Going to sleep does not always actually mean falling asleep. Luckily, there are a few actions you can take to fall asleep faster.
Lying awake is not just annoying. It can also reduce your sleep quality and duration and be a sign there are things you can do better.
1. Go to sleep at the same time
The human body has things called circadian rhythms which can be described as internal 24-hour clocks. These clocks influence things like when what types of hormones get released and to what extent (1).
Sleep is one of the things circadian rhythms play a big role in (2).
If you do things right, a 24-hour clock starts ticking when you fall asleep. This clock makes it so your body should be better prepared the next night to fall asleep at more or less the same time.
That means timing the release of sleep hormones etc.
In short, if you have trouble falling asleep at night, something you can do is try to make sure your bedtime routine is at more or less the same time every night.
2. Keep your room at the right temperature
These circadian sleep rhythms mentioned before also influence your body temperature but they are not always enough for optimal sleep (2).
The temperature of your bedroom also influences your sleep quality and how fast you fall asleep.
A general recommendation for the room temperature when sleeping is 65°F (18.3°C) but inevitably there will be individual preferences.
Depending on where you live and what time of the year it is, this number may seem out of reach. However, there are a variety of sleep temperature tools that can help you with this.
3. Get sunlight in the morning
Going to sleep is not the only thing that influences your 24-hour clocks. Another very important point of the day for your circadian rhythms is the hour after you wake up.
Getting sunlight in this time frame (to safe extents) is important for helping your circadian rhythms “realize” what time of the day it is (3).
This also helps regulate the release of a variety of sleep hormones at night and in turn, can help you fall asleep faster.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to get this light exposure in a safe way. If the sun is too bright, you may need to stay in the shade or even stay inside anyway.
Additionally, sunglasses block certain lightwaves which can reduce the effectiveness of the sun exposure in terms of circadian rhythms.
Safety is again the priority but if possible you want to use something like a hat instead of sunglasses.
4. Have a good before-bed routine
People are creatures of habit. This also applies to going asleep and the activities before it.
First of all, simply creating a routine with steps that end in going to sleep can be helpful. Over time, you will notice that following the routine will end with you feeling at least somewhat sleepier.
Secondly, you also want to make sure this routine contains good habits for falling asleep or at least does not contain activities that wake you up.
Certain locations or activities will stress you out more than others. You can write these down and avoid them before bedtime if possible.
Additionally, things like exercising or working too close to bedtime can be suboptimal for your sleep.
If you don’t have any other option, you may need to do these things at that time. However, to sleep better you want to keep them for earlier in the day.
Some alternatives that tend to be better activities for your sleep routine include reading a book, talking to your partner, listening to calming music, or listening to a light podcast.
5. Only use your bedroom for bed-related activities
This next tip to fall asleep faster is somewhat related to the before-bed routine but not entirely.
What you do a lot in a location tends to influence how you feel and what your energy levels are when being in that location.
In simpler words, if you only use your bedroom for bed-related activities, your body will put itself in states that are suited for them. This could help you fall asleep faster.
A personal anecdote is that the times I slept in my home office, I spent a lot more time lying awake worrying about work and thinking about how I could do things better instead of just sleeping.
6. Avoid bright lights at night
While it is an important point in the day, the hour after you wake up is not the only time when your light exposure influences your sleep quality and how fast you fall asleep a lot.
More specifically, your body “interprets” being in a room with bright lights or looking at a bright screen as a sign that it is time to wake up.
In terms of physical processes, this means releasing sleep hormones to a lesser extent and releasing wake-up hormones to a larger extent.
It may feel like there is no way to avoid this but even in modern-day life, there are a few things you can do to avoid bright lights.
First of all, you can invest in dimmer lights and simply turn off the bright lights. Another option is investing in sleep tools like blue light blocking glasses.
These are glasses that filter out blue light to some extent and dim other light colors. Wearing these an hour or two right before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster.
7. Have an exercise habit
By now it is clear that your actions throughout the day influence the duration and quality of your sleep. Another habit to add to the list is exercise.
On top of that, exercise offers many other impressive benefits like improving your mood, helping you get to or stay at a healthy weight, keeping your muscles healthier, etc.
Most people definitely want to try to make exercise a habit.