How Long Does It Take to Fall Asleep?

How Long Does It Take to Fall Asleep?

Do you fall asleep as soon as you get to bed? Or, does it take some time for you to doze off?

Almost all of us have experienced the frustrating feeling of wanting to fall asleep but not being able to.

If you have had a similar experience before you might be eager to know the reason behind such activity and the right duration for falling asleep.

The time taken by a person to fall asleep can be categorized as follows –

  • Over 45 minutes
  • From 20 to 45 minutes
  • From 5 to 20 minutes
  • Less than 5 minutes

So, what is sleep latency all about?

Sleep Latency or SOL is the time taken by a person to fall asleep. In other words, it is the time between complete wakefulness and the highest of non-REM sleep stages.

Research studies on sleep reveal that the time taken by a person to fall asleep is directly correlated to the sleep deprivation.

Multiple Sleep Latency Test is a test used to measure the sleep latency of a person. It measures the time taken by a person to fall asleep in a normal quiet environment. It is considered as an effective tool for diagnosing sleep disorders like narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and other sleep-related problems.

Sleep latency and sleep efficiency go hand in hand. A person having a sleep efficiency score of 85% is considered normal while anything above 90% is considered above average. If you are able to fall asleep quickly you are likely to have a good night’s sleep.

Different stages of sleep

The different stages of sleep can be categorized as follows –

Stages of Sleep

Stage I: Alpha Period

In this stage, you will feel as though you are dreaming while not being able to sleep. You are likely to enter this restful state of the brain at any time of the day during periods of inactivity.

During this period of sleep, it is common for sleepers to experience a hypnogogic hallucination in which the person feels as though someone has called them or knocked at the door.

Stage II: Theta Period

After the sleeper crosses the Alpha period he enters the Theta stage. This stage is described as “neither being awake nor asleep.” This phase may last for about 5 to 10 minutes.

During this stage, the heart rate slows down and the temperature begins to drop. Rhythmic brainwave activities called Sleep Spindles starts during this phase of sleepiness.

Sleep III and IV: Delta Sleep

As soon as you enter the third stage of sleep your brain starts producing Delta waves. These slow-moving brainwaves signal the transition from light to deep sleep before REM starts.

This gradually transitions to the fourth stage in which deep sleep occurs. This is the phase when sleepwalking and bedwetting mostly occurs.

Stage V: REM Sleep

The Rapid Eye Movement or REM occurs during this phase when the muscles stay relaxed while the brain is more active. This is the stage when you dream.

Time taken to fall asleep

The time it takes to fall asleep can tell a lot about your quality of sleep. Sleep latency has been segregated into the following categories to provide you an insight into your sleep quality.

Less than 5 Minutes

While it may sound ideal to doze off as soon as your head touches the pillow, but it actually means that you are in sleep deficit. Sleep latency studies categorize this condition as representing sleep debt or severe sleep deprivation.

If you happen to fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed you should try to get a little more sleep every night. Now you must be thinking “how much sleep should be right for you?” Well, this depends a lot on your physical and mental health. Try increasing the sleep time by 15 minutes every night until you wake up better rested and more refreshed in the morning.

From 5 to 20 Minutes

Sleep latency studies code this level as normal sleepiness. This means that you are not in sleep debt and maintaining a healthy range of sleep effectiveness. This is the sweet spot where you do not need to count the minutes for which you are awake while also not dropping off to slumber immediately. Most scientists across the Globe label the sleep latency time from 15 to 20 minutes to be ideal.

From 20 to 45 Minutes

Though not the ideal range for sleep latency it is considered as a moderate level of sleepiness. It also does not necessarily indicate any sleep disorder. The important thing to consider in this stage is to observe whether it is shifting in either direction.

A longer or shorter sleep latency beyond this phase may indicate issues with impending sleep deprivation or sleep debt.

More than 45 minutes

This can be frustrating for most people unless you are scribbling with your mobile phone. The need for sleep starts aggravating if you have trouble falling asleep fast.

If you happen to stay in bed for more than 30 minutes without falling asleep get up and engage in some other activity. Do something quiet that will lower your blood pressure and heart rate such as reading a book, meditating, or listening to some quiet music.

If you find yourself in this category it may mean that you are getting adequate sleep and your body and mind is not ready to can also be an indication of chronic or transient insomnia. Perhaps you might have drunk too much caffeine or your circadian rhythm has got disturbed because of jet lag. Start adjusting your sleep habit accordingly.

How can you fall asleep faster?

Studies related to sleep reveal that around 75% of people have a problem falling asleep at some point in time and 44% of them get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. There are times when you lie on your bed wide awake while watching the minutes tick by. This is called sleep-onset insomnia. The disturbing part is that the more you try to fall asleep faster, the less likely you will succeed.

But a few simple lifestyle changes can help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Minimize screen time

Scientists recommend that you should disconnect yourself from all kinds of technology at least an hour prior to bed. Turn off the TV and computer, keep the mobile phone aside and reduce the screen time. Try to use a natural light lamp and read a book or listen to some mind-soothing music.

Even if you cannot follow such actions use a blue light filter on your device to adjust your circadian rhythm.

Turn the clock around

Make sure you do not stare at the clock after hitting the pillows. This creates a psychological pressure of falling asleep faster, thereby increasing the activity in your brain. Either keep turn your clock around or keep it somewhere out of sight while you lie in bed.

Take a Bath

Experts recommend taking a bath in warm water before going to bed. The sudden change in body temperature when you get out of warm water creates the perfect environment for sleep. The heat will relax the muscles making you feel more relaxed when you lie down.

Avoid caffeine

Try to stay away from caffeine during the latter part of the day. Studies show that it takes around eight hours for caffeine to digest. It is better to have caffeine in the morning but not more than 4 cups per day.

Invest in comfy bedding

Invest in a quality mattress that suits your sleep style and pattern.  Combine that with soft and breathable bed linens and supportive pillows and you are sure to have a peaceful and uninterrupted night’s sleep.


Meditation is all about relaxing your body and mind. Take charge of your breathing pattern and focus on relaxing your muscles and body. You can find a lot of guided meditation programs that have been specifically designed to help people fall asleep. 

The takeaway

A good night’s sleep contributes to a better immune system. It also helps in balancing out appetite and regulates the levels of hormones leptin and ghrelin, responsible for our feelings of fullness and hunger. So, when you are sleep deprived you will feel the urge to eat more, eventually leading to weight gain.

An average person takes around 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. However, this is subject to change depending on the circumstances. So, if you lie awake for some time before going to bed there is nothing to worry about. But if this is a constant process then you need to take some constructive actions to bring your sleep pattern on the right track.

Implement a proper sleep schedule to check if it improves your sleep latency and sleep hygiene. Happy Dozing!

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