I do it every night. I’ve been known to do it in the afternoon too, especially on the weekends. I can usually do it within ten minutes but sometimes it takes up to thirty. How long does it take you to do it?
The amount of time it takes someone to fall asleep can vary considerably from person to person. I occasionally hear people boast about their Olympic ability to fall asleep while others complain about how long it takes. So how long should it really take someone to fall asleep?
According to sleep experts, the average person will take about ten to twenty minutes to fall asleep. Falling asleep faster or slower than this may suggest that you have an underlying sleep condition. For those champion sleepers who fall asleep the moment their heads hit the pillow, they may be sleep deprived. This means that they are getting less sleep than they actually need to function which has many health implications. People who are sleep deprived fall asleep much faster than people who are well-rested.
On the other hand, if someone has difficulty falling or staying asleep, they may be experiencing insomnia which can be caused by a variety of environmental, physical or psychological factors. I have observed a trend lately where individuals are complaining about the long twenty minutes it takes them to fall asleep. These people seek the immediate gratification of slipping into a peaceful slumber just moments after going to bed and are often frustrated by the struggle to “turn off” their brains during the fifteen to twenty minutes it might take for them to fall asleep.
If this sounds like you, you may not have a sleep problem at all. You may just need some help readying yourself for sleep. Using some of the strategies below can help you to learn ways to turn off your brain before going to sleep:
- Jot down your worries and your to-do list for the next day, so you don’t need to use mental energy thinking about them
- Listen to soft music or a ten minute guided meditation for sleep.
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook to keep your mind occupied.
- Think about a favorite memory or an upcoming event that you are looking forward to.
The bottom line is that it should take you ten to twenty minutes to fall asleep most nights. Sometimes it will be easy to recognize factors that affect your sleep, for example you are exhausted from long day or you are stressed about something happening in your life. However, if you can’t figure out why you are having trouble with sleep or you are consistently experiencing sleep problems, it might be time to speak to your doctor or to a psychologist who specializes in treating sleep disorders.
Francine Rosenberg, Psy.D., practices cognitive-behavior therapy, specializing in the treatment of OCD and other anxiety disorders.