Is falling asleep instantly good or bad? Many people think it’s great, even blissful to fall asleep fast, but What does it really say about your sleep health?
If you routinely fall asleep in less than 5 minutes, you probably want to claim bragging rights as a champion sleeper. However, sleep experts say it’s likely a sign that you’re sleep deprived.
Learn what the signs of sleep deprivation are, the reasons you might be falling asleep so quickly, and the ideal time it takes to fall asleep.
How long should it take to fall asleep?
Sleep scientists say it should take between 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. If it takes longer, it could be a sign of insomnia. This can be caused by worry, poor sleep hygiene, too much caffeine, or an unbalanced body clock. If you’re falling asleep in under five minutes, however, you could be dozing off too quickly.
What does it mean if you fall asleep really fast?
Falling asleep instantly––in fewer than five minutes––can be an indicator that you haven’t had enough sleep. It could mean that your sleep has been fragmented or disturbed, or that you haven’t gotten enough hours of sleep recently. Falling asleep quickly may also occur because of unknown or under-treated medical imbalances in your overall health such as sleep apnea, thyroid issues, or Vitamin D deficiency.
Falling asleep quickly could be a sign of chronic sleep deprivation. If you suffer from sleep problems and aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, your body may be craving sleep and therefore you fall asleep quickly once you have the opportunity to rest.
Efficient sleep onset
Some individuals naturally have a quick sleep onset latency, which means they can fall asleep rapidly. This can be a normal variation in sleep patterns and may not necessarily indicate a problem. It’s important to consider whether this quick sleep onset is accompanied by other signs of adequate sleep, such as feeling refreshed and well-rested upon waking.
Certain sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, can cause individuals to fall asleep very quickly, sometimes unexpectedly. If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden sleep attacks, or other concerning symptoms along with falling asleep instantly, it may be worth discussing with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying sleep disorders.
Fatigue or exhaustion
Falling asleep quickly could be a result of being physically or mentally exhausted. Intense physical or mental exertion throughout the day can make it easier to fall asleep when you finally get the chance to rest.
Fragmented sleep refers to a pattern of sleep that is interrupted or disrupted, resulting in a fragmented or broken sleep architecture. Instead of experiencing a continuous, uninterrupted sleep period, individuals with fragmented sleep may wake up multiple times throughout the night, stopping them from getting deep and restorative sleep. This can lead to feelings of daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and impaired cognitive functioning.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses, known as apneas, can last for a few seconds to a minute and can occur multiple times throughout the night. Sleep apnea disrupts normal sleep patterns and can lead to fragmented sleep, snoring, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, and other symptoms.
Thyroid issues and sleep
Thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), can affect sleep patterns and quality. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, which includes processes related to sleep. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body, including those involved in sleep regulation.
Vitamin D and sleep
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a role in numerous bodily functions, including sleep regulation. Adequate levels of vitamin D are important for maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
The signs of sleep deprivation
Daytime signs of sleep deprivation include trouble concentrating when you’re awake, low energy, drowsiness, moodiness, or even nodding off unintentionally. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to figure out what your sleep issues are. If you don’t, they’re bound to catch up with you — and not in a good way. Sleep deprivation has been linked to metabolic illness and obesity, heart disease, and a chronic case of brain fog.
What if you fall asleep during the day?
If you find yourself falling asleep during the day, it may indicate several possible factors:
- Insufficient nighttime sleep: Falling asleep during the day could be a sign of not getting enough sleep at night. If you consistently experience daytime sleepiness and find yourself dozing off during the day, it may be an indication that you need to prioritize and improve your nighttime sleep habits to ensure you are getting adequate rest.
- Poor sleep quality: Even if you are getting the recommended amount of sleep at night, poor sleep quality can lead to daytime sleepiness. Factors such as sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome), disruptive sleep environments, or excessive disturbances during the night can impact the quality of your sleep and result in daytime sleepiness.
- Sleep disorders: Certain sleep disorders can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, leading to unintentional sleep episodes during the day. Conditions like narcolepsy, where individuals experience sudden and uncontrollable sleep attacks, can result in daytime sleepiness and falling asleep during inappropriate times.
- Circadian rhythm disruptions: Your body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Disruptions to this rhythm, such as shift work, jet lag, or irregular sleep schedules, can result in excessive daytime sleepiness and falling asleep during the day when you intend to be awake.
- Underlying medical conditions or medications: Some medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, depression, thyroid disorders, or certain medications, can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness. If you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications that may affect your sleep, it’s important to discuss this with a healthcare professional.
If you frequently doze during the day and it impacts your daily functioning or safety, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a sleep specialist or primary care physician. They can evaluate your symptoms, medical history, and may conduct further assessments or tests to identify any underlying causes and provide appropriate treatment or recommendations.
You may not actually fall asleep instantly
You may think you are aware of your sleep patterns, but the truth is, many of us miscalculate how long it takes us to fall asleep. Sleep scientists call this “sleep state misperception.”
First, your long-term memory may not keep accurate track of the time you spend dozing off. As a result, you may feel that you’re falling asleep faster than you actually are. Second, the lightest stage of sleep can be misinterpreted as wakefulness if you’re suddenly awakened from it. You may think you were awake longer than you were because you slipped in and out of light sleep.
The time it takes to move from wakefulness to sleep is called the sleep onset latency. You’re considered asleep when your muscle tone relaxes and the electrical waves in your brain slow down to what are called theta waves, which occur at a speed of four to eight times per second (Hz). By comparison, electrical waves in an awake, alert brain travel at twice that rate.
6 ways to measure sleepiness
There are subjective and objective methods that can be used to measure sleepiness:
- Sleepiness scale: This involves self-assessing and rating your perceived level of sleepiness on a scale, usually ranging from 1 to 10. It relies on your own subjective perception of how sleepy you feel.
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS): The ESS is a questionnaire that assesses your likelihood of dozing off or falling asleep in various situations during the day. It provides a subjective assessment of daytime sleepiness.
- Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): The MSLT is a diagnostic test conducted in a sleep laboratory. It involves scheduled nap opportunities during the day, with electrodes and sensors monitoring brain activity, eye movements, muscle tone, and other physiological parameters. The test measures how quickly you fall asleep during these naps to assess daytime sleepiness, especially in cases of suspected narcolepsy.
- Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT): The MWT is another diagnostic test conducted in a sleep laboratory. It assesses your ability to stay awake and alert during a period of quiet wakefulness. It is often used to evaluate excessive sleepiness in individuals who need to maintain wakefulness for safety-critical activities, such as commercial drivers or pilots.
- Actigraphy: Actigraphy involves wearing a device, usually on your wrist, that records movement patterns and light exposure. It provides objective data on sleep-wake patterns and can help estimate sleepiness levels based on activity levels and rest periods.
- Polysomnography (PSG): PSG is a comprehensive sleep study conducted in a sleep laboratory. It monitors multiple physiological parameters, including brain activity (EEG), eye movements (EOG), muscle activity (EMG), heart rate, and breathing patterns. While PSG primarily focuses on diagnosing sleep disorders and evaluating sleep quality, certain parameters can provide insights into sleepiness levels during overnight sleep.
It’s important to note that subjective measures rely on self-report and personal perception, while objective measures provide more quantifiable data. A combination of both subjective and objective measures is often used to gain a comprehensive understanding of sleepiness levels.
Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a sleep specialist, can help determine the most appropriate measures to assess sleepiness based on your specific circumstances and concerns.
Monitoring your sleep patterns
Assuming you’re not going to ask someone watch you fall asleep and take notes, a good idea would be to put a sleep tracker to work. Trackers factor in your key vitals like body temperature, heart rate, and heart rate variability (HRV) to determine your quality of sleep, how much time you spend in each sleep stage, and more.
If you track your sleep and find that it’s less than stellar, remember that everyone has a restless night here and there. However, if you’re waking up tired for weeks or months on end, you may need to re-think your bedtime routine and/or talk to a sleep coach, or a health-care professional.
And now you know whether falling asleep instantly is good or bad. The fact is, it’s not great.