by Josh

For practically all my life I’ve had trouble going to sleep. I’m not an insomniac…I just think a lot. I’ll lie in bed thinking about what I want to do tomorrow or what I should have done today or how much I love eating cold pizza or how absurdly messy my desk is….you get the idea. And when I say I have trouble going to sleep…I’m not talking 20 or 30 minutes…I’m talking 2 or 3 hours. Because what will happen is after about 45 minutes to an hour of trying to go to sleep, I start thinking about how I’m not asleep but I should be…and thus the cycle begins.

Now, I may be a bit of an extreme case here, but I know for a fact that there are others out there who have trouble going to sleep. So, I’ve pieced together various bits of advice I’ve received over the past few months that have not only helps me get to sleep faster, but helps me get a better nights sleep.

  1. Don’t watch TV or even so much as look at a computer screen atleast 30 minutes before you lie down. The light from both a television as well as a computer monitor mimic the same intensity of light as sunlight. This fools your body and brain into thinking it’s nowhere near time for sleep.
  2. Drink milk. Milk has an amino acid in it called Tryptophan that increase the levels of serotonin and/or melatonin in the brain which slow down brain activity. It’s science folks.
  3. Go to bed when you are tired. Different strokes for different folks here. Just because your wife goes to bed at 9PM doesn’t mean you are ready. You might only require seven and half hours of sleep while she might require ten. If you aren’t tired, do something low-key until you are, like read a book, play solitaire (NOT on your computer), or play with some legos.
  4. Reserve the bed for bed things (ie sleep and sex). I for one don’t strictly follow this rule as I’ll read some before I go to sleep, but for some people this is a must.
  5. Meditate. No, don’t cross your legs and hum, but focus on relaxing…if that makes sense. Take deep, long breaths. Tense each muscle one at a time from head to toe. Focusing on doing this takes your mind off of other things and you’ll be in lala land in no time.
  6. Excercise during the day. I emphasize during the day. Excercising at night just gets everything going instead of shutting down for sleep. But excercising during the day tires the muscles out and makes for a solid nights sleep.

These are the majority of the things I have either tried or actually do routinely. What are some things that have worked for you?

157 Comments on Tips for getting to sleep faster & sleeping better

  1. Larry Gilbert says:

    Some people need music to lull them to sleep. I’m just the opposite. I’ve found that ear plugs (the basic foam type) do wonders for me. I get much more restful sleep wearing them. Yes, my alarm clock can still wake me up when I’ve got the plugs in.

  2. Stef says:

    Growing up it took me well over an hour to fall asleep, but a number of habits I developed have brought that to now under10 minutes.

    Establish and stick to any routine helps put one mentally in the state for sleep.

    Organize something e.g. papers, sock drawer…there’s something about the act of putting things in their place that also allows us to put our thoughts in order, which aids sleep.
    Lower air temperature in the room is good but also important to be warm in bed. I’ve noticed that I’ll toss during the night if I feel cold.

    If you can’t sleep get out of bed and do something boring and tedious, like cleaning the bathtub with a toothbrush.

  3. Lalima says:

    I’m an insomniac at nite & a sleepyhead during the day. Somethings I’ve learned in the process>>
    Warm baths help.
    Last smoke of the day must be had 30 minutes before sleeping.
    Dont drink Red Bull.
    Say a prayer.
    Do a hypnosis type talk to urself..u’re gooooiinnggg to sllleeeepp nowwwww..(it works).
    Try to be in the here-&-now.
    Imagine the whole world sleeping in peace, snugly in their beds, happy & content…& then try to be a part of the rest of this world (it works).

  4. Andy says:

    I use a relaxation tape (CD). It has a guy with a monotonous voice talking about calming things and the sound of water etc.

    It works for me, but took a few days to get used to.

  5. B0mBjAcK says:

    The music thing is a good, it sometimes works for me. I find that ambient music does the trick well if I have it on so quiet that it’s barly audiable.

    It works better with out beats but it still works with or without beats, stuff like Soma, Bola, Plaid, Plastikman, Biosphere, Plone ect… work well for me.

    I have my PC right next to my bed (I’m quite comfy laying on my bed as I type this :) which is good because it means I can listen to internet radio, one of my favourite ambient radio stations is SomFM.

  6. Kathy says:

    Music with words tends to keep me awake…singing in my head. But nature sounds help me sleep if they are very soft.

    Sometimes when bedtime is creeping up and I want to stay up (I’m a night owl), I just picture myself sinking into a cloud, with that pillow cradling my head and suddenly staying up isn’t as appealing.

    Sometimes I just thing about my husband holding me, which he can’t do if I stay up late (he doesn’t like to)…that also gets me upstairs faster.

  7. Inquisitive says:

    Yes, yes…please, do go on. ;)

  8. Jake says:

    Melatonin seems to work too.
    Better for women I think.

  9. Jon says:

    When I’m laying there thinking about how I’m not falling asleep, I actually trick myself into it with reverse psychology.

    The act of consciously trying to stay awake puts me out very quickly.

  10. Timmy Treadwell says:

    Having problems sleeping? I recommend a product available to all adults, its called Wild Turkey 101. Drink 4-6 ounces for up to 2 hours before you want to pass out, face down. Works like a charm, you’ll be gobbling in no time.

  11. Bhavik says:

    Those are all good ideas, however they only work depending on the person. I actually tried all of those over the past few years and some will work only for a while till my mind gets use to it and begins to reset itself.
    One method which I found out to work really well is a deprivation step pattern. Here’s how it works:

    The first night you lay down to rest only for two hours (doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep).

    The second night, extend it to three hours, laying down at roughly the same time as the night before (this will be your start time).

    Third night, make it 5 hours (by this time your body will be exhausted and will go to sleep quicker).

    Fourth night, 6-7 hours.

    Fifth night, go back down to 5 hours but instead of going to bed at your start time, go to bed 5 hours before your designated finish time (time you wake up).

    Sixth night, down to 4 hours.

    Seventh night, back up to 6 hours.

    Doing this for about a month will allow your body to recognize the time pattern and will make it easier to go to sleep thereafter.

  12. Sean says:

    This might sound weird, but I find that I have a “sweet spot” for falling asleep. If I try to sleep sometime between 10 – 10:30, I fall asleep rather quickly. If I try to sleep before 10, I’m usually not tired enough to fall asleep, and if I do it after 10:30, I might tend to fall into a “second wind” and my mind is racing until 1 AM.

  13. Zack says:

    I don’t know if other people experience this, but it works for me sometimes:

    As I get closer to falling asleep, I feel like my bed is rotating very slowly on a ferris wheel. It goes up, over a little bit, and then sloowwwlly back down again, again and again. Or sometimes, I feel like I’m doing the same part of the ferris wheel over and over again. In any case, just try to concentrate on that feeling of weightless motion, and you can feel yourself start to drift off. Just a thought.

  14. stefan says:

    When I was a teen I was frequently unable to get to sleep. But I taught myself a self-hypnosis technique that worked beautiifully, and I haven’t had a problem since (I’m 50 now).

    It’s a basic ‘count backwards from 10 to 1’ method, with some visualizations. The key is to do it very slowly, not rush though it like there’s a prize at the end. The “prize” – falling asleep – is a result of the *doing* of it, not from getting it done.

    The counting is done while imagining descending a very long tunnel or elevator or escalator (of your could float down like Alice in Wonderland). I also prefer to visualize getting TO the entrance of my tunnel (works best for me) which is in the middle of a grassy green plateau somewhere. Start going down your tunnel (or whatever) slowly. Let it be dark and really let yourself have the feeling of going DOWN as you relax. After a while, count the first number “10”. AT THE SAME TIME, imagine seeing the number clearly, and imagine hearing it as well. I see it as a sign hanging from the the tunnel ceiling, but a number on an elevator would be fine too. I ‘hear’ it as if being spoken softly by a recording over a loudspeaker.
    Then, continue down slowly, letting yourself feel that going down/dropping feeling. Give it a good amount of time until you get to the the next number, the repeat the seeing, the hearing, and the feelings of going down.

    If you lose track of where you are, start at the last number you remember. Again, the goal isn’t actually to reach 1, but to fully engage your senses in the process. So doing extra numbers is fine.

    From the night I first started this method I rarely got past 7. Now I’m so in the habit of being able to go to sleep I almost never need this technique, but I often find myself doing the basic shell of it – finding my tunnel in a green field – even when I don’t need the help.

  15. Kim says:

    I have this problem many nights, but not as severely as some have mentioned. Unfortunately, it takes my husband about 3-10 seconds to fall asleep most nights…and his snoring contributes to my not being able to fall asleep. There are also a couple of nights each month that I just can’t turn my brain off.

    Some of the things I try:

    Turn on my white noise machine. It drowns out the snoring.

    Take a Benedryl. I have allergies anyway, so it helps me breathe better, but it also makes me sleepy. I can’t do much about hubby’s snoring, but the Benedryl helps me sleep a little harder–just one, though…two leaves me sleepy in the morning. I also use a muscle relaxer medication to achieve the same results when I know I absolutely MUST have a good night’s sleep.

    DH likes to watch TV in bed before sleep, which usually doesn’t bother me if it’s not something I’m interested in…the History Channel is a definite tranquelizer! LOL!

    With my eyes closed, I visualize a white wall–nothing else. I concentrate on it. Because it’s white, I’m “looking” at it, whereas, if it was black (which seemingly makes more sense), I can’t “see” what I’m looking at. May be a bit weird, but it works for me.

    Prayer. This won’t apply if you’re not religious, but I am. I talk to God and in my mind, “give” him all my worries, concerns, etc. so it relieves me from having to think about them.

  16. Paul says:

    My problem, when not being able to sleep, is the thinking. All the suggestions from above that involve imagining or thinking always carry me to more thinking, which keeps me awake.
    Visualization of smoke or water, self hypnosis, any of those create conversation and commentary internally.

    Here is something concrete that doesn’t require you to ‘think’ of anything. It’s a chi kung exercise. It’s called twelve circles sleeping.

    It involves circling your tongue around the inside of your mouth while using your fingers to circle around you navel. Start with your tongue touching the left inside of your cheek, circle it down across the inside surface of your bottom teeth, up the inside of your right cheek and across the inside surface of your upper teeth back to your left cheek. Notice you are moving your tongue counterclockwise. At the same time rest three fingers of either hand just left of your navel. Circle your fingers starting across the top of your navel and continue, coordinating with your tongue.

    Start your tongue inside of Cheek = start with fingers at left side of navel
    Move tongue across bottom of teeth = move fingers across top of navel
    Move tongue up right cheek = move fingers down right side of navel
    Move tongue across top teeth ( returning to left side) = move fingers across below navel ( returning to left side)

    Do this twelve times, if you lose count – just start over.

    This will unwind your brain (and your thinking) I usually get so relaxed I just stop doing it to fall asleep.

  17. Mike says:

    I did not read through all the comments, so this may have been said already, but hot chamomile tea or “Sleepytime® Herb Tea” helps me fall asleep.

  18. Liz says:

    I think I may have figured out my problem: I am ALWAYS on the computer within hours of going to bed. Shoot, I’m on it right now. Good tips!

  19. Ed says:

    a brilliant metho for getting to sleep… try and get yourself as cold as you can for around 10 minutes. do this by opening a window or removing the bed covers. when you feel cold immedietly get warm again. this will concentrate your brain on temperature conditions of the body and allow you to forget about trying to get to sleep. tell me if it works at [email protected] thanks ed

  20. Brian says:

    Hmm wow thnx a lot for all these tips… spend around 30-50 mins reading all these comments.. just going to drink a cup of hot milk, take a hot shower and use some of these techniques to sleep now =) anyway thanks everyone for all these tips.

  21. John says:

    I often times fall asleep at night only to wake up around 30 minutes after very lively and with my heart-beating extra quick. A recent visit to the doctor made me realize it was because I had Asthma. He explained that at night when my mild Asthma would kick in, I would experience a very unnoticeable breathing problem that would result to my sleepless nights. I’m 22 and I am very active, I play sports alot and so panting for air was not really something I thought weird. Anyway, maybe some of you should go visit your doctor soon.

  22. Lately, i´m having serious problems to sleep. is been a long time that i dont have a good night of sleep. I think in my case the problem is watch tv. Tonight i´ll try these tips. wish me lucky
    Thanks for the tips!

  23. clifyt says:

    As for the Tryptophan:

    A little factoid I heard over Thanksgiving — it really doesn’t cause the sleep it is given credit for. For instance, you have to have a completely empty stomach for it to work. And even so, it is in nowhere big enough quantities in foods to slow you down.

    The myth, it was said, was perpetuated that after eating a huge meal, such as Thanksgiving, your body simply spends a good deal of energy digesting it and this exhausts ya.

    Is it true? No clue…as I’m just repeating what I heard a food scientist state last year. Makes sense. I’ve never gotten tired from either milk or turkey. Thats pseudoscience folks.

  24. Alex says:

    Instead of writing stories in my head, I write music. Making up beats and melodies I’m usually able to forget everything else and pass out.

  25. lindsey says:

    I used to have trouble with thoughts racing through my head for hours. Now I do the crossword every night in bed – it keeps my mind completely occupied and I’m not emotionally invested in it. When I have just enough energy left to turn out the light, I roll over and fall asleep within seconds (usually after about 15-20 min of crossword). Establishing a routine helped me associate something specific with sleep – I start getting drowsy as soon as I start the puzzle!

  26. mara says:

    The best method I’ve found is talking books on an iPod. Maybe harkens back to the days of bedtime stories. But they need to broken up into chunks of 90 minutes at most, just long enough to get you into the first stages of sleep. Otherwise they will weave their way into your dreams which, depending on the story, can be worse than insomnia.

  27. Scott says:

    Have a question those who have trouble getting to sleep. I also struggle to fall asleep at night, however, I can take a nap in the middle of the day like nobody’s business. Usually, I can fall asleep for a nap in minutes. I have heard that our brains treat a nap differently than going to sleep for the night in that a different part of the brain is responsible for napping as opposed to night sleeping. Seems weird to me but it seems to be true in my case.

  28. ess says:

    I don’t have much trouble getting to sleep. Staying alseep for more than a couple of hours is a big problem, though. I am usually awake several times a night, the final wake-up usually lasts an hour or more, so that I finally fall back to sleep about 1/2 an hour before my alarm is set to go. By Friday morning (corporate, regualar hours job) I have a hard time getting out of bed.

    Exercise helps, but the problem with this plan is that, the better shape you are in, the more you have to work to “over do it” enough to sleep through the night.

    I can always sleep well outside, but this is not often possible. Actually, I just fall back to sleep really easily outside so I’ve racked up a reasonable sleep time by morning.

  29. Matt says:

    Pot really, really works. Contrary to what someone said above, I’ve found that the only time I don’t wake up in the middle of the night is when I’ve smoked marijuana. The only catch is you have to make sure you have time for a good nights sleep, otherwise waking up will be a little more difficult or you’ll have a headache or something. I guess the illegality of it is a catch, too.

  30. Paul says:

    I take a lesson from my yoga class and blend it with some personal meditation. I ignore any thoughts that enter my mind while imagining my body floating in outerspace. I’m out in 1 minute every time.

  31. Viragette says:

    Wow – lots of responses! I’m interested as well – I’ve had this problem since I was a baby. Evidently, I would beg every night for hours to be let out of my crib. By now, I’ve tried so many strategies that many of those mentioned above are unconcious habit. But when these aren’t enough and I know I’m going to have a hard time winding down, I have one tactic that almost never fails in the ~2-3 years I’ve been using it. Mara mentioned it too.

    I have some favorite books that I’ve read many, many times. I got the audio version with a writer I like – and listen to them, very quietly, when I get into bed. I love the stories, so I listen, and this keeps my attention away from the woulda, coulda, shoulda, to-do, philosophical debates etc… but also I’ve heard these stories so often that I have no fear of “missing something”. It *has* to be a book I’ve read before, and one that is associated with happiness and a good mood, rather than tension or suspense. Usually, I’m asleep within 15 minutes – and, as a bonus, I now have several of my favorite books practically memorized.

    I stumbled into this tactic when I read a favorite book outloud into a tape player for my grandma, who had recently lost her sight. I tried to listen to the chapters later to check for errors, technical problems, etc – and was out like a light. Now that I know it works, I’ve gradually adapted to a more complicated system with an iPod, a remote, a timer,…

    Good topic.

  32. Ben holt says:

    What you can do is get a really,really long book and lie down in bed and you get to sleep much quicker than just counting sheep so this will work much easier. Plus you need to get into bed about 7.00 so you dont get to sleep so late.Try this and you you’ll get to sleep in a flash.I tried and got to sleep at 7.30

  33. Trevor says:

    Thanks so much for the ideas, everyone! It’s only been recently I’ve had difficulty getting to sleep — could be that my life is getting busier.

    A problem I’ve had for much longer is, as at least one person mentioned, staying asleep. I, too, wake up many times a night, and it’s sometimes frustratingly difficult to get back asleep — until it’s time for my alarm to go off, then I’m dead tired.

    Anyone have any secrets for dealing with this? I would really appreciate it! Thanks.

  34. Steve Harold says:

    Great sleep tips. I find that making sure I do nothing in the bedroom other than sleep or making love, keeps the association strong between being in bed and going to sleep. The association weakens if you watch TV or read in bed. Better to do these elsewhere and then go to bed to sleep when you are tired.

  35. tony says:

    take 2 benadryl 30 minutes before you lay down and its lights out..

  36. J Davila says:

    Is kinda funny, the more you focus on goin’ to sleep, the less likely you are to succeed. Basically, if you feel tired, drop what you are doing and hit the sack.

    It depends on a lot of human factors about the ammount of sleep you need, but it has to do a lot with general state. Make sure you have a good balanced diet, enough vitamins, the right weight, and there you go. It might sound foolish, but it works.

    It doesn’t really matter what you do in your bed, sleep, have sex, play with your kids, pets, read, eat, watch TV or anything else. Is about closing all and shut all off when you start to feel like it. Don’t force you to sleep cuz it won’t work. It varies. I can sleep 3 hours a day during a week, and then on next week sleep bout 6 or more, it all depends on your daily routine, but getting back to the basic: if you feel tired, GO TO BED and stop thinking bout anything else, trust me, it works ;)

  37. Paulito Osborne says:

    I think those tips are great yall’. One extra, do go to the bathroom right before, and totally drain yourself.

  38. Mavto says:

    thanks a lot for sharing this tips man… now i gotta go to the bed

  39. J2 says:

    Sleep problems can be indicative of a seratonin imbalance. A trip to a doctor who understands endocrinology may be worth it. A good SSRI has worked wonders for me.

    BTW…marijuana isn’t a toy. It’s serious medication. Please consider using another of the fine methods mentioned by other commenters. Sleep safely, ferheavenssake! Love from Oregon.

  40. lana says:

    I hope it works for me.. sometimes i take like 7 hours to get to sleep….. so literally i go to sleep at like 6 and wake up at 7.. in the morning ofcourse…………. it’s kinda scary.. i lose my concentration and focus as well as.. just everything… not getting enough sleep seems only like a minor factor in life but it can really screw you up!!!

  41. Mike says:

    I have difficulty in falling asleep and because of this I am almost afraid to lay down and try to sleep because I know that I will lay there for a couple of hours before dozing off. Also my girlfriend recently took a job in a different city. I always slept good when she was in the bed, now that she’s not I don’t sleep good. When I was young (3-4) my mother would lay in bed with me till I dozed off. Maybe b/c my mom did that I have always been needy of another person to sleep with. Pyschological not physical.

  42. Anna says:

    These tips are great…thanks a lot. I will try them and see if they work. I am 17 yrs old and I always notice that it is so damn hard for me to fall asleep. I think the reason being is that I exercise before I sleep. I am 110 lbs and I dont want to be fat so i exercise (also to tone up my body). Bad timing for it tho!

    I will try these tips and hopefully PLZ GOD HOPEFULLY they wills show excellent results…

    k im off…buh bye!

  43. Anna says:

    These tips are great…thanks a lot. I will try them and see if they work. I am 17 yrs old and I always notice that it is so damn hard for me to fall asleep. I think the reason being is that I exercise before I sleep. I am 110 lbs and I dont want to be fat so i exercise (also to tone up my body). Bad timing for it tho!

    I will try these tips and hopefully PLZ GOD HOPEFULLY they wills show excellent results…

    k im off…buh bye!

  44. jack johnson says:

    smoke pot..smoke lots and lots of pot an hour or 2 bfor bed…best remidy of all time

  45. tem says:

    I’ve started having problems sleeping since I’ve become menopausal.
    I find valerian tincture works best for me. I take 30 drops of valerian tincture in some warm water, half an hour before bed and that usually puts me to sleep.
    When my mind is working overtime, I also take a theanine capsule which relaxes the mind.
    I got these tips from Sleep Tips and there are more if the above don’t work.

  46. Remember Dreams

    Today I cannot remember any significant dream. I remember bits and pieces. They involve my parents' house, my parents, my hard fought for blue Schöffel Jacket and me wanting to take a walk. None of it is very interesting.If you do not usua…

  47. sleepy head says:

    In my experience most sleep medications only compound sleep problems.Being casual and carefree just before bed puts me to sleep.

  48. Down View says:

    Getting To Sleep

    I found this article and basis for this via Life Hacker. After the first few sentences, he had me thinking Hey, me too! about not being able to shut off my brain and simply sleep and it got me thinking about how I do get to sleep sometimes.First, you s…

  49. nathan says:

    thanks for the tips they are great i usually have a hard time worrying about school but with these tips it helps me relax and get a good nights sleep

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