How long should it take you to fall asleep at night? Five minutes? Or does it more often take you 30 minutes to drift off into your nightly slumber? With the time it takes you to nod off (also called sleep latency) an important indicator of sleep health, here we share a few tips to help with how to get to sleep faster.
Sleep latency is the length of time it takes you to go from your head hitting the pillow to sleeping. The average amount of time is ten to 20 minutes.1 And research suggests a sleep latency of 10 to 15 minutes is more likely to lead to a good night’s rest.2 But what if it regularly takes you more or less time than this?
5 reasons why you can’t get to sleep
If you’re wondering why you’re spending a long time in bed trying to sleep (but not actually sleeping), it could be due to a number of things:3
- Do you find yourself getting stressed out pondering how to sleep faster? Clock watching and analysing why you’re not asleep can leave you tossing and turning even more. Yes, anxiety about the act of trying to get to sleep can end up being what’s keeping you awake.
- Is something about your sleep environment stopping you nodding off? Perhaps it’s too hot in your bedroom? Or maybe the light isn’t dim enough? Or is your mattress uncomfortable? Is a messy room cluttering your mind? All these things can impact on the time it takes you to get to sleep.
- Irregular sleep patterns. Late nights and lazy lie-ins. Afternoon naps and all-nighters. It could be that your body clock is out of sync due to an irregular sleep routine.
- Your bedtime drink. There are two sleep-stealing beverages in particular – caffeine and alcohol. Maybe an evening, caffeine-fuelled drink is interrupting your slumber? And that alcoholic tipple that feels so relaxing could also be a cause of sleep interference.
- Struggling to relax. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, over-stretched and anxious, it can feel difficult to switch off. This can cause you problems when you’re trying to get to sleep.
How do you fall asleep in five minutes?
If you’re struggling to nod off, learning how to get to sleep quickly can seem an impossible task. But there are some simple techniques that could help you hit the elusive five-minute sleep latency target.
Step 1: Get your bedroom ready for sleep
It may take you some time to find the perfect sleep environment for you, but here are some simple changes to help you get started:
- Keeping clocks out of view. It can prevent you from obsessing over the time.
- Removing electronic devices from the room. Allow yourself to fully switch off.
- Choosing a blackout blind or curtains. For example, if you have a streetlight outside your window, this can help darken your bedroom. Or you could try wearing an eye mask.
- Decluttering your bedroom. This can help to clear your mind too.
- Keeping your room cool. A temperature of around 16-18°C is recommended for bedrooms.4
- Reducing the volume. Some people find it useful to wear earplugs to block out noise. Others find playing gentle music or white noise helps them to drift into a more restful state of mind.
Step 2: Get your body ready for sleep
If your body isn’t ready for sleep, you’re likely to find it harder to drop off. Here are a few things you can do to help you slip into slumber mode:
- Avoid drinking caffeine close to bedtime. Reduce your consumption of (or cut out) stimulants, especially in the evening.5
- Shun alcoholic drinks in the lead up to bedtime. Even just a couple of drinks can have an impact on your sleep quality.6
- Eat dinner earlier. Leave enough time for your stomach to digest food before you lie down for the night.7 And if you limit your calorie intake to earlier in the day it also means there’s more time to use any excess energy.
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed. The dip in your body temperature post-bath can fool your body into thinking you have gone from daytime into night-time. Some say this can increase the urge to sleep.8
- Add some regular exercise into your routine. Exercise is great for relieving stress and anxiety, which can help with how to get to sleep fast. However, if you’re exercising in the lead up to bedtime, choose relaxing, low-impact exercises, such as yoga.
Step 3: Get your mind ready for sleep
Working long hours. Trying to keep up with a hectic family life. And then managing all of the other stresses life throws at you can all contribute to difficulties falling asleep. Here are a few ways you can help wind down your mind ready for bedtime.
Try controlled breathing
You could try the 4-7-8 breathing technique.9 Some advocates of this method claim it helps get people to sleep in one minute. Simply follow this breathing pattern:
- Breath in for four seconds.
- Hold the breath for seven seconds.
- Breathe out for eight seconds.
Reframe unhelpful thoughts
Changing your perspective on something that’s concerning you can help deal with any worries before you get into bed. Reframing can prevent you falling into a negative cycle of thoughts that can stop you falling asleep. It takes these three actions:10
- Recognise the thought.
- Challenge it.
- Replace it with a more positive perspective.
Use the military method
It can take a few weeks to get the hang of this method and see the results. But it promises to help you fall asleep in two minutes or less, so it’s worth a try.11
- Relax your face muscles – your jaw, tongue, and the muscles around the eyes.
- Drop your shoulders. Then take your arms down to your side too, one side at a time.
- Allow your chest to relax.
- Next, relax your legs. Start from the thighs and work down.
- Now clear your mind. Focus on a relaxing vision for 10 seconds. For example, lying in a canoe on a tranquil lake looking up at a clear blue sky.
- Repeat, “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think,” to yourself for a further 10 seconds.
- You should drop off soon after.
What to drink to fall asleep faster?
So far, it’s only been the drinks to avoid we’ve mentioned. However, some beverages can help with sleep. If you’re looking for a natural sleep remedy, herbal teas are a popular option. Chamomile tea and passionflower tea are both common herbal sleep inducers.
Summary: Is it normal to take two hours to fall asleep?
The average time it takes people to fall into a good night’s sleep is 5-15 minutes. But this won’t be the case for everyone. Sleep is a personal experience and it may mean nothing at all if you take longer to fall asleep. Some people simply naturally take longer to drop off. Or it may be because you’re getting too much sleep. So, if you’re not experiencing any other side effects of a bad night’s sleep, it could be it’s what’s normal for you.
Last updated: 11 November 2020