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It can be tough to get enough sleep, so when you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, that’s a great thing, right? Maybe not so much. There’s no set “normal” or healthy amount of time it should take to fall asleep, but sleep specialists say both falling asleep too quickly and too slowly can be a sign of a bigger problem. The time it takes you to drift off and start snoozing is technically called “sleep latency” and the National Sleep Foundation suggests that it should take around 15 to 20 minutes for a healthy person.
Here’s what your body is telling you if you fall asleep quickly:
- You just need more sleep - Falling asleep right away could be a sign of exhaustion, that you’re overworking yourself and not getting the rest you need. If you’re exercising a lot or working 12-hour days, you may just need more sleep. You can always check in with your doctor if you’re worried about it.
- You have a mental health condition - Falling asleep quickly can be a side effect of medication as well as a condition like depression.
- You’re experiencing sleep apnea - Common in older adults, it’s a chronic sleep disorder where the upper airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep. People with sleep apnea may feel tired during the day and notice brain fog. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, experts advise seeing your doctor.
If you fall asleep slowly, your body may be telling you:
- You might have insomnia or a psychological or medical condition - It could be a sign of anxiety or chronic pain.
- Your sleep routine isn’t the best - Having an inconsistent bedtime and poor sleep habits can make it hard to fall asleep fast, and so can drinking too much caffeine or having it after 2 p.m., looking at screens just before bedtime, taking naps, or even exercising close to bedtime.
- You feel emotional or stressed - If your body is struggling with something that makes it feel unsafe or unable to settle down enough to get into sleep mode, it could be a sign of anxiety, stress or depression, according to neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Dave Rabin. Creating an ideal soothing sleep environment, that’s dark, cool and includes white noise, may help you drift off faster.