Sleep is crucial to a healthy mind, strong body, and a happy life. But perhaps you’re struggling to fall asleep fast, tossing and turning for hours, wishing the thoughts would stop and that your mind “would just switch off”. If that’s you, we have some excellent strategies to make that happen – fast! Remember, everyone is different, so try one technique per night and see which one works best for you, it’s also a good idea to mix them up, or combine them, and we’ll show you exactly how. The techniques are listed from basic to advanced, so keep that in mind while reading. One of our tips might shock you, you’ll understand why when you get there, but it honestly works!
Tip: The mind is more open to falling asleep when it can’t over analyze, so we recommend pinning this page and trying the method first before reading the section on “How it works”. The idea is not to get any of the techniques “right” but rather to drift off while trying, and eventually fall asleep.
1. Deep Focused Breathing
“I am breathing” you might say, but in fact most people breath quite shallow breaths and the technique we propose is a special deep breathing method called the 4 – 7 – 8 technique. This sequence simply states the number of seconds to breathe in (4 seconds), hold (7 seconds) and exhale (8 seconds). The most important thing is to keep to the ratio, so if it seems like you might burst after a 7 second hold, just half it – 2 – 3.5 – 4 until you can eventually follow the normal ratio.
How Deep Focused Breathing Works
The idea isn’t simply breathing, actually counting the breath, the hold and the exhale will clear your mind, allowing the mind to switch off. Deep focused breathing also activates the Parasympathetic response – the exact opposite of anxiety! Brains go to sleep when they’re less anxious.
2. Ambient Music
Ambient Music has been around since the 70’s (that should say a lot) and listening to it has a profound relaxing effect on the brain. The simpler the music, the better the effect. YouTube has hours of Ambient Music available, however adverts could disrupt your sleep, so be sure to download the video.
Tip: Combine ambient music with your daily meditation, to put you into a relaxed state whenever you hear it (some self hypnosis), this way when it’s time to sleep, this music’s effect will get faster and faster. We also love Binaural Beats, so play around with the sounds and find what works for you.
How Ambient Music Works
Ambient music has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your tired body relax and prepare for sleep. A study showed that it has a profound effect on reducing levels of anxiety and even pain. But how does it work? It seems the right type of music serves as a distractor, drawing us away from negative mental or physical stimuli with familiar, soothing acoustics.
3. Sleep Meditation
Usually the idea of meditation is to stay awake and train consciousness, but sleep meditation is used to enter a place of deep relaxation and allow yourself the freedom to drift off. This is an excellent combo with Ambient Music.
How to Practice Sleep Meditation
There are a variety of methods, but the easiest is to follow a guided sleep meditation. There are multiple videos on YouTube and the key is to find one that works for you. Anything with Ambient Music in the background will add to the relaxing effect.
If you want to try without a video, we recommend the following:
- Lie in a comfortable sleeping position. You can choose to add soft ambient music in the background or lay in silence.
- Start with a short breathing exercise (as described in Technique 1), this will always be your tired body’s queue that it’s time to sleep.
- Continue breathing normally focusing on the sound of your breath entering and leaving your body. If you are listening to ambient music, focus on that.
- Feel your body relaxing into a deep sleep.
Tip: If you decide to listen to Ambient Music, using earphones amplifies the subtle sounds and greatly enhances the relaxing effect.
How Sleep Meditation Works
A recent study proved that meditation for sleep can help fight mild insomnia and other sleep disorders. Meditation, has the ability to create physiological changes that are similar to those in early phases of sleep, such as a lower pulse rate, reduced blood pressure, and decreased stress hormones. Thus, allowing your tired body to enter a similar state to the first stage of sleep basically fools your body into sleeping. So for those that just can’t sleep, enjoy the meditation and allow yourself to drift off naturally.
4. Sleep Visualization Techniques
Visualization is a powerful technique used by Zen Masters and newbies alike. There are many different visualization techniques to try, but we’ll walk you through our favorite one. Not sure what visualization is exactly? Don’t worry, we all have the ability to visualize, you just need to practice to reach that zen level!
How to Visualize
Imagine something you know well, like the front door of your house -easy right? You see the color, shape, you even see your house. Now take it further, imagine your morning routine as you exit that door. You’re getting deeper into your visualization. Now imagine not going to work, but rather going to the airport, and off to your dream vacation… Keep going, every second is you getting better and better at visualization!
Now let’s try something less exciting, that will get you to sleep!
The Power Down Visualization Technique for Falling Asleep Fast
This easy visualization will help relax the mind and body. The Power Down Visualization technique helps to rid the body of all the built up energy from the day and convert it into a relaxing sensation, allow the mind to drift off in the process. Always find a comfortable sleep position before starting the visualization.
Start by visualizing your entire body, know that your body is energy and now start to see that energy. It is a radiant blue light, coming from every inch of you. Imagine now that this energy represents all your built up stress, fear, excitement, anxiety, and tension.
While breathing slow deep breaths start visualizing how you gather up all of this energy to one central point above your heart. As the energy gathers from your toes to your thighs and eventually your stomach, feel how each part relaxes.
Continue breathing as you visualize the energy leaving your fingers, arms, head and all gather above your heart. Relax each part as you do so.
Keep breathing. This energy ball hovering above your heart contains all your stress, fears, anxieties. Take one deep breath, hold it for a second and then slowly release the air and the ball of energy. See it melt away around you, and feel yourself relaxing even further. Continue breathing until you fall asleep.
Tip: The imagination can be a powerful tool that when used in conjunction with some of the other techniques, such a breathing, can result in faster physical and mental relaxation.
How Sleep Visualization Works
Visualization uses quite a few of the previous techniques, breathing, meditation and an added element of imagination. But, how does it really work? The power lies in the ability of the mind to change its story. Usually people who suffer from mild forms of insomnia or sleeplessness are plagued by anxious thoughts, fears and stress – visualization consciously replaces those images with calming, restful images, allowing the mind and body to enter a place of rest.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
After a long day, it’s common for the body to store stress in the muscles, building up tension, even if you’re not physically aware of it like when you have a sore neck or back. This can keep us awake. The Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique is used to consciously release that tension and allow the body to relax and enter a sleep state. It has been found especially effective for people with insomnia.
The technique is quite simple, to release the tension and allow your body and mind to relax fully, we must first recreate it.
- Start with your feet, stretch your toes for 10 seconds, before slowly relaxing.
- Next, point your feet and tense your leg muscles for 10 seconds.
- Stretch out your fingers and arms, tense your muscles, hold for 10 seconds, and relax.
- Tense your entire body by stretching your legs and arms out wide and clenching your stomach muscles for 15 seconds.
- Relax every muscle, feel the tension leaving every inch of your body and with every breath feel yourself melting further into your soft bed, drifting away.
As you practice this technique, you can explore different ways to tense your muscles and even discover muscles you never knew existed.
How Progressive Muscle Relaxation Works
Muscle Relaxation was first described in the 1930s by Edmund Jacobson and the idea is that physical relaxation is the prerequisite for mental relaxation.
6. Thought Disassociation
Thoughts have the ability to drown our minds in chatter, often nonsense that we have no need for. Thought Disassociation works on a classic Neuro Linguistic Programming technique that attempts to isolate individual thoughts, focus on one thought at a time, and disassociate or separate the self from the thought.
If a bombardment of thoughts are the reason why you can’t sleep, using a proven technique to pick them off one by one until the mind is silenced, will allow the mind to quiet and for you to sleep.
How to Apply Thought Disassociation
- Notice that thoughts are constantly in your mind, coming and going, and perhaps you aren’t even paying full attention to the content, but they keep you awake, they’re the reason you can’t sleep. Grab one thought, focus on it.
- Give this thought center stage in your mind, it can’t move. Capture the thought on a piece of paper. See the words written in pencil.
- The paper is full of words, but you can’t see them anymore, they’re fading away.
- Let go of the paper and add some distance between yourself and the paper. The words keep fading.
- The paper is taken away by the wind, clearing your mind, the further and further the paper blows, the clearer your mind becomes.
- If another thought enters your mind, grab it and repeat the process.
Tip: If an insistent thought keeps propping up, consider really writing it down in your journal for self evaluation in the morning. Or if you’re almost drifting off, consider seeing the letter being put in a glass bottle, safe for evaluation later. You can then dismiss the thought by letting the bottle drift off in the ocean, welcome to drift back in the morning. With no reason for it to turn up again immediately, the thought will simply disappear.
How Thought Disassociation Works
Incessant negative thoughts right before bed turns out to be evolutionary. According to clinical psychologist Deborah Vertessy, we do this out of the primitive need to protect ourselves. All of these thoughts are things to fix, things to consider, things that will presumably protect us socially, financially, and emotionally, but it ends up destroying us. Being in control of our thoughts is the next step in our evolution, and at any stage in our lives, we can lose that evolutionary advantage, through some sort of trauma. Using Thought Disassociation gives you back your control.
7. Sleepy Time Sex
Yes, you heard us – sex can actually make it easier to fall asleep fast thereafter. It seems that sex releases certain hormones that promote good sleep. The first is elevated levels of oxytocin (responsible for that feeling of being connected to your partner) and – here’s the gold – it lowers cortisol, a hormone responsible for stress. After using this technique, feel free to use any of the above techniques to lower your heart rate.
Sleep should be a healthy, enjoyable part of our everyday lives, it should reinvigorate us for the day to come. If you’re struggling with a sleep disorder, know that you can overcome it, you simply need to find the method that works for you and reprogram your body and mind to submit to the queues.
Below you can also find our infographic that visually layouts the 7 techniques in this article. Please feel free to save it and use it for your own needs.