It’s time for bed. You have your comfortable nightclothes on, all your electronics are off, and you are ready to go to sleep. But how long should it normally take to fall asleep at night?
How Long Should It Take to Fall Asleep?
There is no single answer to this question, as sleep is a very individual thing.
The amount of time it takes you to fully transition from wakefulness to sleep is known as sleep latency.
According to studies done on sleep latency conducted by William C. Dement at Stanford and using the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) found that, on average, it takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes for adults to fall asleep.
Is It Bad to Fall Asleep Immediately?
As mentioned, ten to twenty minutes to fall asleep is considered healthy and the norm for adults. If someone falls asleep more quickly than that – say within five minutes of their head hitting the pillow – doing so may just be their natural, personal sleep pattern. Sometimes however it is actually a sign that they are suffering from sleep deprivation. If it takes you between five to ten minutes, experts say you’re dealing with moderate sleep debt.
Sleep deprivation can affect your immune system and increase inflammation in the body, and make you vulnerable to illness.
If you think you fall asleep too quickly, but also get your recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night, your brain may be playing tricks on you. There are several ‘stages’ of sleep that we all cycle through throughout the night and the first, a shallow sleep that is barely little more than dozing, can often be mistaken for deeper sleep.
Over the course of a night, most people move through these sleep stages several times. For those interested in learning more about their sleep patterns sleep trackers like the Fitbit can track this for you, so that you can figure out if you are getting truly restorative sleep, which occurs in deep sleep and REM sleep.
Why You Can’t Fall Asleep
If it takes you more than thirty minutes to fall asleep then this would be considered abnormal. If this happens only occasionally it is not too much of a problem, but if it becomes a constant you may be suffering from insomnia and need to take further action.
There are all kinds of reasons why people struggle to fall asleep. Some are related to the day you have had, some to the bedroom environment you have created some to potential health issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons people struggle to fall asleep which primarily boils down to poor sleep hygiene.
Stress and Worry
The oft heard lament that someone is so worried and stressed out they can’t sleep is often quite valid. Sleep restores the brain while also helping it to process the events of the day but a brain that does not ‘turn off’ because you are thinking about stressful things, or worrying about something that happened, or may happen you may find it much harder to fall asleep.
A Bad Bedroom Environment
To get the best night’s sleep – and fall asleep fast – your bedroom should be cool, dark, as quiet as possible and your bed, pillows and mattress should provide plenty of support for your body so you can feel as comfortable as possible. If any of these are not the case in your bedroom you may struggle to fall asleep.
Caffeine or Alcohol Consumption Too Close to Bedtime
Most people know that a cup of coffee before bedtime is likely to keep them awake, but then forget that many sodas – and some teas – contain lots of caffeine as well and may keep them awake if consumed too close to bedtime. And while alcohol makes lots of us feel sleepy drinking it too close to bedtime will result in a restless night.
Heavy Meals Too Close to Bedtime
Eating a heavy meal may make you feel sleepy too, but too much food before bed will actually usually stop you from getting a good night’s sleep, especially if the food consumed was rather spicy, as that may lead to heartburn that will stop you from falling to – or staying – asleep.
Those who suffer from chronic pain – especially back, hip or leg pain – often have a tough time getting to sleep.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects the respiratory system and prevents sleep. This is a condition that should be treated by a medical professional and really should never be ignored.
6 Simple Ways To Fall Asleep Faster
Struggling to get to sleep? Here are tips that may help you doze off faster and stay asleep as long as you need to reap all of the many health benefits a good night’s sleep provides.
Create a Better Sleep Environment
Your bedroom – and your bed – can be big culprits when it comes to not being able to fall asleep.
Ideally your bedroom should be maintained to a comfortably cool temperature – 67F is ideal – and your nightclothes and bedding should be loose and not too restrictive. Your room should also be darkened – a small nightlight is fine – and all electronic gadgets should be turned off and out of reach – including your cellphone.
Invest in a Better Mattress
Some people sleep on the same mattress for years and years. That is not a good thing. Even the best mattresses can only boast a useful life expectancy of five to eight years. A saggy, worn mattress cannot offer you the support needed and if you do not have that, and you are not comfortable, it will be harder to get to sleep, to stay asleep and you may wake up all achy in the morning, which is a terrible way to start the day.
Making the investment in a new mattress – and a good bed support – can seem like a lot of money. However, the prices of superior quality mattresses are falling and every penny you spend on a new, good- quality mattress will be money very well spent!
Follow a Proper Bedtime Routine
Your parents made you follow a bedtime routine as a kid for a good reason, not just because they were mean and didn’t want to let you stay up late to watch the ‘cool’ shows on TV. A consistent bedtime routine promotes consistent sleep.
As an adult, following a similar routine to the one you had as a child can work wonders if you struggle to fall asleep. Set a bedtime – one that is not too late and will give you seven to eight hours of sleep – and ensure that you eat your last big meal at least five hours before. That is when you should stop drinking soda or other caffeinated beverages too.
Research has shown that using common electronics before bedtime can affect your sleep too. So, turn of your computer and smartphone at least an hour before you go to bed. To relax during that last hour, take a bath or read a book instead, or simply slow down and talk to the people you live with!
Try to De-stress
It’s easy to say stop worrying about things, and as we all know it is hard to do. You should try to relax before bed though, to improve your chances of falling asleep fast and getting a great night’s sleep.
What you do to relax is a matter of personal preference. Some people listen to music. Some people meditate. Some people read a book. Others drink bedtime tea to help fall asleep. Take the time to find out what works for you and then make it a part of your bedtime routine very night.
Use Sleep Medications Carefully
Some people, desperate to sleep, turn to over – the counter medications. These can be a help occasionally but are habit-forming and should not be taken on a regular basis. You can also try a natural sleep remedy instead. Melatonin supplements – which mimic a substance that your body produces naturally to help you fall asleep – can be highly effective.
Get Medical Help
If you have tried everything – or at least it seems like you have – and you still struggle to fall asleep see a doctor. Good sleep is so crucial to your physical and mental health that not getting enough can be a real problem. Your doctor has access to more complex tools – like sleep labs and CT imaging – that can help determine the real cause of your sleep problem so it can be addressed in the most effective way.