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Few might think that dozing off immediately once you hit the bed is a sign of peaceful life and an overall healthy well-being. Well, if you believe this, then it is time to rethink because, in fact, falling asleep too soon can actually hint at sleep problems. If you consider yourself a perfect sleeper such that you can sleep off anywhere, anytime, you might, in reality, be suffering from a sleep disorder.
How Long Does It Normally Take You To Fall Asleep?
We feel sleepy when the chemical called adenosine accumulates in our brain. Adenosine levels increase gradually, so the longer we are awake, the sleepier we tend to feel. When we sleep, this chemical is cleared from our brain by the lymphatic system.
Therefore, after a whole night's sleep, we feel fresh in the morning. But, all the while that you are awake, the levels of adenosine keep rising, creating a phenomenon known as homeostatic sleep drive.
So, the logical reasoning behind how long it would usually take for you to fall asleep lies behind the fact of how long you have been awake. If a person is awake at a stretch for say about 24 hours, then he is more likely to sleep sooner and longer than usual. Also, if you are awake working late at night, you are more likely to fall asleep easily as soon as you are in your bed.
It is difficult for a person to exactly remember the time that one had spent before dozing off. The lightest stage of sleep is the first stage entered, which many have mistaken to be as wakefulness. Therefore, making people feel that they have been awake longer. The transition from wakefulness to sleep is referred to as sleep onset latency.
On an average, a healthy person might take 5 to 15 minutes to fall asleep. Any time that is longer than 20 minutes might signal to be a sign of insomnia.
Why Is Sleeping Quickly A Thing Of Worry?
If sleep onset occurs in less than 5 minutes, then it could indicate a sleep disorder. Sleeping quickly hints at excessive sleepiness which might be a result of sleep deprivation. If you have not slept enough to have cleared all the adenosine, then you are likely to fall asleep sooner than usual. The average sleep hours required is 8 hours for a healthy person, but this could vary from person to person.
Causes Of Excessive Sleepiness
Poor quality of sleep can also make you fall asleep sooner. This can be a cause of worry as it could hint at sleep apnea. This condition would include deep snoring and frequent arousals during the night. Teeth grinding is also associated with this ailment.
Severe cases might be that of fragmented wakefulness in narcolepsy. Narcolepsy involves transitions of consciousness to occur abruptly. In case the real reason behind excessive sleepiness is not known, then it is referred to as idiopathic hypersomnia.
How Is It Diagnosed?
When you approach a doctor to get your excessive sleepiness treated, you would ideally be asked to complete a questionnaire. This is called the Epworth sleepiness scale. A score of 10 and above indicates increased sleepiness.
Once increased sleepiness is determined, further testing could be done to include a formal sleep study.
The possibility of narcolepsy along with the prime reason behind excessive sleepiness can be determined by another study known as multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). This test involves giving the person an opportunity to take naps for about 20 minutes every 2 hours during an entire day.
On an average, if the person undergoing the MSLT falls asleep in less than 8 minutes along with rapid eye movement sleep in at least two of the nap sessions, then this is an indication of narcolepsy.
How Is Excessive Sleepiness Treated?
Falling asleep as soon as your head touches the pillow could signal a serious health issue. You would need to get yourself assessed for how well and how long you are sleeping. Falling asleep too soon needs the intervention of a sleep specialist so that you are treated of being sleep deprived.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, then your doctor would prescribe you to go ahead with a treatment to be used while sleeping. This treatment is called "continuous positive airway pressure". You could also be prescribed stimulant medications such as armodafinil or modafinil. Oral appliance therapy is used to treat sleep apnea by moving the tongue/lower jaw to open the airway.
If you have been diagnosed with narcolepsy, your doctor would prescribe stimulants for you to stay awake for longer durations. Antidepressants have been found to be useful for treating hallucinations or sleep paralysis. Sodium oxybate is a nervous system depressant that is helpful when a person suddenly begins to feel weak or faints.
A well-balanced diet along with regular exercising and an active lifestyle can help you sort out your excessive sleepiness issues.