Tips for falling asleep fast
If you’re hoping to learn how to sleep faster (or how to sleep better), you’re in the right place. There are a variety of lifestyle changes you can make to create the ultimate calm sleep routine.
1. Finish up any intense exercise by early evening at the latest
Here at Well+Good, we love to work out—but it’s important to remember that there’s a time and a place for everything, and right before bed, the last thing you want to do is boost your cortisol and adrenaline. (Because, FYI: Research shows that when you use more than 60 percent of your max heart rate, that can happen.)
Because of this, licensed therapist, millennial family expert, and OLLY Ambassador, Kier Gaines (who is passionate about the intersection of sleep and mental health), says that expending your physical energy earlier in the day is key to helping your body fall asleep fast at night. “The body will be primed for restful sleep, and the mind won’t be too far behind,” he explains. If the only time you have to exercise is after work, just be sure to finish with enough time to eat your post-workout dinner at least one and a half hours before hitting the sheets.
2. Practice gentle yoga or stretching
Since HIIT workouts and sprints aren’t advisable super close to bedtime, you may want to explore more meditative physical activity, says independent sleep doctor and Purple sleep advisor Meeta Singh, MD. “Gentle yoga or stretching can help release tension in your muscles and calm your mind,” she explains.
(Planning to implement a stretching routine before bed? The Stakt The Mat, $86) is a chic, compact exercise mat with just enough padding to make any stretch comfortable. Meanwhile, keeping a Lululemon No Limits Stretching Strap, $18, on hand can help you achieve all the static stretches you’re hoping to do before bed—and whenever.)
3. Take a warm bath or shower
There’s something so relaxing about taking a steamy shower or sinking into a hot bath. “A warm bath or shower can help relax your muscles and ease tension, which can make it easier to fall asleep,” Dr. Singh says.
To make bath time even more beneficial for sleep, integrative medicine physician and OLLY ambassador Taz Bhatia, MD, says to incorporate magnesium-infused products. “Increasing magnesium levels has proven to reduce stress symptoms from irritability to sleeplessness,” she explains.
If you’re a shower person, consider using the Ren Clean Skincare Atlantic Kelp & Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash ($30); if you prefer baths, adding a magnesium bath soak, such as the Asutra Magnesium Bath Flakes ($20), can help improve your overall sleep quality.
Not planning to shower or bathe before bed? Dr. Bhatia says you can still enjoy the sleep-boosting topical effects of magnesium by applying an overnight scalp treatment. “Warming coconut oil into the scalp is an old Ayurvedic tradition that relaxes the scalp and improves blood flow to the scalp, which is often diverted in stress,” she explains. “By adding magnesium oil, the added benefit of magnesium's relaxation on muscles is a true stress-relief treat.”
4. Create a bedtime routine
Routines can be immensely helpful for sticking to a workout regimen or diet plan, and they can also help when it comes to achieving calm sleep. When creating a bedtime routine, start by thinking about when you want to get up, then work backward. If you want to wake up at 7 a.m., you’ll need to go to bed between 11 p.m. and midnight to achieve seven to eight hours of sleep. Since we rarely fall asleep instantaneously, it’s important to give yourself time to wind down before you intend to snooze. So, if your bedtime is 11 p.m., around 10 p.m. start taking the steps you know will help you chill out: draw a bath, get under the covers with a book or journal, drink your chamomile tea—whatever works for you.
All in all, Gaines says the most important thing is to actually prepare for bed. “Passing out on the couch and preparing for bed conscientiously are not the same thing,” he explains. “Some people find relaxation in the ritual of a night routine.”
5. Limit blue light before bed
As cozy as it may feel to curl up with your phone and scroll through your social media feeds until you fall asleep, the very practice is actually part of the reason why it may be so hard to fall asleep in the first place. “Our devices influence spikes in brain activity that can make it much more difficult to fall and stay asleep,” Gaines warns.
While phones are often the biggest culprits, Dr. Bhatia points out that artificial cool-toned lights, tablets, and televisions all emit blue light. She suggests turning off all bright, blue-tinted lights for a couple of hours before bed. That’s not to say you have to just lay in the dark, though. “Switch instead to lights with amber bulbs, like night lights,” she says. “Doing so will help your melatonin production stay on track and normalize your internal clock, so you can fall asleep at a good hour.”
Another option? Consider dimmable lights. “Dimming the lights in your bedroom can help signal to your brain that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep,” Dr. Singh says.
(Looking for a great night light? The Casper Glow Light, $129, comes with a companion app that lets users set it to a timer for falling asleep and rising—the cordless light gradually dims at nighttime and brightens at dawn. That said, if you prefer multi-tasking night lights, the Hatch Restore 2, $200, triples as an alarm clock and sleep sound machine.)
6. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
Notice how we mentioned the importance of thinking about your sleep schedule when outlining a bedtime routine? Well, one of the best tips for improving overall sleep quality is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. “Even on weekends,” Dr. Singh points out. “This helps regulate your body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep faster.”
7. Create a relaxing sleep environment
While choosing the right lighting for your bedroom can help promote calm sleep, it’s not the only thing that will boost your ability to drift off. Setting a cool temperature (between 60 and 68 degrees), wearing breathable pajamas, and using super comfortable bedding all play a significant role in your sleep quality, Dr. Singh says.
If you’re looking to revamp your PJ drawer (as I just did), may I suggest the Printfresh Sleep Shirt ($102)? The 100-percent cotton sleep dress features three-quarter–length sleeves and a button-front silhouette that’s so comfortable, I bought it in two patterns and already have my eye on a third.
If you’re planning to revamp your bedding, check out the Purple SoftStretch Sheet Set ($189) if you prefer an ultra-snuggly, jersey-type feel, or the Brooklinen Classic Hardcore Sheet Bundle ($195+) if you crave the feel of crisp, cool cotton while you sleep.
It’s also worth noting that if you share your bed with a partner or a pet, having a large enough sleep space is key to getting a good night’s rest. If you’re thinking it’s time to upgrade to a queen or king, consider the Amerisleep AS3 ($1,299+)—a fan-favorite bed-in-a-box that’s cushy yet supportive, not to mention designed with cooling technology.
8. Enjoy a scent that soothes you
Another way to make your sleep environment more relaxing is with a sleep-inducing fragrance. “Our brains associate some fragrances with calmness and positive mood,” Gaines explains. “Since stress and anxiety are chief causes of sleeplessness, a nice candle can help mitigate those barriers to a restful slumber.”
If you’re worried about falling asleep before remembering to blow out your candle, you can always opt for a sleep spray. “Lavender is a known nervine, working through aromatherapy to relax the brain's stress centers,” Dr. Bhatia says, explaining that it calms the nervous system and helps with sleep regulation.
(Psst: The Bath & Body Works Lavender Iris Essential Oil Mist, $16, smells lovely and looks like a chic bedside table addition.)
9. Curb caffeine and alcohol intake
It might not be what you want to hear, but caffeine and alcohol both make falling asleep much harder than it needs to be. Because of this, Dr. Singh says you should cut out both in the hours leading up to bedtime. More specifically, you should cut caffeine by the early afternoon, and have your last alcoholic beverage (if any at all) at least two hours prior to bedtime.
If you simply love the ritual of winding down with wine or a cup of hot coffee, there are ways to still enjoy that time—only with different bevs. If you enjoy a nightcap, consider opting for French Bloom Le Blanc 0% Alcohol ($39) or a Sunwink Hibiscus Mint Unwind Sparkling Tonic ($50 for 12)–my personal fave! If you love the calming sensation of a hot bev before bed, swap out your coffee for a decaf tea, such as the David’s Tea Calming Chamomile Tea ($10).
Another option? Warm milk. “This is one of my favorite traditions passed down from my mom,” Dr. Bhatia shares. “Before going to bed, many find their mind going a mile a minute. Tryptophan, an enzyme found in warm milk, has shown to relax and calm the nervous system. This always helps me wind down before bed.”
10. Read a book
Without screens, you may not know what to do with yourself. Dr. Singh suggests reaching for a good book. “Reading a book can help calm your mind and reduce stress levels,” she says. “Choose a book that is not too stimulating or thought-provoking.” In other words, maybe set aside your nail-biting Colleen Hoover novels and opt instead for a lighter (but oh-so-enjoyable) read, such as Jasmine Guillory’s Drunk on Love or Emily Henry’s Book Lovers (though, we fully admit that those may be tough to put down, too).
11. Listen to relaxing music
Calming playlists can also help boost feelings of sleepiness. “Listening to calming music can help you relax and unwind before bed,” Dr. Singh says. Though, let it be known: white noise, ocean sounds, and brown noise can all help, too. “They drown out sounds that can stimulate the brain and prevent restful sleep,” Gaines says.
12. Journal about your day
If you have trouble falling asleep because you’re up worrying about the events of the day, the past, or the next day, taking time to journal can help release the burden of those thoughts from your mind. “Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you process any stress or worries that may be keeping you up at night,” Dr. Singh explains.
If you’d like to start a journaling routine but are worried about your ability to stick to it, consider the Writing Your Life Hard Cover 5 Year Journal ($40); if you have more to say than just a few lines a day, opt for a beautiful Papier Notebook ($30), to jot down your thoughts.
13. Sleep in alignment with your circadian rhythm
While all of these tips and tricks can be immensely helpful for boosting sleep, they won’t work very well if you try to implement them against your natural circadian rhythm, Dr. Singh says. “For example, if you are a night owl and your natural bedtime is 1 a.m., going to bed at 10 p.m. would mean you would lay there frustrated and not sleep,” she explains. That said, committing to these practices can, indeed, help shift your rhythm over time, so it’s up to you to choose which timing best fits your sleep and lifestyle goals.
14. Take the right sleep supplements, if you need them
Over the counter sleep aids like melatonin and magnesium exist to help boost feelings of sleepiness.
“You produce melatonin naturally at night, but if you have trouble falling asleep, supplementing with melatonin can make a big difference,” Dr. Bhatia says. “Melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and helps you stay asleep longer.”
While many melatonin supplements exist, the OLLY Sleep Gummies ($25 for 100) are my personal favorite. They’re delicious and don’t have a bad aftertaste—to the point that I wish the recommended dose was more than two gummies. They’re that good!
Meanwhile magnesium supplements help promote muscle relaxation and an overall feeling of calmness, which can also lend to falling asleep faster. My go-to is the Moon Juice Magnesi-Om Magnesium Supplement ($42), which is sold in a Berry Calm flavor, as well as an all-new Blue Lemon option. If you ask me, it’s one of the best drinks for sleep.
Why is my body not letting me sleep?
There are a number of reasons why your body may not feel primed for sleep. According to Dr. Singh, engaging in stressful activities right before bed (such as having an argument or laboring over an intense project), napping late in the day, drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening, eating heavy meals close to bedtime, and engaging in too much screen time can all make falling asleep more difficult.
Does falling asleep fast guarantee better sleep?
Not necessarily. “While falling asleep quickly can be a sign of good sleep quality, it's not the only factor that determines the quality of your sleep,” Dr. Singh says. “Sometimes falling asleep fast just means you are sleep deprived.” That’s why sleep and activity trackers, like the Whoop ($49+) and Oura Ring ($299+), measure sleep latency (aka how long it takes you to fall asleep) as well as how many hours you actually sleep for over the course of the night.
What if I can’t sleep at night?
While feeling restless here and there is normal, if you find that you can’t sleep for nights on end, it’s time to consult a doctor to determine what might be keeping you up, and if something beyond lifestyle factors may be at play. If they find that your sleep is a true sign of insomnia, they may offer prescription sleeping pills.
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