Fall Asleep Faster with an Effective Bedtime Routine


Dr. Darria Long, MD MBA

Exhausted, yet can’t fall asleep? There’s an easy solution! Adjust your nighttime routine to fall asleep faster and wake feeling more rested.

When I was training to be an ER doctor, my sleep schedule was all over the map: working overnight and sleeping during the day, then flipping back to dayshifts later in the week. But despite how exhausted and sleep deprived I was, I’d lie in bed and struggle to fall asleep. 

Our brains aren’t like sports cars—they don’t have an automatic brake to stop. Instead, they just have an accelerator—only slowing down when you take your foot off the gas. So, to fall asleep faster, you must slow your brain down. 

The beauty of sleep science is that if you stop fighting nature and leverage your body’s inherent systems, you can sleep better and fall asleep faster. So, if you’re looking for natural solutions for better sleep, look no further than your body’s intrinsic cycles. 

How to Create a Sleep Routine That Works

In this portion of our How to Sleep Well series, you’ll learn how to incorporate a sleep routine into your day. Not only does it give your brain time to slow down, but the predictability also allows your body and brain to get into sleep mode before you snuggle under the blankets, making falling asleep even easier.

1) Set a Consistent Wakeup Time

Your body LOVES a consistent schedule. When your wakeup time is predictable, your body will actually stop melatonin release to coincide with your predictable wakeup time, making mornings easier. Choose a time to wake up every weekday—and stick to it.

For weekends, aim to wake up at least one day of the weekend within 30 to 60 minutes of your regular weekday time. If you want to sleep in, that’s ok—just know that the next morning (and that night) may be a little more difficult, so see how it goes and adjust accordingly. 

2) Set a Consistent Bedtime

Try to go to bed around the same time (give or take 30 to 45 minutes) every night. If you do this regularly, your body will start to proactively lower body temperature, release melatonin, and start cycles that make it easier to fall asleep.

3) Follow a Nighttime “Power Down” Routine

If you’re a parent, you likely created a bedtime routine for your child to set the tone for restful sleep—now it’s time to do the same for yourself. Follow this one-hour Power Down routine, breaking each activity into 20 minutes, to train yourself to fall asleep faster. Spend:

  • 20 minutes prepping for the next day. Gather lunches, backpacks, work items, etc. Prepare whatever you need, so that your morning is less rushed, and you don’t have any “I can’t forget to set that aside” mental reminders keeping you awake. 
  • 20 minutes for hygiene and pampering yourself. Wash your face, take out your contacts, take a shower if you like, and otherwise get yourself ready for bed.
  • 20 minutes for relaxation. Here’s your chance to do whatever you want. Read, do a meditation of mindfulness and breathing exercises, stretch, watch TV, write out your gratitude practice, or pray. This is YOUR time.

Over time, your brain will associate the beginning of your routine with falling asleep, making nodding off even easier…zzzzzzzzz

Wondering how to help kids and teens sleep better? The above tips work for ALL ages. If your children or teens are struggling with sleep, establish a sleep routine. I often find that just restoring or establishing these habits is enough to reset your body’s clock, helping you to sleep better.

Consistency is key. If you’re having significant trouble with sleep, then follow this sleep routine for an entire week—including weekends. You’ll notice an improvement in as little as five days, so think of it as a ten-day back-to-sleep bootcamp to give your body time to reset. After that, you can experiment with what works best for your sleep and lifestyle. 

Dr. Darria Long, MD MBA

Dr. Darria Long is the nation’s go-to doctor for distilling the best information to make our lives healthier, better, and easier. She is a Harvard and Yale-trained Emergency physician, international TV contributor and regular on CNN, Headline News, The Dr. Oz Show, NBC, and other outlets, national bestselling author of Mom Hacks, and TedX speaker of the now widely popular “An ER doctor on triaging your crazy busy life” - and mom of 2. She’s also the founder of the TrueveLab - your data-driven source of truth for all things health. 

Dr. Darria is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee and received her training in emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine and her MBA from Harvard Business School. Combining her life’s work as an Emergency Room Physician, patient with autoimmune arthritis, and mother, Dr. Darria distills complex information for her audiences to give people holistic, evidence-based, and manageable solutions for their health and wellness.