How can I fall asleep quickly?
September 20, 2006 5:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I fall asleep more quickly?

I frequently find myself struggling to fall asleep, even though I'm tired and need the rest. I'm not chronically exhausted, basically because I catch up on weekends, but often I'll lie in bed for an hour or two before dropping off. Does anyone have any ideas as to what the causes of this might be? And does anyone have any solutions? I'm open to both things like changing my pre-bedtime habits and things like meditation.
posted by markcholden to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Exercise. Read in bed (boring stuff). Hot milk. Get into a routine (hot shower, ten minutes reading, hot milk - lights out).

Are you thinking too much to sleep or just not tired? My husband only needs 4-5 hours a night, he cannot sleep 8 hours regularly.

Oh, avoid coffee after midday and no alcohol.

(These things worked for me.)
posted by b33j at 5:46 AM on September 20, 2006

I second b33j's comment on reading - boring reading, that is.

I have a copy of the Communist Manifesto. Nothing against M&E, but I always get about 2 paragraphs in and then start drooling. You know, because I'm asleep already and stuff. YMMV.
posted by dihutenosa at 5:55 AM on September 20, 2006

When I have trouble sleeping, I often head straight back out to my computer to play a 3D shooter or something. I play for 10 minutes or so, and this gets me a little sleepy, and when I return to bed I usually fall asleep straight away.

Failing that, I have heard masturbation (or sex with one's signifcant other, if that is an option) is another way to get one in a mood for slumber.

And failing all that, I concur with b33j; alcohol is awesome for making one sleepy also.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2006

Deep, steady breathing. And a glass of wine or whisky before bed. (Yeah, alcohol can interfere with staying asleep, but I don't have as much of a problem with that as just falling asleep in the first place.)
posted by desuetude at 6:06 AM on September 20, 2006

This has been asked dozens of times.

Also: orgasm = lights out.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:14 AM on September 20, 2006

Routines are good because they tell your body that it's time to wind down, it can expect to sleep soon. I've had luck with this one:

If you can, start with a bath before bedtime (even for 10 minutes) without getting your hair wet. I'm sure you can find a bubble bath with Lavender, which is calming.

Then try sitting quietly in a quiet, warm room and meditating or listening to your breathing, slowing it and making it more regular, for about 10 minutes. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath without penalty.

Then climb into bed, and lay flat on your back. Contract the muscles in your toes for a couple of seconds and release. Then contract toes and feet, and release. Then toes, feet and calves... eventually getting all the way up to your head.

Your muscles should be pretty free of stress by then, and once you get into your comfy sleeping position, just listen to your breathing. Make sure you're breathing deeply, from your diaphragm, and you should drift off to dreamland in no time.

The more regularly you practice the routine, the better you get at training yourself to relax, and the quicker you'll fall asleep.

Of course, a glass of red wine with your bubble bath never hurts. :)
posted by nadise at 6:26 AM on September 20, 2006

Don't read in bed - if you're an avid reader, you might set yourself up for reading late into the night, and your body may come to expect it.

I frequently find myself struggling to fall asleep, even though I'm tired and need the rest. I'm not chronically exhausted, basically because I catch up on weekends, but often I'll lie in bed for an hour or two before dropping off

This suggests that you aren't getting enough sleep - catching up on the weekends doesn't hack it. How regular is your attempted sleep schedule?
posted by canine epigram at 6:27 AM on September 20, 2006

Insomniac here. Outside of the usual advice for insomnia, there are two things that really help me. First, I keep a notebook by the bed for when things are racing around in my head (particularly things that need to be done, concerns, etc.). When I write them down, I find it much easier to let go of the thoughts. Second is essentially a meditation, and this gets me to sleep in minutes. The only problem is wanting to do it, which is difficult if you've got thoughts and ideas racing around in your head that you aren't letting go of (this is where my notebook comes in handy). How it works for me: I get very comfortable, clear my head of thoughts, and count my breaths up to ten. When I reach ten, I count again. When a thought pops up, I let it go and focus on counting again. The trick is, instead of becoming more clear and aware, I mentally reach for going deeper and foggier. It takes recognizing those thoughts that occur in that halfway state between waking and sleeping and letting go of trying anything at that moment, to let sleep carry me away. It's hard to explain any clearer than that, and as I preview, I see that I'm not conveying it as well as I'd like to. I suspect it borders on self-hypnosis, if that helps at all.
posted by moira at 6:28 AM on September 20, 2006

MP3 player + audio books works like a charm for me. I've got mine loaded up with various finds from the web, Bittorrent and Amazon - currently some Asimov short stories, Bill Bryson's 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' and the Dalai Lama's 'Path to Enlightenment'. Assuming I'm reasonably tired, whatever I listen to seems to send me off to sleep within 20 minutes or so.

The only drawback is that the standard earbud headphones I'm using aren't all that comfortable (although they always fall out once I'm asleep) - still looking for a pair of phones that are specifically designed for falling asleep while wearing them.
posted by boosh at 6:36 AM on September 20, 2006

I find audio books make me sleepy too, the only problem then is waking up the next day hours further into the book than you remember.
I suggest some calm, beautiful music you know VERY well (so it's not new and challenging) which you listen to every night as you go to sleep.

I used to listen to the last four tracks of Tori Amos's `Under The Pink'. I would normally be asleep before the first track was done. The first note of that track would make me start relaxing. I had another couple of favourite albums, and found that some particular section of a song would make me really relax and fall asleep.

Just as good, occasionally I would partially awaken and somehow receive the music on a whole different level, goose bumps, waves of pleasure... truly awesome.
posted by tomble at 6:42 AM on September 20, 2006

Oh, avoid coffee after midday ...

Not just coffee. Don't forget about tea and diet coke and such too. And some drugs like extra-strength pain relievers sometimes have caffeine in them too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 AM on September 20, 2006

If you tend to watch TV ebfore bedtime, turn out the lights about a half hour before you plan to go up to bed. I've found this helps get my brain thinking "Hey, it's dark. Time for sleepings!" before I actually schlep up to bed.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2006

Another common recommendation is to tense and release your muscles for a few seconds, starting with your toes and working all the way up your body.

Still another is to get out of bed and do something else if you haven't fallen asleep in a reasonable amount of time. That way you can avoid the stress of lying there obsessing about not falling asleep.
posted by kimota at 7:02 AM on September 20, 2006

I've been keeping a couple of already-heard audiobooks around, because nothing seems to knock me out faster.

When I remember to play it, I have a good amount of success with the Alphabet Game. Pick a category - cars, movies, flowers, whatever - and go through the alphabet listing them. (Accord, Bonneville, Caprice, Duster, Element, Focus, etc.) It leaves little room to think of anything else, yet is not so incredibly compelling that one just has to stay awake through Z.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by RavinDave at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Melatonin (over the counter) is another option.
posted by lunchbox at 8:16 AM on September 20, 2006

My partner trained herself to fall asleep quickly by forcing herself to get up an vacuum (she *hates* vacuuming) if she didn't fall asleep within 10 min.
posted by QIbHom at 8:59 AM on September 20, 2006

A monotonous mental task can do wonders. If it's repeated nightly it becomes a signal to your mind and body that it's time to sleep. Though I'm an athiest, I say a silent, silly prayer every night laying in bed with my eyes shut in which I name all of my extended family, alive and dead. It's increcibly embarassing to admit to my secret nightime habit but it works: I sleep well after that. I'm sure counting imaginary sheep or something more palatable could have the same effect.

That and the caffeine thing mentioned here. I've learned my cutoff for tea or colas is about 5pm.

Sweet dreams!
posted by ChuckLeChuck at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2006

Don't underestimate the utility of a nice, cheap "white noise" machine. (In lieu of that, get one of those "Tropical Rainstorm" CDs, or whatever).

I work a crazy schedule with shifting hours. I know all the tricks.
posted by RavinDave at 10:03 AM on September 20, 2006

Quiet your mind. A nice, soothing, melodic CD (like Enya's Watermark) works for me. I've listened to the same one for years and am usually out by the second or third song.
posted by cenoxo at 11:25 AM on September 20, 2006

(And for waking up ... I suggest Yoko Ono.)
posted by RavinDave at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2006

If you read in bed, get a little led headlamp. I get sleepier a lot faster with the lights out, and don't have to wake up to turn them off.
posted by Manjusri at 2:05 PM on September 20, 2006

That and the caffeine thing mentioned here. I've learned my cutoff for tea or colas is about 5pm.

My first thought on reading this was also that you were getting too much caffiene. If you're a caffiene drinker, you need to learn when is too late to drink it and it will keep you up.

For me, I have found through experience that 10pm is about as late as I can drink coke, otherwise it keeps me up (I usually go to bed around 11:30pm - midnight).

If you are not drinking caffiene, then I agree with the other posters that you need to work out if it might be because your mind is still working on issues when you go to bed. If this is the case, then I'd second either using a notebook to write it ALL down before you go to bed or meditation (although I've never meditated, I can see the benefit).
posted by ranglin at 5:34 PM on September 20, 2006

When I can't fall asleep, I count backwards from 100. Every time I mix up numbers I have to start over. (100...99...98...96...oh get the idea) If I can count down to 40 or 50 without messing up, I'll try something else. Usually it will put me to sleep within 5 minutes. When I forget to try this trick, I can take an hour or two or three to fall asleep.
posted by good for you! at 6:27 PM on September 20, 2006

Still looking for a pair of phones that are specifically designed for falling asleep while wearing them.

Pillow speaker. I have one and it works great.
posted by jknecht at 7:21 PM on September 20, 2006

You sound almost exactly like the way I used to be - an hour or more of tossing and/or turning, listening to music... still tired, but still not asleep

I n'th the wonder whether caffeine is the culprit here. While the only beverage I love more than Pepsi is coffee (okay, or chai!), I found that if I set myself to no caffeine after 6 PM, I was ready to conk out quickly by midnight.

Oh, and only ONE person mentioned orgasm? I'm surprised - it works like a charm and hells, what could be more fun *and* productive?
posted by Adelwolf at 8:36 PM on September 20, 2006

I use a white noise CD from this place. The Soothing Air Conditioner is my favorite. It brings me back to all those summer vacation nights in hotels, spent falling asleep to the steady hum of the AC on full-blast.

It has a slow fade in and fade out, so on many nights, I don't even hear it stop (it's one full hour in length.)
posted by invisible ink at 12:07 AM on September 21, 2006

Another MeFite's suggestion in one of those previous threads works wonders for me: Count backwards from 2365.

(No, I don't know why that MeFite picked that number, but I do it.)
posted by IndigoRain at 3:58 AM on September 21, 2006

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