How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep


Do you find yourself lying awake at night, unable to fall asleep? Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use to help your brain transition into sleep mode. From mindfulness techniques to natural remedies, this guide explores how to trick your brain into falling asleep.

I'll also share my personal go-to sleep technique called "brain tapping" from my viral TEDx video "How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep". The video above is the complete tutorial.

Before you watch it, let me share a few additional sleep hacks I use nightly to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Start Preparing Your Body for Sleep with a Relaxing Routine.

While it can be difficult to unplug from the day’s stressors, going straight to bed after a long day isn’t always the best answer. Instead, give your mind and body a chance to relax and start winding down by creating a soothing pre-bedtime routine.

Your routine should be peaceful and calming, typically including activities like taking a hot bath or reading a book before turning out the lights. This allows your body to slowly reduce its energy levels while preparing itself for restful sleep.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Controlled Deep Breathing

Struggling to fall asleep? Deep breathing can help trick the brain into recognizing its time for bed. By incorporating this relaxing technique into your pre-sleep routine, it can make all the difference in drifting off and getting a good night’s rest. 

One of the best and easiest ways to trick your brain into falling asleep is by breathing deeply and slowly. This helps to slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and stimulate the body's parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” system. It can also provide relief from any worry or anxiety that might be hindering your relaxation and make it easier for you to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Try this:

To practice:

  • Start by exhaling all the air in your lungs.
  • Then, slowly inhale for a count of four
  • hold your breath for a count of four
  • slowly exhale for another count of four
  • and finally, wait for another count of four before starting the cycle again with an inhalation as you count to four.

If you have limited lung capacity, try using fewer seconds during each part of the exercise

Repeat this three to five times, or until calm.

According to a 2021 study, this type of deep and slow breathing for just five minutes helps promote a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activities and reduces anxiety levels

Give Yourself a Set Amount "Worry Time" Before Bed

One way to help your brain transition into sleep mode is to make a list of things to do before you go to bed each night.

Writing out your worries gives you somewhere to put them so they don't occupy your mind in bed. It’s especially helpful if you email this to-do list to yourself, since it takes away the urge for you to act on those tasks before bed and makes it easier for your mind and body to relax.

Power Down Bright Screens and Lights at Least Half an Hour Before Sleeping. 

The stimulation of bright screens, like televisions, tablets, or phones can delay the natural production of melatonin that encourages sleep. To ensure your brain is ready for bed when the time comes, turn off these blue light/screen devices at least half an hour before you plan on sleeping and move to a dim environment. This will give your body the necessary time it needs to calm down from blue light over-stimulation and transition into its sleepy mood.  

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7 More Easy Ways To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep

1. Meditation

Meditation encourages you to focus on your breath, quieting your mind and allowing your body to relax. Think of it as a mental reset button, helping your brain wash away the stress of the day in order to drift off into dreamland.

2. Listen to calming music or nature sounds

Take a few moments before bed listening to calm tunes like nature sounds or classical pieces that help you ease out of the busy world and into sleep mode.

3. Do some light reading before bed

Dive into an interesting book or magazine in order to take yourself out of the stressful reality that we live in every day. Reading is a great way to turn off your active thoughts and helps you relax — put down the screens!

4. Take a warm bath or shower

Taking a hot bath or shower helps relax tense muscles before slipping under the sheets for some restful sleep. The warmth from the water opens up our airways and will prepare you with relaxation techniques for when it's time to close our eyes for some shut-eye.

5. Write all your worries down

Put pen to paper — jotting down any thoughts, worries, lists, reminders, etc., puts them out of mind and onto paper where they belong instead of cluttering up space in you brain so that you can drift off without worries (or too many ideas!) 

6. Use essential oils

Lavender has been known as one of nature’s most effectively used remedies for sleepless nights due to its calming properties which allow you to doze off gently into deep slumber – just make sure not spike up pillows! A few drops in linen spray will do just fine!

7. Exercise earlier

Getting regular exercises helps one keep energy levels balanced throughout everyday life but restricting physical activity pre-bedtime could be beneficial for better rest at night—so why not squeeze in a quick workout routine earlier during evening hours?

About Jim Donovan's TEDx Talk "How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep" 

Back in 2019, I had the privilege of speaking at a TEDx event in Youngstown, OH.

The organizers asked me to tell the story of how I discovered one of the techniques I use to help people fall asleep—naturally.

I was pretty excited and a little nervous!

Despite the fact that I regularly present to large groups of people, the TEDx format was brand new to me—and a bit intimidating. But I knew an event like this could potentially reach—and help—so many people.

And that’s what made me excited to offer the talk.

So I got to work. I practiced everywhere and anywhere. I ran through my TedX talk while driving in my van, lounging in my living room, and even in the shower…

When the day finally came to give my presentation, I was feeling pretty nervous, despite all of my practice and preparation. To be honest with you, nerves really hadn’t been an issue for me for quite some time, considering how often I speak publicly.

Funny enough, right before I hit the stage, I found myself doing the very exercise I based my presentation on, in an effort to keep my stress down. (Yes—it works for stress too!)

And while I was pleased with how my TEDx talk went overall, the online video version of it received only very modest traction on YouTube for months. (YouTube is the “go-to” place to watch TED and TEDx presentations from innovative speakers all over the world.)

Initially, over the first few weeks, it racked up about 16,000 views which wasn’t too bad. But not nearly the blockbuster I’d hoped for in my quest to help as many people as I possibly can.

But then something happened….

An unexpected surge of success

Several months passed, and I’d given up hope that my TEDx video would reach many more people. To be honest, I kind of forget about it for a little while…

Then out of the blue last week, I randomly checked to see how many views it had accrued, just out of curiosity…

My jaw dropped…

I had over 6.7 million views!

I thought it was a mistake at first, so I refreshed the page in case there was some kind of glitch….

Nope, no glitch.

I couldn’t believe it.

I don’t know why or how…or what made this happen, but there were now over eight thousand comments, over 100k likes, and even some Internet “trolls” (a true sign you’ve really made it)!

And as I read through the comments, I realized my goal was becoming a reality…

People who had trouble falling asleep for weeks, months, and even years, were using this technique every night and enjoying deeper, longer, and more refreshing rest.

Today, I thought I’d share with you what some viewers are saying about it. Maybe your sleep issues are exactly like one of theirs…

Reviews of Jim Donovan's Sleep Technique

“Until I saw this video I can count on one hand the # of nights I slept solid all night. My sleep would best be described as a bunch of ‘mini-naps.’ In bed by 10:30, finally fall asleep at some point awake by 2:30. Then I was asleep again for another hour/ hour and a half, repeating this cycle. Well, last night was night 5 of trying this technique of the rhythmic pattern and I have slept straight through all 5 nights. Thank you for this video.”

“This technique works! I'd been a lifelong insomniac, with several sleep disorders, and THIS works for me. Thank you, Jim!”

“Jim, this is incredible, I saw this last week and started using your technique. I have always had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. Since starting this last Wednesday I have fallen asleep right away and I wake up less often. Then I can go right back to sleep. I even sleep up to 5 hours at a time and it's been years since I've been able to do that. I'm grateful. Thank you.”

It’s comments like these that keep me going. I love knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives.

And I hope I’ll be able to do the same for you.

Trick your own brain into falling asleep

As you'll see, I've included a full tutorial above so you can get started right away.

You can also watch my TEDx talk, “How to Trick Your Brain into Falling Asleep,” just click here.

And if you found this brain trick helpful, feel free to share it with a friend, family member, or co-worker.

The takeaway on tricking your mind to fall asleep

Trying to fall asleep and stay asleep can be a difficult challenge, but it can be easier if you know how to trick your brain into giving in to a peaceful slumber. Give the technique in the video above a try, you might be surprised how easy it is to silence yor racing thoughts and get the deep sleep you deserve.

Pleasant Dreams! 

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About the author:

Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician, educator and TEDx speaker.

His mission is to share the restorative power of music through education and performance.

Donovan is an Assistant Professor and Director of Music and Wellness at Saint Francis University.

His viral TEDx Talk "How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep" has been viewed over 6 million times to date.

He currently performs with his band The Sun King Warriors who can best be described as a blend of rhythm heavy roots rock, with a strong dose of big barreling drums. 

Jim Donovan got his start as a founding member of the multi-platinum selling band Rusted Root. 

There he co-wrote the song “Send Me on My Way” featured in the movies "Ice Age", "Matilda" and the Netflix series "New Girl".

During his time with the band 1990-2005, he recorded and released seven full length albums. Including "When I Woke" (3x platinum).


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