Our day to day lives are full of very important events. Anniversaries, birthdays, marriages and weekend plans all take place around simple things like driving, brushing your teeth, cooking and going to the grocery store. The amount we can accomplish in a day is honestly astounding. Even the dry, mundane days that seem to be eaten up with work and aren’t of any seemingly novel significance, comprise many important events.
However, probably no event is as important in our day as the event of falling asleep. Yes, this is a goal, project, event and ordeal all it’s own. It’s that time when you haven’t entered into a sleep state but you’re preparing for it.
Most of the population averages falling asleep within twenty minutes according to most studies. However, there are still those who don’t hit this mark as it’s possible to struggle with laying in bed just staring at the ceiling wondering when you’re going to be overtaken by sleep..
So why is this event in your day such a big deal, and even if you fall within the parameters of the average time to fall asleep, what can you begin doing to strengthen this exercise and get more out of it?
Sleep Absolutely Matters
First, let's look at why this event is so important. That weird time between being awake and being asleep is important because, to be quite simple, sleep is important. Sleep is something our bodies do to help organize, refresh, and restore. Sleep has actually been linked to several healing health benefits and is a vital part of our existence.
On a good night of sleep not only do you feel more ready, refreshed and empowered to face your day - but you have the ability and energy your body needs to do so. You’ll be in a better mood and have a clearer mind. Sleep is such an important part of your daily rhythm that going without it can actually be deadly.
The results of sleep deprivation are not pretty. Lack of this precious resource can lead to symptoms from the superficial all the way to needing emergent medical assistance. Sleep has a huge impact on every system in your entire body including your immune system. Not only does it strengthen your muscles but it helps your chemical processes be strong enough to fight pathogens and diseases. When we don’t get enough sleep, this part of our bodies comes under direct influence and can be compromised.
Cycles of Sleep
In order to get the most out of your sleep you have to move through all its different cycles as each one has a specific goal and purpose. Sleep itself is divided into four stages and those four stages are further defined by whether they are considered REM (rapid eye movement) or non-REM sleep.
The first three stages, N1-N3, are considered nonREM. These stages accomplish everything from dozing off into unconsciousness, N1, all the way to experiencing deep sleep, N3. This last stage is strongly associated with the physically healing benefits of sleep. One of the most important aspects of these stages is that they must be moved through before getting to REM which is considered one of the most beneficial stages.
REM sleep is thought to be reached after about sixty minutes of sleep and moving through the other three stages. This state sees heightened brain activity and is thought to be deeply connected to our brain's cognitive ability to learn and develop.
One entire sleep cycle is thought to last some ninety minutes. Within one traditional eight hour night of sleep a person should be able to make it through just over five whole sleep cycles. The importance of being able to get through multiple cycles a night, or period of rest, is vital to maintain health.
Counting Sheep Or Out Like a Light
The truth is we are all very different. Some of us have no trouble falling asleep and can even beat the average of ten to 20 minutes no problem. It is actually thought that stage one of the sleep cycle for most people can only last five minutes.
But others are not that way. Some of us lay awake, tossing, turning or just laying still as the seconds turn into minutes, the minutes to hours and some of us don’t even remember when we fall asleep because the whole night becomes one blur of shaky wakefulness.
So, the real question is how long should it take you to fall asleep - and what can you do to help improve that?
Preparing for Sleep Matters
Everyone is different. For some people they work crazy days that are mentally and physically exhausting, leaving them with nothing left at the end of the day and ready for sleep. For others, they may have much more sedentary lifestyles that don’t lend themselves as easily to being tired. However, stage one of the sleep cycle should on average take five minutes and no longer than 20 to move through. So here are some tips that everyone can take to help enforce or improve this.
Be Sure to Get Some Fresh Air
Getting out for some fresh air and exercise no matter who you are is a powerful way to ensure you are preparing your body for rest late. Not only does the physical exertion help you build strength and cause your body to need rest, but exposure to the sun and fresh air naturally enforce your body's soothing pathways.
Ditch The Screens
This is something that is almost common knowledge in our world of smartphones, computer screens and televisions. The effect that blue light emitted from many screens commonly found in our daily life has been shown to have an exciting effect on us and keeps us feeling wired even after powering them off.
What Eat Impacts How You Sleep
Yes I am absolutely talking about crazy pizza dreams. The reason why it’s important to watch what you eat is because of the time and effort it takes your body to digest. After you eat your meal, your body takes time to process that food. Depending on the food you eat, this might inflict a negative impact on your sleep experience. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat easy to digest carbs that can help you feel nice and sleepy, without demanding your body spend too much energy to process.
Supplements Are Your Friend
There are rich supplements on the market that can help enforce your body’s natural sleep pathways and encourage a cleaner, faster way of falling asleep. This may seem intimidating to try at first, but supplements made with natural ingredients and approved by the FDA are not hard to find. Be sure to always check with your physician when thinking about taking a new supplement to make sure it’s right for you.
Now that you know a bit more about how sleep impacts your health and what it looks like to experience a full night of sleep, ask yourself how long it takes you to fall asleep. Are you happy with the amount of time that comes to mind? If not - then maybe some of these elements can positively impact your journey toward falling asleep quickly and satisfactorily.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.