How To Fall Asleep When You Can’t

Key Takeaways

  • Establish a Relaxing Routine: Wind down before bedtime by ditching screens, dimming lights, and engaging in calming activities like reading or gentle stretches.
  • Craft a Comfortable Sleep Space: Upgrade your bedding, maintain a cool and dark environment, and declutter your sleep sanctuary to create an inviting space for rest.
  • Lifestyle Tweaks for Consistent Sleep: Manage screen time, regulate your sleep schedule, and incorporate regular exercise into your routine for a more stable and restorative sleep pattern.
  • Mindful Eating for Sweet Dreams: Choose lighter dinners, opt for sleep-friendly snacks, set a caffeine cut-off time, and be mindful of sugar intake to support a more peaceful night’s sleep.

Tossing and turning, unable to find that elusive slumber?

You’re not alone.

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Many of us have experienced those nights when sleep seems to play hard to get.

But fear not!

In this guide, we’re unlocking the secrets to a restful night, offering simple yet effective tips to help you bid farewell to insomnia.

Say goodbye to restless nights and hello to the land of dreams!

Methods To Help You Fall Asleep Faster:

Here are a few methods that can help you sleep faster with a step-by-step guide to implement each one of them.

1. The Military Method:

The military method is a technique used by the U.S. military to help soldiers fall asleep in challenging conditions.

It involves a specific sequence of muscle relaxation and controlled breathing.

Steps To Follow:

Step 1: Let your face muscles loosen up, even inside your mouth.

Step 2: Feel your face getting all calm and easy.

Step 3: Allow your shoulders to relax and let go of any tightness.

Step 4: Picture your shoulders naturally moving down, like they’re saying bye to stress.

Step 5: Take a deep breath in.

Step 6: Breathe out slowly and let your chest feel light and easy.

Step 7: Picture a calm and happy scene in your mind.

Step 8: Hang out there in your imagination for about 10 seconds.

Step 9: If your thoughts are still buzzing, repeat “stay calm” in your head for 10 seconds.

Step 10: You should be able to sleep within just 10 seconds with these calming moves.

2. 4-7-8 Breathing Method:

The 4-7-8 breathing method is a relaxation technique that regulates your breath to induce sleep.

This quick technique involves a simple and repetitive mental exercise to divert your mind from racing thoughts and anxieties.

Steps To Follow:

Step 1: Find a comfortable position, sitting or lying down.

Step 2: Relax your body and settle in.

Step 3: Close your eyes gently.

Step 4: Take a slow and quiet breath in through your nose.

Step 5: Count silently to 4 as you inhale, filling your lungs comfortably.

Step 6: Hold your breath for a count of 7.

Step 7: Keep your lungs comfortably filled with air during this pause.

Step 8: Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth.

Step 9: Make a gentle whooshing sound as you breathe out, counting to 8.

Step 10: Repeat the inhale, hold, and exhale sequence for three more breaths.

Step 11: As you become more accustomed, gradually increase the number of cycles.

Practice the 4-7-8 technique twice a day, even when you’re not trying to sleep.

This helps your body become familiar with the rhythm, making it more effective when used at bedtime.

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR):

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a method where you systematically tense and then relax different muscle groups, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head.

This helps release physical tension and can contribute to a more relaxed state conducive to sleep.

Steps To Follow:

Step 1: Choose a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed.

Step 2: Sit or lie down in a relaxed position.

Step 3: Wear loose and comfortable clothing.

Step 4: Remove any accessories or items that might cause discomfort.

Step 5: Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax your body and clear your mind.

Step 6: Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a moment, and exhale slowly through your mouth.

Step 7: Point your toes and tense the muscles in your feet.

Step 8: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 9: Release the tension, allowing your feet to relax completely.

Step 10: Tense the muscles in your thighs and buttocks by squeezing them.

Step 11: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 12: Release the tension, letting your legs become loose and at ease.

Step 13: Clench your fists tightly, feeling the tension in your hands and forearms.

Step 14: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 15: Release the tension suddenly, allowing your hands and forearms to completely relax. Notice the contrast between tension and relaxation.

Step 16: Tense the muscles in your upper arms by flexing them.

Step 17: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 18: Release the tension, letting your arms become limp and relaxed.

Step 19: Now, scrunch up your facial muscles, including your forehead and cheeks.

Step 20: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 21: Release the tension, allowing your face to become soft and relaxed.

Step 22: Take a deep breath in and hold it, tensing your chest and shoulders.

Step 23: Hold the tension for about 5-7 seconds.

Step 24: Exhale slowly and release the tension, feeling your chest and shoulders relax.

Step 25: Repeat the process, focusing on each muscle group from head to toe.

Step 26: As you go through each muscle group, pay attention to the sensations of tension and relaxation.

Aim for at least 10-15 minutes of PMR each day.

With consistent practice, you’ll become more proficient at recognizing and releasing tension.

As you complete the muscle groups, focus on the overall sense of relaxation spreading through your body.

Enjoy a few moments of quiet and calm before returning to your usual activities.

4. Paradoxical Intention (PI Method):

In this method, you must understand that occasional difficulty falling asleep is normal. You’ll have to accept that sleep cannot be forced and that it’s okay.

Steps To Follow:

Step 1: Instead of trying to force sleep, intentionally try to stay awake. Tell yourself, “I will stay awake for as long as possible.”

Step 2: If anxiety arises, practice relaxation methods like deep breathing. Redirect your thoughts away from sleep-related concerns.

Step 3: Resist the urge to frequently check the time during the night.

5. Image Distraction Sleeping Method:

Imagining yourself in a serene and tranquil place can be a powerful tool for promoting sleep.

Close your eyes and mentally transport yourself to a location that brings you comfort and relaxation.

Visualize the details, sounds, and sensations of this peaceful place to help shift your focus away from stressors.

Steps To Follow:

Step 1: Choose a comfortable position in bed, either lying down or sitting.

Step 2: Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax your body and calm your mind.

Step 3: Picture a peaceful and calming scene in your mind. This could be a beach, a forest, or any place that makes you feel relaxed.

Step 4: Imagine the details of this place – the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations. Engage as many senses as possible.

Step 5: If your mind starts to wander or anxious thoughts arise, gently bring your focus back to the calming image.

Step 6: Allow the calming imagery to help you transition into a more relaxed state, making it easier to fall asleep.

Step 7: If you find your mind racing, repeat the visualization process until you feel more at ease.

6. Acupuncture For Sleep:

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body.

It is believed to help balance the flow of energy, or “qi,” throughout the body.

While the evidence on acupuncture for sleep disorders is not conclusive, some people find it beneficial.

Here are the main acupuncture points for sleep:

  • Heart 7 (HT7): Located on the inner wrist, this point is believed to calm the mind and ease anxiety.
  • Yin Tang: Positioned between the eyebrows, it is thought to calm the mind and promote relaxation.
  • Liver 3 (LV3): Found on the top of the foot between the big toe and second toe, it may help relieve stress and promote a smooth flow of energy.

Pressing and massaging them can help you enjoy a good night’s slumber.

Common Reasons for Difficulty Falling Asleep

Tossing and turning but can’t pinpoint why?

Here are common culprits:

  1. Stress and Anxiety: Daily worries and anxieties can invade your mind when it’s time to sleep. Learn techniques to manage stress for a more tranquil bedtime.
  2. Irregular Sleep Schedule: Inconsistent bedtimes confuse your body’s internal clock, making it harder to fall asleep. Establish a routine for a smoother transition to dreamland.
  3. Screen Time Before Bed: The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with melatonin production, disrupting your sleep-wake cycle. Discover ways to unwind without technology. It is not just the blue light that destroys your sleep, it’s also the stimulating content, says Dr. Jing Zhang. Playing video games and scrolling through social media are addictive because it gives people an emotional response, which is not good for sleep. In contrast, just hearing relaxing words can improve sleep quality.
  4. Uncomfortable Sleep Environment: An unsupportive mattress or noisy surroundings can hinder your sleep. Invest in a comfortable mattress and create a calm, inviting sleep sanctuary.

Tips for Better Sleep

Transform bedtime from a struggle to a soothing ritual with these easy steps:

a. Unplug from Screens:

Power down devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Engaging in screen-free activities signals to your brain that it’s time to wind down.

b. Dim the Lights:

Lower ambient light levels in the hour leading up to bedtime.

Dim lighting promotes the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

c. Read a Calming Book:

Escape into a good book, but opt for something light and calming.

Save the thrillers for daytime reading to avoid bedtime adrenaline spikes.

d. Warm Bath or Shower:

A warm bath or home spa treatment before bed can help relax tense muscles and signal to your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep.

How To Make Lifestyle Adjustments

Kick the screen habit to the curb for better sleep with these screen-time strategies:

  1. Screen Curfew: Set a time to power down devices, ideally 30-60 minutes before bed. This break from screens helps your brain transition from the digital world to a restful state.
  2. Blue Light Filters: Activate the blue light filter on your devices or use apps that reduce blue light emission. This adjustment minimizes the sleep-disrupting effects of screen time.
  3. Relaxing Activities Instead: Swap screen time for calming alternatives like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or practicing relaxation exercises before bedtime.
  4. Create a Charging Station Outside the Bedroom: Resist the temptation to check your phone in bed. Charge your devices outside the bedroom to discourage late-night scrolling.

How To Regulate Sleep Schedule

Get your internal clock in sync for consistent, quality sleep:

  1. Set a Consistent Bedtime: Choose a bedtime that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep and stick to it, even on weekends. Consistency reinforces your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  2. Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day: Maintain a consistent wake-up time to regulate your body’s internal clock. This practice contributes to a more stable sleep pattern.
  3. Limit Weekend Variations: While it’s tempting to sleep in on weekends, excessive variations can disrupt your sleep schedule. Opt for a slight adjustment rather than a drastic change.
  4. Expose Yourself to Natural Light: Spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Natural light exposure helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep at night.

How To Incorporate Regular Exercise

Boost your sleep quality with a dose of regular physical activity:

  1. Find an Activity You Enjoy: Whether it’s walking, jogging, dancing, or yoga, choose activities you genuinely enjoy. This increases the likelihood of sticking to your exercise routine.
  2. Morning or Afternoon Workouts: Aim for exercise earlier in the day or at least a few hours before bedtime. Late-night workouts may energize you and interfere with sleep. Try an outdoor exercise when the sun is still out, that way you can get the benefit of sun exposure, which is also good for sleep, Dr. Jing Zhang recommends.
  3. Consistency Over Intensity: Consistent, moderate exercise is more beneficial than sporadic, intense workouts. Find a routine that fits your lifestyle and is sustainable in the long run.
  4. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how exercise affects your sleep. Adjust the timing and intensity based on how your body responds for optimal results.


How Does a Bedtime Routine Help With Sleep?

A routine signals to your body that it's time to wind down, making it easier to transition into a restful state.

What’s the Ideal Sleep Environment?

A cool, dark, and quiet room promotes better sleep. Invest in comfortable bedding and eliminate distractions for a cozy sleep haven.

Can I Use Technology To Help Me Sleep Better?

While technology can aid sleep, it's crucial to limit screen time before bed. Try using blue light filters and calming apps to enhance your sleep experience.

How Does Exercise Impact Sleep?

Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days, but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.

What Role Does Diet Play in Sleep?

Be mindful of late-night snacks and limit caffeine intake. Opt for sleep-friendly foods like bananas and almonds in the evening.


As we wrap up our journey to better sleep, remember that achieving a restful night is within your grasp.

By incorporating these straightforward tips into your routine, you’re paving the way for more peaceful evenings and energized mornings.

So, dim the lights, create your sanctuary, and let tranquility guide you into a serene slumber.

Here’s to nights filled with sweet dreams and waking up refreshed!

Sleep tight!

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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