tricks to fall asleep

How to Trick Your Brain into Falling Asleep

Have you ever found yourself tossing and turning in bed thinking, "If only I knew how to fall asleep fast"? If so, you're not alone.

If you’re tired of feeling this way, here’s some good news: Understanding the balance between your brain and sleep can unlock the door to great rest. And in this article, we’ll explain how you can trick your brain into embracing sleep, as well as the science of a good night of shut eye.

Sleep and the Brain

The complex relationship between sleep and the brain explains why sleep is not always easily accessible—the brain doesn't simply "turn off" during sleep. Rather, it transitions through various stages of rest, each essential for mental and physical health.

During sleep the brain cycles through periods of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. There are four stages in total: Stages 1, 2, and 3 are all a version of non-REM sleep, and stage 4 is considered REM sleep. 

Each stage is characterized by different brain wave patterns and activity. And getting the proper combination of the four stages of sleep each night will help you repair muscles, consolidate memories, release growth hormones, and protect your immune system. 

Common Barriers to Sleep

Unfortunately, we are surrounded by distractions that can hinder our ability to reach these vital stages of sleep. Here are some of the most common sleep blockers:

  • Elevated stress levels can increase brain activity, and this heightened activity can make it difficult to transition into the calming stages of non-REM sleep.

  • The circadian rhythm is the body's internal clock. Disruptions to this rhythm—from jet lag, shift work, or poor sleep habits—can misalign the body’s natural sleep-wake cycles.

  • Stimulants, like caffeine, can inhibit adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. 

If any of these sleep blockers have impacted you, it may be time to take a closer look at your routine. 

How Your Routine Impacts Sleep Quality

One of the most effective ways to get quality sleep is to make it a habit—and building a sleep routine can be the first step.  

When building your sleep routine, remember that consistency is key. For example, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day teaches your brain when to release sleep hormones. Additionally, calming routines like journaling, lighting a candle, or reading can ease your body and mind to a more relaxed state that is prepared for sleep. 

What’s something you can add to your sleep routine to help you get a better night’s rest?

A Good Night's Sleep Starts with Your Environment

Like your routine, the right environment can send signals to your brain telling you it’s time to sleep. So consider optimizing the look, sound, and feel of your space to get the best rest. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Ensure your space is as dark as possible: Exposure to light can mix up your brain’s perception of night and day.

  • Limit distracting noises: A quiet atmosphere can help your body relax when falling asleep and prevent interruptions when sleeping. 

  • Lower the temperature in your room: A cool temperature in your bedroom facilitates the natural drop in body temperature that occurs before sleeping.  

Relaxation Techniques to Ready the Mind for Sleep

What about when it’s racing thoughts or a busy mind that keeps you awake? If that often happens to you, the following techniques before going to bed to help quiet your mind: 

  • Deep breathing exercises: The 4-7-8 method can decrease anxiety and slow your heart rate, preparing your body for a state of sleep. And it's simple: Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, repeating as many times as you'd like.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): By noticing the difference between feeling tight and feeling loose, you can become more aware of any tightness in your body that might be making it hard for you to sleep. Starting at your toes and working your way towards your head (or moving in reverse, if you prefer), tense each muscle group for about 5 seconds then relax for up to 30 seconds.

  • Visualization: Mental visualization has the power to distract the mind from daily stressors and requires no resources (other than practice!). Picture any setting that calms you, like a beach at sunset or a cozy cabin in the woods.

  • Journaling: If a busy mind is keeping you awake, try keeping a notebook beside your bed and spend a few minutes writing down any lingering thoughts or worries for the next day. This can help you stay accountable and clear your mind.

  • Reframing sleep thoughts: Challenge and reframe any negative thoughts about sleep. If you find yourself thinking, "I'll never fall asleep," try to change it to, "It may take some time, but my body knows how to rest."

  • Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is known for its calming effect, which can set you up for better quality sleep. The Balance app offers a comprehensive collection of proven techniques that can help you get your best sleep ever. From science-backed exercises to calming bedtime stories, Balance has something for everyone.

And finally, if you've tried every trick in the book and are still experiencing difficulties falling asleep, it might be time to seek professional sleep help. A healthcare provider can offer treatments tailored to your needs, helping you achieve the restful sleep you deserve.

Get Your Best Night's Rest With the Balance App

Falling and staying asleep is a personal journey, and it takes time to learn what works best for you. But by building a consistent routine and intentionally signaling to your brain that it’s time to rest, you’re right on track to falling asleep quickly and waking up refreshed. 

And if you’re looking for a beginner-friendly (and free!) resource to help you get started,  consider downloading the Balance app. Balance delivers real results, with 82% of members sleeping better after using its personalized sleep support. Balance’s library of award-winning meditations and sleep support includes accessible guidance, music, and more for every type of sleeper. 

Don’t sleep on this opportunity—download Balance today!

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