7 Sleep Doctors Reveal Their Favorite Tricks for Falling Asleep Fast

08/23/2015 02:18 pm ET | Updated Aug 23, 2016


Learn from the masters, and you'll never lie awake at night again
(Image from Thinkstock)

Sleep doctors toss and turn sometimes -- but it's never for long. That's because they use scientifically-sound methods to lull themselves into dreamland. Steal their techniques so you can finally get a good night's rest.

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Blow bubbles

It sounds ridiculous, but blowing a few bubbles -- like the kind that comes in a plastic bottle that you played with as a kid -- right before bed can help you fall asleep faster, says Rachel Marie E. Salas, M.D., a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It's like a deep breathing exercise, which helps calm your body and mind, she says. And since it's such a silly activity, it can also take your mind off of any potential sleep-thwarting thoughts.

No way you're doing this? Try this instead: Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on counting your breaths for 3-15 minutes.

When your mind wanders (and it will), start counting your breaths from one again. Researchers from Nepal found that doing this form of meditation for just a few minutes a day can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, reducing anxiety and helping you sleep better.

Sidetrack your mind

You may have heard that you should use your bed for only two things: sleeping and screwing. But reading at bedtime is OK, too, says Janet K. Kennedy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in New York City.

Tossing and turning is stressful and it causes the body to release adrenaline, making it harder to fall asleep, Kennedy says. "Distracting your mind with a good book allows the body's fatigue to take over."

Another option: Hypnotize yourself. Imagine sinking 50 free throws or teeing off on your favorite par 3. "Visualization reduces anxiety and lets your brain's sleep mechanism engage," says Men's Health sleep advisor W. Christopher Winter, M.D.

Tune out

Listening to soft, calming music not only helps you fall asleep, but also extends the length and depth of your sleep, says James Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know about Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask

Research shows that downtempo tunes lower your heart rate and blood pressure, helping you chill out. Listening to waves gently crashing or rain softly falling works as well.

Exercise in the evening

Hitting the gym after work can help you zonk out, says Orlando Ruiz-Rodriguez, M.D., a sleep doctor at South Seminole Hospital in Orlando. 

One recent Swiss study suggests that completing an intense workout 90 minutes before bed may help you fall asleep faster by reducing your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

And you don’t even have to leave your house. You can blast belly fat at home with The Anarchy Workout. (One guy lost 18 pounds of pure fat in just 6 weeks!)

Shun the clock

Once you turn out the lights, don’t check the time again -- even if you wake up in the middle of the night, says Nathaniel F. Watson, M.D., M.Sc., president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 

If you do, you’ll start thinking about how long you’ve been in bed or how much time is left until you have to wake up, Dr. Watson says. If I fall asleep right now, I can get 5 hours and 21 minutes of sleep. This just creates anxiety, which may keep you up even longer.

Avoid the urge to glance at the time by using a clock that doesn’t light up or turning the digits away from your bed. If you use your phone as a watch, put it in your bedside drawer so it’s harder to reach. 

Make a to-do list

Got a lot on your mind? If you struggle to block out stressful thoughts at the end of the day, write down a list of tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow, says Andrew J. Westwood, M.D., a professor of neurology at Columbia University.  

When you have a lot of worries, your brain can’t shut down because it’s trying to process all of the information. Writing them down on a piece of paper, however, helps you feel more in control so your brain can finally relax, he says.

By Kristen Domonell


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