7 Ways to Fall Asleep Fast: Expert-Recommended Strategies

Feb 07, 2024
Fact Checked
Use these methods to improve your quality of sleep and overall health and well-being.

Key Takeaways: Falling asleep fast

Good sleep is essential for general health and well-being. But even if you head to bed early with the best intentions of a full night’s sleep, issues like back discomfort, acid reflux, or chronic pain can make falling asleep (and staying asleep) challenging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleeping less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night has been associated with a higher risk of health problems, like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart attack, and depression.

But there are techniques to help you fall asleep. Read on to learn more about how to fall asleep faster and improve your overall sleep hygiene.

Factors to consider for falling asleep fast

When considering techniques to fall asleep fast, your environment and health factors have an impact. The average time it takes to fall asleep, also called sleep onset latency, is between 10–20 minutes. If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, you should get out of bed and do something relaxing. Take action to get a better night’s sleep by following these sleep tips:

Methods for falling asleep fast

Several methods are available to help you fall asleep, including breathwork, meditation, acupressure, and guided imagery. Below we explore some of the more common methods used to help people fall asleep.

4-7-8 breathing technique

Various methods can be used to control your breathing and help you relax. One way is called 4-7-8 breathing control, created by American doctor Andrew Weil. The 4‐7‐8 method of breathing control involves inhaling for a count of four seconds, holding your breath for a count of seven, and exhaling for a count of eight. This breathing method aims to reduce anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep. A recent study found that this technique improved rest and relaxation (in the parasympathetic nervous system) and decreased stress response (in the sympathetic nervous system), including heart rate variability and blood pressure. 

Weil described the process using the following steps:

  1. With a whoosh sound, let out all of your breath through your mouth.
  2. Close your mouth and take a quiet, four-count breath via your nose.
  3. For seven counts, hold your breath.
  4. In a single exhale, make a whoosh sound and let out all of your air through your mouth, counting to eight.
  5. Repeat the above cycle three more times.

Military method

Bud Winter, a former American track and field coach, originally described one of the most common methods for falling asleep fast in his book Relax & Win. Winter wrote that he used the technique on U.S. Naval Pre-Flight School cadets and was successful, even when they were sitting up in their chairs. Winter’s method is now referred to as the military method. The relaxation sequence follows these steps:

According to Winter, following these steps will relax you mentally and physically, allowing you to fall asleep quickly. Winter’s method also includes using imagery, like visualizing a blue sky and serene lake to help with the process. 


The practice of mindfulness meditation has grown in popularity in recent years as a complementary therapy for sleep disturbances. To be mindful is to pay attention consciously, in the here and now, and without passing judgment. Mindfulness meditation addresses a variety of cognitive issues that can cause wakefulness by lessening intrusive and repetitive thoughts and reducing emotional stress, all of which may help you go to sleep. Mindfulness meditation techniques, like mindfulness–based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI), have both been proven effective for the treatment of chronic insomnia

Peaceful music

The effectiveness of music as a regular sleep aid may be explained by its impact on physical, psychological, and emotional states. Music’s numerous positive neurological and physiological benefits may indicate that it can effectively treat sleep deprivation. Some regard music as a substance-free treatment option to lessen anxiety and potentially decrease the perception of pain. Music has been used to reduce negative thoughts and to help overall mood. One recent study found music could be a good strategy to combat insomnia.

Acupressure for sleep

Acupressure is when particular body locations, or acupoints, are stimulated with pressure. Self-acupressure is a highly useful tool for body and mind relaxation. This can help the body recover and encourage more peaceful sleep. The following acupoints can be treated with light to moderate pressure for 10–15 minutes to help you fall asleep more quickly and return to sleep if you wake up during the night. Using these tips more frequently will yield better outcomes:

Researchers who completed a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of self-administered acupressure (SAA) for insomnia concluded that this was an effective approach to improving sleep. 

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation, sometimes known as deep muscle relaxation or Jacobson’s technique, involves purposefully tensing each muscle group in the body one at a time and then releasing it. You can use an audio training course or attend an in-person session to learn muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation has several emotional and physical benefits, which include reducing the negative effects of stress and anxiety, alleviating pain, reducing exhaustion, and promoting sleep. In a study of people with epilepsy, progressive muscle relaxation decreased symptoms of depression and improved sleep quality. 

Guided imagery

Another popular method of relaxation training is guided imagery, which involves visualization of serene, pleasant scenes or imagining yourself breathing deeply, slowly drifting off to sleep, and enjoying a restful night’s sleep. Researchers completed a study to explore the effects on anxiety reduction. Participants were provided with nature-based or non-nature-based guided imagery during the study. The results indicated both guided imagery techniques significantly reduced anxiety. 

Falling asleep faster and overall sleep health

Getting good sleep can be challenging, especially if you have trouble with anxiety, insomnia, or other sleep disorders. Anxiety usually serves as an internal alarm system alerting the person to possible danger, and to a certain extent, anxiety can be helpful. But a person suffering from anxiety disorder is subjected to acute, frequent, or even constant false alarms. False alarms can create ongoing problems with your sleep cycle and lead to trouble falling asleep. Anxiety is present in about 24%–35% of people who experience insomnia.

“Poor quality sleep can be associated with heart disease, and, in the long run, may have some impact on the incidence of heart attacks,” said Rakesh V. Alva, MD, board-certified in sleep and a member of the LeBauer pulmonary team at Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Additional considerations to help you get the best sleep possible include:

“We think about sleep quantity and quality. If your quantity is good, which is six to eight hours in adults, you may positively impact your health,” Alva added.

Bottom line

Sleep is vital to your overall health and well-being. But poor-quality sleep can raise your risk for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and it can negatively impact your mental health. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you achieve the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. Several techniques may help you fall asleep faster to achieve your sleep goals. These techniques include the 4-7-8 breathing technique, the military method, meditation, peaceful music, acupressure, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. Combining your method of choice with an established bedtime routine and sleep schedule will allow you to maximize your sleep quality and minimize any negative effects from lack of sleep.

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Poor sleep hygiene can prevent you from achieving restful sleep even when tired. The timing and duration of naps can affect your sleep, while caffeine intake and poor dietary habits, like consuming too many sugary foods, can also upset your sleep cycle. Health issues, like anxiety and depression, may also be to blame. It’s important that you take any prescription medications for these and other conditions as directed by your health care provider, as some medications can also disrupt your sleep.

Stress, anxiety, light exposure, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Staying asleep can be challenging if you have insomnia or frequently get up at night to use the bathroom. People who have anxiety and depression may find it difficult to stay asleep due to medications and persistent intrusive thoughts preventing return to sleep. Timing of medications, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol intake can also impact the ability to stay asleep.

One of the seven techniques outlined in this article may help you fall asleep faster, so you can feel rested and refreshed the next day. Listening to peaceful music or guided imagery can lead to relaxation and improve your chances of falling asleep. Breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation, both of which are components of the military method, have also been shown to help people fall asleep faster.

Have questions about this review? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.


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Steve Marshall has more than 35 years of clinical and leadership experience in health care. He has worked in various settings, including emergency departments, intensive care units, air and ground transport, oncology, infectious disease, and infusion services.  He founded See Doc Nurse Write LLC in 2023 to expand the reach of his clinical knowledge and expertise.
Suzanne Gorovoy Medical Reviewer
Suzanne Gorovoy is a clinical psychologist, behavioral sleep medicine specialist, and member of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She received her graduate degree in School Psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Case Western Reserve University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Susan Stiles
Susan Stiles Reviewer
Susan Stiles, PhD, provides leadership in the design and development of consumer products that inspire, educate, and activate older adults. She’s been instrumental in bringing the Aging Mastery Program® to market and scaling it nationwide via strategic alliances and business partnerships. Stiles has 20+ years of experience in design thinking, multimedia, strategic communications, and management consulting.
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