How long should it take to fall asleep? Good question – and one that many people would the answer to! Normally, you should be able to sleep within around 10 – 15 minutes after putting the lights out. However, many find it takes them longer than that to fall asleep and wonder why.
There is a term given to the time it takes you to fall asleep once you have finished reading, watching TV or any other activity you have been involved in. It is referred to as ‘sleep latency’. This period can be shorter or longer depending upon what is on your mind when you are trying to sleep. If you have problems preying on your mind then it will take you longer to sleep than if you are happy in your life with no genuine issues.
Things to Keep You Awake
You may have a business or personal worries that can keep you awake. Perhaps you generally have difficulty in relaxing or maybe you have too many naps during the day. Another reason for not being able to sleep is a chemical one. Stimulants can keep you awake at night, including too much caffeine from drinking tea or coffee before retiring for the night.
Other reasons may be jetlag, illness, pain and serious worries. If you can identify with any of these reasons for not being able to fall asleep easily, then they have to be dealt with. That is not what this post is about.
How Long Should It Take to Fall Asleep?
First, let’s answer the question that is the topic here. How long should it take to fall asleep? Studies have shown that on average, it should take you about 7 minutes to fall asleep. Once you fall asleep, there are several stages that you may go through. It is not our purpose here to explain these stages in detail. However, here are the common stages of sleep:
Very Light Sleep: Very Light Sleep is where you are in the process of falling asleep and are easily wakened. The term used is “Alpha Sleep” ‘Dozing’ is one word used for this, and you can enter into this type of sleep when watching TV and you soon wake up if you are nudged physically or audibly. There are very few, if any, changes in your body function at this stage. This stage lasts between 5 and 15 minutes.
Light and Delta Wave Sleep: Light sleep where are going into true sleep. Your heart rate slows down, and your body temperature falls. This takes place within 5 – 15 minutes of you falling asleep. You then go into what is known as slow wave or Delta wave sleep, which is a deeper form of sleep during which the body starts to repair itself. You have not yet reached the REM or rapid eye movement stage of sleep.
Deep REM Sleep: All of the above stages of sleep can occur up to 15 minutes after you fall asleep. It is during the final stage of slow or delta wave sleep prior to REM when you may sleepwalk or when children may wet the bed. The final stage after this is REM sleep. This is when your muscles relax and you dream. Your brain is more active during this stage which accounts for the dreaming and the rapid eye movements.
Some people reach this final stage of the ‘going to sleep’ process faster than others. Many people take an hour or more to reach even the early stages of sleep. They come in and out of the very light or Alpha stage of sleep for some time before they eventually settle into a deep REM sleep.
How to Sleep Properly Amid Technology’s Cacophony
In this modern technological age, there are many distractions that can confuse the normal sleep triggers in our brain. Cell phones, tablets, music and sound systems and TV all combine to confuse the normal signals to the brain telling it to shut down into sleep mode. We tend to stay awake longer than nature intended, and often find it difficult to enter into the deep REM sleep needed to allow our body to repair itself and get ready for another day.
Here are some tips on how to sleep in this modern age:
1. No Distractions
If you want to sleep well then lose the technology for an hour or so before bedtime. No TV, no mobile phone, no computer, no iPod – just lie in bed and relax. Read a book, but keep off anything that can get you excited or upset.
2. Have a Bath
There is a scientific reason for a warm bath helping you to sleep. During sleep, your body temperature takes a steep drop. When you take a bath, then step out to dry yourself, your body also loses temperature rapidly. This mimics the condition where you tend to sleep most easily. Not only that, but a warm bath is relaxing and you find sleep easy to come by once you are in your bed.
3. Don’t Overheat Your Bedroom
Too hot a bedroom is conducive to sleep. As explained above, a drop in temperature tends to promote sleep. That’s why many people unused to hot climates tend to find it difficult to sleep when on vacation in Australia, North Africa and even Arizona and Nevada. Their body cannot cool down at night to help promote sleep.
4. Avoid Caffeine
Don’t drink coffee or tea before going to bed – or even worse, while in bed! Caffeine in coffee, tea and stimulating drinks such as Red Bull keeps you alert and makes it significantly more difficult to get to sleep. If you do nod off, it is unlikely to develop into proper REM sleep – at least not until after a long time of tossing and turning. Your body takes several hours to fully digest and remove caffeine from your body. Coffee at 6 PM can keep you awake 5 hours later!
5. Meditation and Relaxation
Meditation is a useful way to help yourself get to sleep. Focus on relaxing your muscles and slowing your breathing. You will find it easier to sleep. The same is true if you try to relax each muscle individually. Close your eyes, and then relax each muscle starting with your feet. Then work upwards – before you know it you will find it is morning!
How long should it take to fall asleep? If you have taken the above tips on how to get to sleep quicker to heart, then it should be a maximum of around 15 minutes. If you have tried them properly and still cannot sleep, then you may have to take medical advice. However, the vast majority find it easier to sleep well when they do apply our suggestions above.
How Long Should It Take to Fall Asleep: Summary
How long should it take to fall asleep? Around 15 minutes from when you get into bed. We have identified some reasons why you may find getting to sleep difficult along with some tips to help you sleep quicker. Sleep is very important to you, so don’t compromise that very important biological function by shirking it.