It’s bedtime. You settle into your bed, turn the lights off, and rest your head against the pillow. How many minutes later do you fall asleep?
The normal time it takes most people to fall asleep at night is between 10 and 20 minutes.
Of course, there are certain nights this time may be more or less, but if you fall asleep too quickly or if it takes beyond a half hour most nights to drift into dreamland, there may be an underlying issue to consider.
Healthy sleep is an essential part of life. Trying to establish a normal sleep pattern is critical to everyday functioning.
Normal sleep for adults means that you fall asleep within 10 to 20 minutes and get about 7–8 hours a night. Children and adolescents need about 10 hours of sleep, and babies, toddlers, and preschool-aged children need even more.
The time it takes you to fall asleep is known as sleep latency. If you fall asleep before or after the typical 10 or 20 minutes it generally takes, you may have an underlying sleep condition.
One study found that your sleep quality will decrease if it takes you longer than a half hour to fall asleep.
You may find that it’s difficult to fall asleep once in a while — that’s perfectly normal.
Sometimes you may have difficulty turning your brain off because you’re worried about something or because of an unusual event in your life.
On the other hand, you may fall asleep instantaneously if you’ve had a difficult night of sleep the previous night or a particularly exhausting day. This isn’t a cause for concern if it occurs occasionally.
There may be several reasons you can’t fall asleep at night, including:
- a too-early bedtime
- a poor bedtime routine
- getting too much sleep
- an underlying sleep condition
One reason you may not be able to fall asleep within the normal time frame is because you’re trying to go to bed too early or because of external factors like jet lag.
Your body has a natural biological, or circadian, rhythm.
A biological rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that runs your body and indicates to you when it’s time to sleep, wake, and eat, among other signals.
Not everyone’s clock is the same. Some people prefer to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. Others may rev up in evening hours, becoming more productive as the evening passes.
If you’re more of a night person, your natural bedtime may be later and you may sleep later in the morning than the early bird.
Another reason you may not be able to fall asleep after 10 or 20 minutes is because of a poor nighttime routine.
You need to facilitate sleep for your body in the same way every night to achieve quality sleep. This includes:
- avoiding late exercise
- not drinking caffeinated beverages by a certain hour of the day (usually 6 hours before bed)
- powering down your screens a half hour or so before bed
Making sure your bedtime stays relatively consistent is also key to quality sleep and falling asleep within the normal range.
Getting too much sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Make sure you’re aiming for 7 to 8 hours a night if you’re an adult, and avoid taking late afternoon naps.
Another reason you may not be able to fall asleep is because of an underlying sleep condition like insomnia.
Insomnia can occur randomly or because of other health conditions or medications you take. If you can’t fall asleep within a half hour of turning off your light for the night on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor may suggest helpful nighttime strategies or recommend that you undergo a sleep test to determine the severity and cause of the insomnia.
Treatments for insomnia may include creating and adhering to better sleep habits. Your doctor may recommend certain medications for chronic insomnia.
Falling asleep too soon may be another sign of sleep trouble. It may be a sign of sleep deprivation.
Your body needs to average a certain amount of sleep each night, and if you cut yourself short of needed sleep, you may end up with sleep debt. This can result in feeling fuzzy, experiencing moodiness, and feeling tired.
It can also lead to health conditions like high blood pressure and stress, as well as lower immunity to fight off colds and flu.
To get more sleep, change your bedtime routine to accommodate for more hours of sleep. Or if you have to cut a few hours out one night, go to bed earlier or sleep in the next night if you can.
Setting good sleep habits will help you fall asleep within the normal range of time. Here are some ways to practice healthy sleep:
Try to go to bed at the same time every night
Figure out your body’s ideal bedtime and create a schedule around it.
Sleep without distractions
Remove screens from your room like TVs, computers, and phones. Make sure the room gets dark enough to settle in peacefully and that it’s a comfortable temperature.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings
Caffeine may keep you up at night. Figure out if you should eliminate it altogether or cut it out after a certain hour each day.
Exercise — but not right before bed
Try to move your body each day with some form of exercise. Even a short daily walk can help tire you out.
Avoid exercising right before bed, however, as that might keep your body too alert.
Eat and drink well before bedtime
Late night eating may contribute to difficulties in falling asleep.
Make sure you give your body time to digest.
Alcoholic beverages may also interfere with your sleep and wake you up once its effects stop working. Additionally, drinking too late into the night could contribute to waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. That may cause sleep deprivation.
Get up and reset if you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes
If you’re unable to fall asleep and start to toss and turn, turn on the light and reset.
Read a book, listen to music or a podcast, or try something else relaxing like breathing exercises. Try to go to sleep again when you feel tiredness coming on.
See a doctor if you notice that you frequently have trouble falling asleep or fall asleep very quickly each night.
Consider keeping a sleep journal to track your sleep habits. This may be useful during a doctor’s appointment to pinpoint your symptoms and any underlying causes for the sleep difficulty.
It should take between 10 and 20 minutes to fall asleep at bedtime.
Some days, external factors like stress or worry may extend the time it takes you to fall asleep. Or you may be exhausted from lost sleep or not enough sleep and fall asleep much more quickly.
To reach that normal window of time it takes to fall asleep, establish a healthy bedtime routine, make sure you get enough nightly sleep, and avoid practices that may keep you up at night.
Talk to your doctor if you regularly experience difficulty falling asleep or are exhausted from lack of sleep.