When we’re struggling to fall asleep, we can sometimes slip into the habit of checking the clock, feeling stressed about the amount of time it’s taking us to nod off.
But how long should it actually take us to drop off after we hit the hay?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it’s normal to take 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep each night.
Any more or any less than that could mean there’s a problem with our sleep routine.
According to the foundation, if it takes you more than an hour to fall asleep you may be “sleeping too much” or “grappling with sleep onset insomnia”.
“This can happen if you have trouble relaxing and turning off your thoughts at night. It can also happen if your body isn’t ready for sleep because you had too much caffeine or your internal clock is out of whack for another reason (such as jet lag,” the site explains.
Equally, if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow it could be a sign of sleep deprivation following a series of late nights, the foundation says.
Julius Patrick, clinical physiologist at the lung and sleep centre at Bupa’s Cromwell Hospital, said sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes, fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
“Tasks that are monotonous, long, newly learned and require memory recall are normally the most affected,” he said.
“We’ve all been in that situation, where getting to sleep can become challenging. It has been recommended that an evening ‘wind-down’ routine can help you relax causing you to fall asleep quicker and to maintain sleep for longer.”
If you’re concerned about the amount of time it’s taking you to nod off, Patrick’s top five tips to help you fall asleep at night include:
Banish your electrical devices from your bed: avoid using mobiles, laptops and watching TV, as these devices emit a blue light which gives the brain a false assumption that you are in plain daylight. Try to avoid using these once you are tucked into bed.
Avoid stressful and strenuous activities: exercise during the day is important for maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. It takes time to wind down after a workout, so time it right and don’t exercise right before bedtime.
Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake: Too much caffeine can over-stimulate your nervous system, affecting your ability to fall asleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, black and green tea, some soft drinks, and chocolate, among other things. Alcohol consumption may give you the impression that you sleep better, but you will actually wake up more often and sleep will be more fragmented than usual.
Remember to wind-down: If you have an evening ‘wind-down’ routine, it can help you relax and fall asleep quicker. Sometimes, if you’ve had a stressful day, you should take five or ten minutes to reflect and resolve any troubles that may be bothering you, so you can go to bed with your mind at ease.
Be comfortable in your surroundings: Your sleeping environment should be dark, quiet and be a comfortable temperature. A dim light may interrupt and shorten your sleep. If you have a clock by your bed, you are more likely to check the time if you wake up during the night, and this can disrupt the rest of your sleep.