sleep foundation
The National Sleep Foundation

Medically Reviewed by

The National Sleep Foundation

Written by

The National Sleep Foundation

For many people, the moment of turning out the light and lying back on a soft mattress is the ultimate nightly bliss. But for those who struggle to fall asleep, the prospect of staring at the ceiling and counting sheep can be disheartening. Measured by the amount of time it takes to go from being fully awake to sleep, sleep onset latency (SOL) varies from person to person and influences how you satisfied you feel about your sleep.


Restorative sleep is important for good health and mental acuity, so it’s natural to feel stressed when the process is delayed. Unfortunately, the more you stress, the harder seems to fall asleep. Use these strategies for a fresh perspective on falling asleep at night.


Learn Your Rhythm 

A circadian rhythm is your body’s system for sleeping and waking during a 24-hour day. By paying attention to this rhythm, you can determine what times during the day you feel alert and when you feel tired. Use this information to establish your daily routine, including the hour you wake up and go to bed every night.  Aligning your sleep schedule with your body’s internal clock can help you sleep well and wake up feeling more refreshed.


Power Down Electronics

If you struggle with falling asleep, it might be because of the presence of distracting devices in your bedroom. Ninety percent of Americans use their cell phones, computers, tablets, or other electronic gadgets before bed, which can interfere with nightly sleep.  (The blue, bright light emanating from these devices stimulates, rather than soothes, the senses.) For better sleep, turn off all electronics before bedtime.


Remove the Evidence

The perception of lost sleep can be annoying. One way to avoid this mental angst is to remove all clocks from your line of sight once you are in bed. Not being able to count the minutes as you lie awake can take some pressure off the situation, reducing your stress and helping sleep come more naturally.


Darken the Room

Lights from street lamps, hallway nightlights, or even the glow from your TV’s cable box can be needless distractions when you’re trying to get some sleep. To be sure these pesky sources of illumination don’t affect your sleep latency, use light blocking shades for your windows, close your bedroom door, and turn off or cover the light that’s emitted from electronic devices. You can also wear an eye mask to complete your total blackout.



Meditating is a great technique for calming your thoughts and removing your worries so that you can get ready to sleep. Signing up for group yoga or guided meditation classes in your area can teach you useful relaxation skills.  Practice breathing exercises that quiet the mind, then work on applying these skills to your bedtime routine.


And finally, don’t forget to consider the obvious: If you can’t fall asleep at night, it could be because you’re just not tired yet. Going to bed too early can be as hard on your body as going to sleep too late. Enjoy a quiet activity, like reading a book or listening to soothing music, until you feel your lids get heavy, then turn out the light.