, and legs. For the next 10 seconds visualize yourself lying in a dark room on a couch or bed.
4. Avoid napping for longer than 45 minutes
Naps lasting longer than 45 minutes, especially if taken in the late afternoon or evening can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep at night. Plus, napping for longer than 45 minutes can result in grogginess when you wake, while shorter naps can help you feel refreshed.
Singh recommends shorter, 15-minute naps between 1 and 3 PM. “[This] can leave you feeling refreshed and in a good mood for the rest of the day, without interfering with your ability to fall asleep at night,” Singh says.
A 2006 study found naps lasting 10 to 20 minutes offered more cognitive benefits than shorter naps of five minutes or longer naps of half an hour.
5. Workout in the morning
Regular exercise helps to manage stress and promotes relaxation, which may make you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.
In particular, morning workouts seem to have the most benefit on sleep. A 2013 study examining the effects of aerobic exercise on sleep found that a half-hour treadmill exercise at 7 AM improved sleep more than the same workout completed at 1 PM or 7 PM.
You don’t have to start your morning with intense exercise either. You can do something as simple as walking or gentle yoga.
6. Cool your room
Your core body temperature decreases slightly while you sleep, and going to bed in a cool room can help facilitate this temperature drop, signaling your body that it is time to sleep, Neeleman says. A room that is too warm can lead to sleep that is more restless and less restorative.
Neeleman recommends setting your thermostat between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, although this can vary by individual, so find a temperature that is most comfortable for you.
7. Try a deep breathing method
Deep breathing where the exhale is longer than the inhale may calm the nervous system, which will help you fall asleep faster. Try listening to this soft and calming music for 5 minutes if you feel anxious or depressed during breathing.
“The key is to slow your breath, filling the lungs to a comfortable degree, and then exhale slowly, like a deep sigh,” says Neeleman. Here are two breathing methods for insomnia patients to try:
- The 4-7-8 method is when you inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold for seven, and then exhale out your mouth for eight.
- Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing). Start by lying on your back and placing one hand on your upper chest and the other on the top of your belly. Breathe in through your nose so that the hand on your belly rises, while keeping the hand on your chest still. Exhale through pursed lips, tightening your stomach muscles.
8. Turn off screens at least an hour before going to bed
Scrolling on your phone or tuning into the evening news can cause insomnia for two reasons:
- Keeps your mind busy. This is especially true if what you are consuming is exciting, like an action film, or upsetting news coverage of a natural disaster.
- Suppresses your body’s melatonin production. The blue light that comes from screens inhibits your body’s ability to produce melatonin and can shift your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by as much as three hours. Melatonin is a hormone your body releases to help induce sleep.
“At least one to two hours prior to bed is when I tell my patients to turn screens off,” Singh says.