Can't sleep? Try these 6 expert-backed techniques

Adhya Moona
Adhya MoonaSep 13, 2023 | 08:30

Can't sleep? Try these 6 expert-backed techniques

We've all experienced those occasional instances when we can't fall asleep quickly, even though we're lying in bed. We find ourselves wide awake in the middle of the night with all sorts of intrusive, anxious thoughts running through our heads. During times like these, when other sleep-inducing practices fail us, we can try out these six techniques that experts recommend to help us fall asleep faster and enjoy a good night's sleep.


Here are the tried-and-tested six simple techniques to tackle those random instances of insomnia. However, if you suffer from chronic sleeplessness, it's essential to consult with a doctor first.

Mindfulness meditation and body scanning

  • Practicing mindfulness meditation and systematically scanning each part of your body could be the solution to sleeplessness and insomnia.

  • Consider using meditation apps like "Headspace's Bedtime Stories," where a soothing voice guides you through a bedtime meditative exercise.

  • Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation improves sleep quality and helps calm anxiety-inducing, negative, and disruptive thoughts that can keep you awake at night.

So, what exactly is mindfulness meditation?

According to Verywell Mind, mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that involves slowing down racing, negative thoughts and calming both your mind and body. It's a combination of meditation and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you focus intensely on what you're sensing and feeling in the present moment, without interpretation or judgment. You concentrate on "the now," acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.


Dr Sundeep Khandelwal, a physician based in Delhi-NCR, suggests another method to fall asleep quickly: the 4-7-8 breathing technique, a cyclical breathing method that promotes calmness and relaxation before bedtime. Deep, slow breathing can help relax your body and mind. The 4-7-8 technique involves inhaling for a count of 4, holding your breath for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts.

Dr Khandelwal also emphasizes the importance of creating a comfortable sleep environment, which includes having a blanket, ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool, and investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Keeping your feet warm

  • It might sound unusual, but wearing socks to bed can help you fall asleep faster.
  • A 2018 study concluded that wearing socks or keeping your feet warm in a cool environment may lead to faster sleep onset and improved sleep quality.
  • You can either wear socks to bed or warm up your feet with a heating pad.

Head massage 

  • Massaging your head or using physical touch to stimulate pressure points (acupressure) may provide relief and promote sleep.
  • Another method is to locate your Anmian acupoints, located just behind your earlobe, just above the bony part.
  • According to traditional Chinese medicine, massaging Anmian acupoints helps induce sleep.

Sometimes hugging is the answer

  • Sometimes, hugging something or someone while sleeping can help you fall asleep faster and more deeply.

  • Hugging can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. You can either hug a pillow or a stuffed toy/animal before bedtime. U-shaped body pillows have become popular lately and can make you feel like you're hugging someone.

  • Dr Meenakshi Jain, MD (Internal Medicine) and Director of Internal Medicine and Diabetologist based in New Delhi, suggests that people enjoy hugging their pillows and stuffed animals because it makes them feel protected.

Photo: Unsplash/Somnox Sleep

Stimulating your senses

  • Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) refers to the relaxing, tingly, pleasurable sensations you experience across your scalp or spine when exposed to certain soft sounds like whispering or gentle stroking. People have been watching ASMR videos on various social media platforms, where individuals engage in activities such as whispering, chewing, or breathing into a microphone.

  • While there is limited research on how ASMR videos or listening to these sounds can help you fall asleep quickly, ASMR is known to promote relaxation, improve mood, and reduce stress—all of which can help you fall asleep and keep intrusive thoughts at bay.

Engaging in other activities

  • The more you fixate on the idea of falling asleep, the harder it becomes to do so. When none of the other techniques work, try distracting yourself and leaving your bed.
  • Step out of your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity like reading, journaling, or watching a video. Do these activities in a dimly lit room. Once you feel yourself starting to fall asleep, return to bed.

Expert opinion

dailyO interviewed Dr Meenakshi Jain, MD (Internal Medicine) and Director of Internal Medicine and Diabetologist based in New Delhi, for additional simple ways to induce sleep.

  • Dr Jain recommended avoiding coffee or any other stimulants like nicotine for at least four hours before bedtime.
  • She also advised against watching stimulating content on TV, opting instead for light reading before bed, wearing comfortable, loose clothing, listening to light instrumental music, practicing deep breathing, and engaging in activities that promote positive thoughts and relaxation.
  • Dr Meenakshi emphasized that one should only go to bed when they are actually falling asleep.

Do you find these techniques useful? Let us know in the comments.

Last updated: September 13, 2023 | 08:30
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