How to Fall Asleep Quickly

· September 15, 2015

Do you have difficulty falling asleep quickly? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself unable to fall back asleep? Hundreds of studies demonstrate the power of stimulus control therapy to help with this problem.

Do you suffer from insomnia? Do you want to fall asleep immediately, but there is never a night that you can? You are not alone. In numerous studies, sleep has been shown to be fundamental to good health.

The psychological effects of sleep deprivation include diminished cognitive performance, memory, attention, and physical performance. Furthermore, long-term insomnia is also associated with anxiety and depression. And sleep worsens with age; in fact, among those 65 years and older, between 12% and 40% of people suffer from insomnia.

People try many methods to combat sleeplessness, including extravagant drug treatments. The problem with drugs is that they have significant side effects. As for psychological treatments, however, studies show that there are no side effects and that they are very beneficial and effective.

How to fall asleep using stimulus control

Professor Richard (Dick) R. Bootzin conducted research about sleep disorders over many years at the University of Arizona. He described the different psychological approaches that have been used to treat insomnia.


Of these, the most successful has been stimulus control therapy. Do you want to know how it works? It isn’t very complicated, and only has six simple steps. If you try to follow these steps, you can improve your sleep. Here are the 6 golden steps:

  1. Only go to bed when you are really tired.
  2. Do not use your bed for things other than to sleep. Do not reach, watch television, eat, or take your work into bed with you. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule.
  3. If you are in bed and cannot get to sleep, get up and go to another room. Do everything you want to until you are really tired, and only then return to your room to sleep. Regardless of what time your clock says, get up out of bed if you do not fall asleep immediately. Remember that the objective of this exercise is to associate your bed with sleeping quickly. If you are in bed for more than 10 minutes and you are still awake, it means you are not following these steps well.
  4. You’re still awake?  Repeat step 3. Do this every time you need to, even if it is all night.
  5. Set an alarm and wake up at the same time every morning, regardless of how you slept the night before. This will help your body develop a sleep pattern.
  6. Do not take naps during the day.

How does this work?

This method is based on the idea that we are like Pavlov’s dog, since we attach certain environmental stimuli to specific thoughts and behaviors. Pavlov’s dog began to drool at the sound of a bell, since he came to associate the ringing with receiving food.

After numerous tests, the dog began to drool upon hearing the bell even when there was no food. In our case, we substitute the bell for a bed and the food for sleep. Do you see the similarity? If you get used to doing something other than sleeping in your bed, when you want to use your bed to sleep, it becomes more difficult due to the other associations in your mind.

All of this is true for both thoughts and actions. It is important for you to avoid watching television in bed, but it is also important that once you are in bed, you avoid worrying about not being able to sleep.

Why? Because you can learn to associate your bed with worry. Then you start to suffer from anticipatory anxiety: “I am worried because I am not sleeping… and if I cannot sleep… I’m going to sleep, I have to try to sleep.”

So, this therapy works by strengthening the association between the bed and sleeping and weakening the association between the bed and everything else (except sex!).

Sweet dreams…

Image courtesy of Bruce Rolff