The time it takes you to fall asleep might reveal a lot about your health.

If it normally takes you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you might reconsider your night routine.

Jul 24, 2023 - 17:36
Jul 24, 2023 - 20:12
The time it takes you to fall asleep might reveal a lot about your health.

You're aware that you should get about eight hours of sleep every night. However, if it takes you an eternity to fall asleep, this might be reducing your sleep time and negatively impact your health. 

On the other side, falling asleep quickly isn't ideal.

According to Brad Raper, MD, a critical care and sleep medicine physician at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas in Dallas, Texas, it's typical to take some time to fall asleep at night.

However, how long it takes you to fall asleep might provide some insight into your general health. Here's what to expect, as well as what you can do to get into the fall-sleep sweet zone.

To begin, what exactly is sleep latency?

Sleep latency is medical jargon describing the length of time it takes you to fall asleep. "It measures the time between when a person lies down to sleep and when sleep begins," Dr. Raper explains. 

Your sleep latency might provide information about your overall sleep quality. It may also have an impact on the amount of overall sleep you get. Shortness of breath might make you lethargic or angry during the day. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep deprivation may raise your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and depression over time.

Then, how long should it take you to fall asleep?

According to Dr. Raper, a healthy adult with normal sleep latency takes between 10 and 20 minutes to fall asleep. Less time may indicate that you are too drowsy, whilst more time may indicate that you are having difficulty falling asleep.

Short Sleep Latency

According to the Cleveland Clinic, falling asleep in less than 5 minutes is an indication of extreme exhaustion.

According to Sleep Medicine Pearls, the most common cause is sleep deprivation (meaning you're not getting enough sleep in general), but it might also be an indication of a sleep condition like narcolepsy or a circadian rhythm issue.

Long Sleep Latency

Dr. Raper adds that requiring more than 20 to 30 minutes to sleep is generally an indication of insomnia. Stress, worry, despair, or even chronic pain might all contribute to this.

In other circumstances, the source of the problem might be a sleep issue such as restless leg syndrome.

According to Sleep Medicine Pearls, some drugs, such as stimulants, bronchodilators, nonsedating antidepressants, and beta blockers, might make it difficult to fall asleep.

How to Assess Sleep Latency

Dr. Raper claims that simple self-observation may give you a fair idea of how long it takes you to fall asleep. Keep a sleep journal in which you note the time you go to bed and the time you expect to fall asleep.

Many wearable fitness trackers and smartwatches (such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge, and Garmin Vivosmart) contain functions that can predict the time you fall asleep if you don't want to keep track of the time.

"They use sensors to detect movements and heart rate patterns to detect when you fall asleep," Dr. Raper adds.

Both alternatives might give you an indication of how long it takes you to fall asleep.

But, according to Dr. Raper, if you want to know your exact sleep latency and understand what's impacting your figures, you'll need to do a sleep study. Your care team may conduct a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) during the research to determine how long it takes you to fall asleep in a dark, calm setting. 

How to Improve Your Sleep Latency

If you're having trouble falling asleep, start by reviewing your sleep hygiene and nighttime routine. According to experts, behavioral modifications alone can often make it simpler to fall asleep sooner.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and waking time. Maintaining a consistent routine makes it simpler to fall asleep when you get into bed.

  • Maintain a dark, calm, and pleasant atmosphere in your bedroom. Draw the blinds, turn on a white noise machine, and set the thermostat to 60 to 68 degrees.

  • Avoid using electronic gadgets before going to bed. The blue light from your phone or tablet might keep you awake. Replace browsing with a soothing activity such as taking a bath, journaling, yoga, or reading.

  • Avoid eating at night. Try to eat supper early in the evening and watch your quantities.‌

  • Keep track of your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Both can interfere with your sleep, especially if you have them close to bedtime.

  • Get some physical activity. Being active during the day might make you feel more fatigued at bedtime. Experts believe it's fine if you prefer to exercise in the evening. Just wind things down an hour before bedtime.

But, on the other hand? Dr. Raper recommends getting extra sleep if you find yourself falling asleep rapidly most evenings. In that situation, shifting your bedtime earlier may be sufficient to help you obtain the rest you require.

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