Falling asleep too quickly: a sign of sleep disturbance?


If you can take a quick nap, get a good night's sleep, nap anytime, or fall asleep anywhere, you can be considered the perfect sleeper. But the ability to fall asleep quickly can be a symptom of sleep disturbance .

This article explains the science of sleepiness. It also looks at sleep disorders that can make you drowsy during the day.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

How does drowsiness occur?

First, it is important to understand how we get sleepy.

While you are awake, your brain releases a chemical called adenosine . As your body uses energy and performs its normal waking functions, adenosine builds up. The longer we are awake, the higher the adenosine level.

High levels of adenosine trigger what are called homeostatic sleep cravings. This is sometimes called sleep stress or lack of sleep . Simply put, it is the physical need for sleep to rebuild your body.

For example, if you stay awake for 30 hours straight, you will feel very drowsy . You will probably fall asleep easily and doze off soundly. You may even sleep more than usual. This is due to the high levels of adenosine in your brain.

Even if you stay awake longer than usual, it could mean that you fall asleep faster because your adenosine levels are high.

When you sleep, your lymphatic system acts as a filter to remove adenosine from the brain. When you wake up in the morning, your adenosine levels and drowsiness are minimal. If you sleep well, you feel refreshed.

But what happens when these levels are constantly … too high?


The longer you stay awake, the more a chemical called adenosine builds up in your brain. Adenosine causes drowsiness. While you sleep, the adenosine is removed, making you feel cooler. This is why you still feel sleepy if you don't get enough sleep.

How fast can you fall asleep?

You may not know exactly how long it takes to fall asleep.

First, your long-term memory may not record the amount of time you sleep. As a result, you may feel like you are falling asleep faster than you really are.

Second, the lightest stage of sleep can be mistaken for wakefulness if you suddenly wake up. You may feel like you are awake longer than you were because you slipped out of light sleep.

You are believed to be "asleep" when your muscle tone relaxes and the electrical waves in your brain decrease. These brain waves are called theta activity . Theta waves occur at a speed of four to eight times per second (hertz). By comparison, electrical waves in an awake, alert brain travel twice as fast.

That is why people in the lightest phase of sleep do not react to what is happening in their environment.

The time it takes to go from wakefulness to sleep is called delayed sleep onset . It is measured by monitoring the electrical activity of the brain. Sleep specialists use an electroencephalogram (EEG) as part of a sleep study called a polysomnogram . Electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure brain waves and record when different stages of sleep occur.

On average, a person without excessive sleepiness should fall asleep in 5-15 minutes. If this takes more than 20 to 30 minutes, it could be a sign of insomnia .

Falling asleep in less than five minutes can indicate an unhealthy level of sleepiness. This could be a sign that you are not getting enough sleep. It could also mean that your sleep has been fragmented or interrupted.

In short, you may fall asleep quickly, not because you 'sleep well', but because you lack the sleep you need.

What Causes Excessive Drowsiness?

The most common cause of drowsiness is lack of sleep . If you don't get enough sleep to feel refreshed and get rid of adenosine, you will fall asleep faster. The average person needs a little over eight hours of sleep. Some people may need more or less .

If you fall asleep quickly, fall asleep, accidentally fall asleep, or sleep on weekends, you may not be getting enough sleep. A little extra sleep may be all you need to help alleviate a lack of sleep.

Sleeping poorly or waking up frequently at night can also cause you to fall asleep too quickly. Frequent awakenings are called sleep fragmentation. His dream is literally interrupted. The most common cause is sleep apnea .

In people with sleep apnea, breathing often stops briefly during the night. These breathing problems can wake you up. Sleep apnea is associated with other symptoms, such as teeth grinding, snoring, and frequent trips to the bathroom at night. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available to restore quality of sleep.

Other disorders can also interfere with sleep. One possible cause is restless leg syndrome . It makes you feel uncomfortable having to move your legs. Another possibility is narcolepsy . It forces you to fall asleep without warning during your waking hours.

When sleep specialists cannot determine why you are so sleepy, it can be diagnosed as idiopathic hypersomnia . This is the medical term for excessive sleepiness with no known cause.


Excessive sleepiness is caused by lack of sleep. This could be due to fragmented sleep or frequent waking during sleep. Its causes include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.


The easiest way to measure sleepiness is to complete a questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale . If you get more than 10 on this scale, you are probably too sleepy. The next step may be a formal sleep study.

The Multiple Sleep Delay Test (MSLT) can also be used to measure sleepiness. It is sometimes used to test for narcolepsy. At MSLT, you have the opportunity to sleep 20 minutes every two hours during the day.

In MSLT, falling asleep in less than eight minutes is not considered normal. Sleep specialists record when your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep begins during sleep. If REM sleep begins within eight minutes after two or more days of sleep, you may be diagnosed with narcolepsy.

Visual investigation

Sleep experts sometimes use imaging tests, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) , to look for severe sleep disorders that do not respond to treatment.

These instruments track blood flow in the brain. Blood flow can indicate homeostatic sleep pressure or a strong desire to sleep. Changes in blood flow can affect your body's natural sleep pattern, called the circadian rhythm .

These studies can be expensive. But they can help sleep professionals determine what is causing the lack of sleep.


The feeling of drowsiness is the result of the action of the chemical adenosine. It accumulates in your brain while you are awake. Sleep lowers adenosine levels.

If you fall asleep quickly, it may be because you are not getting enough sleep at night. You may not get enough sleep, which may explain the need for sleep and the tendency to fall asleep even if you don't want to.

Disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and other neurological conditions can be the cause. To find out exactly what the problem is, a sleep specialist may give you sleep-related questionnaires, an imaging test, or a formal sleep study.

Get the word of drug information

Falling asleep for five to fifteen minutes seems to be ideal. But if you leave the house as soon as your head hits the pillow, you may need to re-check how well and how much you sleep. If you fall asleep too quickly, it might be time to visit a sleep specialist to help you sleep better.

Frequently asked questions

  • Relax before bed. In bed, don't read, watch TV, or use a computer or phone. This will help you train your brain to associate bed with sleep, which can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

  • Some people sleep 10 or more hours in a row. Sleepers may be at risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. The researchers also found that they had a 20-30% higher risk of premature death than people who slept normally. These risks may be related to the fact that the elderly or people in poor health sleep for a long time.

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