If It Takes You This Long to Fall Asleep, Doctors Say Something's Not Right

The amount of time it takes you to get to sleep may indicate that there's a problem.

Chances are you don't fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow at night. Whether it's stress at work or wondering whether or not you locked the front door, there are probably quite a few things running through your mind before you're finally able to close your eyes. You likely figured that not being able to get some rest after lying in bed for hours is not a good thing, but did you know that if you fall asleep too quickly, that's also a serious concern? If it takes you mere minutes to start your sleep cycle, that could indicate that something is wrong, according to doctors and sleep experts. Read on to find out if you should be worried, and for more to pay attention to during the nighttime, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.

Falling asleep in less than five minutes likely means you're sleep deprived.

High angle shot of a young woman sleeping during the night

Falling asleep fast may seem like a good thing, but according to Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepingOcean, if you're able to knock out in less than five minutes, that's cause for concern. In fact, it's one of the most common signs of sleep deprivation. "If you fall asleep fast, it might mean that you aren't getting enough sleep overall," he explains.

Sujay Kansagra, MD, a sleep health expert for Mattress Firm and director of Duke University's Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, says other signs of sleep deprivation include moodiness, over-emotional response, impaired attention and decision making, and high blood pressure. "When chronic sleep deprivation continues, the body must work harder to maintain everyday functioning, and one of the most affected organs is the heart," he explains. "Sleep deprivation can cause elevated blood pressure, and when exacerbated, continued sustained high blood pressure can even lead to stroke." And for more health problems you should be aware of, If This Body Part Hurts You at Night, See Your Doctor.

And it could also be a sign of a sleep disorder.

Sleeping man

Sonia Parikh, MD, chief medical officer of Savant Care, Inc., says falling asleep in less than five minutes is "considered pathological" and is often associated with various sleep disorders, one of the most common of which is narcolepsy.

"This condition makes people doze off almost instantly, often suddenly and in unsuitable situations," explains Savy. "In this case, you need to watch yourself and notice whether you drift off during the day or not. And do not hesitate to talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis." And for more on your sleep, beware that Going to Bed Past This Exact Time Is Hurting Your Health, Study Says.

It should take you between five to 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Young woman awake at night
klebercordeiro / iStock

Leigha Saunders, ND, a naturopathic doctor and sleep expert, says it should ideally take you anywhere from five to 20 minutes to fall asleep. "If it takes you longer than this, you're probably aware of the fact that you're trying to fall asleep," she says. "This can generate thoughts like 'Why is it taking me so long to fall asleep?' or 'Why haven't I fallen asleep yet?' If you're conscious of those thoughts, it's a sign it's taking you too long." And for more health tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep is also a bad sign.

close up of young man is worrying about something at night

Falling asleep in less than five minutes isn't the only sign of a sleep disorder. According to Allana Wass, a certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Comfybeddy, if it takes you longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you could have insomnia, another serious sleep disorder that can affect your productivity, mood, and overall health. Other signs of insomnia can include bodily pain during the day, low energy, apathy, poor focus, and anxiety about sleep itself, according to Parikh. And for more on what could be keeping you awake, If You Can't Sleep, This Common Medication Could Be Why, Study Says.

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