How Long Does It Take To Fall Asleep?

If you feel like it takes forever to fall asleep, you’re not alone. The specialists at Stellar Sleep discuss how long it should take to fall asleep.

Have you ever been lying in bed for what feels like way too long, staring at the ceiling and contemplating just how long you’ve been trying to fall asleep? If you have, you’re not alone — many people wonder if the time it takes them to fall asleep is “normal.” 

Read on to learn what’s considered normal and how you can fall asleep faster.

How Long Does It Take To Fall Asleep?

On average, it takes people between 15 and 20 minutes to fall asleep, a period known as sleep latency. However, that doesn’t mean that there is any “normal” amount of time that you should be measuring yourself against. Everyone falls asleep in a different time frame, so it’s far more important to make sure that the quality and length of your sleep itself is optimal.

What Causes Trouble Falling Asleep?

Difficulty falling asleep can be the direct result of a single factor, but it’s more than likely due to a combination of multiple issues. Here are some of the most common causes of trouble falling asleep.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

When you try to fall asleep in a less-than-supportive sleep environment, you’re already setting yourself up for less-than-restful sleep. This is where improving your sleep hygiene — the set of environmental and sleep habits that make up your bedtime routine — can make a significant difference.

Components of a quality sleep routine include:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Room temperature
  • Relaxing activities (like taking a warm bath)
  • Using white noise
  • Room darkness
  • Technology usage (especially electronic devices that emit blue light)

If you need help with your sleep routine or want to explore more about why you may have trouble sleeping, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-I) coach can help.

Daytime Naps

There’s nothing wrong with taking an occasional power nap during the day — in fact, they may actually have some positive health benefits. However, utilizing naps the “wrong” way can have a negative impact on your sleep quality and length.

Try to keep your naps around 20 minutes in length and avoid napping too close to bedtime. If you tend to doze off accidentally after a big meal or during certain times of the day, you may want to switch up your routine to help you avoid slipping into those little catnaps.

Inconsistent Sleep Schedule

Our bodies love routine, so depriving them of a consistent sleep schedule can make it difficult to maintain quality sleep over time. An inconsistent sleep pattern, where you fall asleep at unpredictable times and wake up on your own without an alarm, can throw off your internal clock and make it challenging for your body to find a state of balance. 

Sleep Disorders

Physical sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or circadian rhythm dysfunction, can also impact the length of time it takes you to fall asleep (as well as create sleep disturbances). These disorders will need to be diagnosed and managed by a healthcare provider and may require prescription sleep medicines.

Psychological Factors

How you feel mentally can also impact how long it takes you to fall asleep, especially when it comes to your stress levels. In fact, many common sleep problems people experience (including chronic insomnia) can be traced back to psychological factors and mental health conditions. 

Working with a sleep psychologist can help you recognize and manage the psychological factors that may be impacting your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can also impact the length of time it takes people to fall asleep. For instance, insomnia (considered a sleep disorder), anxiety, depression, and thyroid disorders can all make it much harder to get enough sleep. If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with a health condition that is impacting your ability to get restful sleep, you may want to see your primary care physician for a thorough assessment.

What Are the Signs of Sleep Deprivation?

If you’ve missed more than 24 hours of sleep, you’re likely at risk of developing sleep deprivation. However, the signs of sleep deprivation don’t always start out obvious. 

In the first stage of sleep deprivation, people might notice subtle symptoms like dark under-eye circles, decreased alertness, drowsiness, and irritability. Once sleep deprivation enters into the second stage, however, those signs and symptoms tend to get worse.

Eventually, when you’ve missed enough sleep, sleep deprivation can even become dangerous and impact your physical health. The overall feeling of sleepiness caused by a lack of rest can significantly increase your risk of having an accident (especially while driving).

How Can You Fall Asleep Faster?

Learning how to fall asleep faster, and ultimately get better sleep, starts with being able to recognize the specific reasons that you’re struggling with sleep in the first place. You can start by taking our free sleep quiz to get a better idea of what may be impacting your sleep quality.

Ultimately, if you find yourself unable to fall asleep, don’t just stay there and suffer. After 15 to 20 minutes of tossing and turning, try getting up and going into another room. The longer you lay in bed, the more your body gets accustomed to it — this is how habits are made. 

How Are Sleep Duration and Sleep Quality Different?

Sleep duration and sleep quality are often lumped together, but each is important in its own way.

Sleep duration describes how many hours of sleep you get. It starts from the time you fall asleep and lasts until you wake up in the morning, taking into account any middle-of-the-night awakenings. 

Sleep quality, on the other hand, is how well you sleep and how long you are able to be in deep sleep, the body’s most restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep is where your body really works to repair itself and transforms short-term memories into long-term ones. 

You need a combination of the right duration of sleep and the right quality of sleep to truly get a good night’s rest. Having issues with one or the other can lead to poor sleep.

The Bottom Line

Everyone is different, and no two people will take the same amount of time to fall asleep. Instead of asking questions like, “How long does it take to fall asleep?” be proactive. Take our free sleep quiz, then speak with one of our CBT-I coaches to see how you can get back to experiencing the most restful sleep possible. 

To learn more about how to support healthy sleep, check out our other resources.

 

Sources:

Take a Nap: The Benefits of Napping and How to Make It Work for You | American Heart Association

Stress and sleep | APA

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research | NHLBI, NIH

Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? | PMC

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