If you’re able to fall asleep quickly anywhere, like at the Newport News Station or nap any time, you may think that you’re an excellent sleeper. However, falling asleep too fast may actually be a sign you have a sleep disorder. Below we review what causes sleepiness, how fast is too fast when it comes to falling asleep, why you may be excessively sleepy and how excessive sleepiness is evaluated.
What Causes Sleepiness?
We feel sleepy due to an accumulation of the neurochemical adenosine. As we use energy and metabolize food during the day, adenosine levels slowly increase until we get sleepy enough to go to bed. Then during sleep, the chemical is cleared from our brains by the lymphatic system, so that when we wake up, adenosine levels and the feeling of sleepiness are at their lowest point.
The longer you are awake, the higher your adenosine levels can get. This phenomenon is known as homeostatic sleep drive, also referred to as “sleep load” or “sleep debt.”
How Fast Is Too Fast When It Comes to Falling Asleep?
The time it takes to fall asleep is called “sleep onset latency.” It takes the average person between five and 15 minutes to fall asleep at night. If it takes longer than 20 to 30 minutes, it may be a sign of insomnia. Conversely, if it takes less than five minutes to fall asleep, it could be a sign of a pathological level of sleepiness, which may be due to inadequate or fragmented sleep.
Thus, you may be falling asleep quickly because you’re being deprived of good sleep, rather than because you’re a “good sleeper.”
Why You’re Excessively Sleepy
Most commonly, excessive sleepiness is caused by sleep deprivation. This is because if you’re not getting sufficient sleep, the adenosine that has accumulated isn’t clearing away by morning.
If you’re spending at least seven hours asleep at night, it may be the case that your excessive sleepiness is the result of poor sleep quality due to a sleep disorder. Below are some common sleep disorders that cause sleep fragmentation:
- Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. This causes your body to rouse you so that you can resume breathing again.
- Restless leg syndrome causes periodic movements of the legs at night that can wake you up or keep you awake.
- Narcolepsy causes abrupt transitions between consciousness and unconsciousness.
How Excessive Sleepiness Is Evaluated
You can determine whether you’re experiencing excessive sleepiness by completing the Epworth sleepiness scale. If you score higher than a 10, you should seek further testing by a sleep expert in order to determine whether you’re suffering from a sleep disorder.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist, call Hampton Roads ENT today.