The Healthy Amount of Time it Should Take You to Fall Asleep

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How long does it take you to fall asleep? Some fall asleep seconds after lying in bed, while it might take what feels like centuries for others. If you can relate to neither of these extremes and usually fall asleep within 10 to 20 minutes, then you have a healthy sleep latency.

Experts use the term “sleep latency” to describe how long a person takes to fall asleep. Read on to learn how long it should take to fall asleep, what it means to fall asleep too quickly or struggle, and how to improve your sleep latency.

How long should it take to fall asleep? 

“It’s generally considered healthy to fall asleep within 30 minutes,” says Shantha Gowda, PsyD, licensed clinical health psychologist and board-certified behavioral sleep medicine expert. “However, the ideal sweet spot is typically between 10 and 20 minutes.”

If you’re falling asleep within 10 to 20 minutes, then it means you’re sleepy enough to doze off promptly but not so sleepy that you fall asleep immediately.

Falling asleep at the right time may help you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep to help you feel alert, well-rested, and productive during the day. It may also mean that your sleep health is in good shape.

What does it mean if you fall asleep too fast?

If you fall asleep too quickly, then it might mean you’re too tired or haven’t been getting enough sleep for your needs.

“Consistently falling asleep immediately (within a few minutes) can be a red flag,” according to Gowda. “It’s a sign of excessive sleepiness, possibly due to sleep deprivation or medication side effects.”

Sleep deprivation might happen because you’ve not been giving yourself ample opportunity to sleep. Maybe you have a busy lifestyle with early mornings or late evenings or you’re a shift worker or a new parent.

Untreated medical conditions or sleep disorders, such as chronic pain, sleep-disordered breathing, and narcolepsy, can also make you lose sleep, Gowda adds.

What if you can’t fall asleep?

Being unable to fall asleep can be frustrating. This may happen for a variety of reasons, many of which you can address—especially with the help of a professional. Gowda highlights some common reasons for being unable to fall asleep:

Unhelpful behaviors around sleep

Spending too much time in bed while not sleeping and engaging in wakeful activities, such as reading, watching TV, or eating, can condition the brain to associate the bed with being awake rather than asleep.

Not engaging in a buffer time before bed

Engaging in work, household chores, or other mentally stimulating activities right before bed can keep the mind too active, making it difficult to wind down and fall asleep. With a relaxing bedtime routine to prepare your body for restful sleep, you may be able to fall asleep within 30 minutes.

Stress and anxiety

Generalized anxiety, life stressors, and excessive worry, especially at night, can keep the mind alert and body tense, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Substances

Consuming caffeine or other stimulants (nicotine) can affect how easily you fall asleep. For instance, caffeine has a long half-life; it stays in your system for about five hours after you consume it. Taking it in the late afternoon, early evening, or nighttime will keep your body awake and alert, affecting your ability to wind down and sleep.

Other sources of caffeine aside from coffee that might not immediately come to mind include tea, soda, energy drinks, pre-workout shakes, and headache medication.

Lifestyle

Staying active and spending enough time in the sun during the day helps build drive for sleep at night. On the other hand, insufficient physical activity and sunlight exposure can limit your body’s ability to fall asleep at bedtime.

The bottom line: “If someone consistently has difficulty falling or staying asleep, they likely have insomnia,” says Gowda. “They should seek out the gold standard treatment from a sleep specialist training in CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia).

This treatment addresses many reasons you might struggle to fall asleep and can positively impact your daytime functioning and nighttime sleep.

Tips for falling asleep more easily 

If you struggle to fall asleep or sleep off too quickly, here are expert-backed tips from Gowda for improving the time it takes to fall asleep:

  1. Establishing a routine, especially a consistent morning wake time, can significantly improve your ability to fall asleep. Go to bed and wake up at fixed times every day, including weekends.
  2. Make your bed a sleep haven by only getting in bed when sleepy and ready to fall asleep. Also, limit how much time you spend in bed doing wakeful activities.
  3. Limit stimulating activity and light exposure from bright lights and screens leading up to bedtime to help relax your mind and body in preparation for sleep.
  4. Get your daily dose of sunlight. This can help regulate your master clock, which can help regulate sleep.
  5. Become more physically active by working out and also moving around during the day to help your body feel more sleepy and ready for bed at night.
  6. Limit eating food three to four hours before bed if you struggle with reflux, affecting your ability to fall asleep.
  7. Create a protective bedroom environment that is cool, dark, and quiet with white noise or earplugs, blackout shades or
    cool bedding, and a lower room temperature.
  8. Limit taking stimulants like caffeine or take them earlier in the day.
  9. Engage in deep breathing and relaxation exercises such as meditation, visualizations, and body scans to help calm your mind and body.
  10. Journal or offload excessive worry on pen and paper hours before bedtime to help clear your mind as you get in bed.

If you’re consistently struggling to fall asleep, Gowda recommends getting CBT-I from a trained professional.

FAQs

Is it normal to take hours to fall asleep?

No, it’s not normal to take hours to fall asleep. See a doctor if you struggle to fall asleep after following sleep hygiene practices.

How long does it take an average person to fall asleep? 

It takes an average person 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Should it take 30 minutes to fall asleep? 

It’s normal for a person to take 30 minutes to fall asleep. It means their body and mind are relaxed enough for sleep.

Why does it take so long for me to fall asleep? 

It might take so long to fall asleep if you get in bed when your body is still alert and awake, from reasons like worry and anxiety, stimulation from screen use, eating, taking caffeine, or exercising during bedtime.

This article originally appeared on Saatva and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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