There's definitely a sweet spot when it comes to falling asleep. You don't want to lie awake for hours on end, but you don't want to
fall asleep too easily, either. If you're passing out the moment your head hits the pillow — or worse, if you're falling asleep at inopportune times during the day — consider it your body's way of pointing out possible underlying issues.
In general, it should take about
15 minutes to fall asleep, once you've turned off the lights, gotten comfy, and allowed yourself to relax in bed. "[So you shouldn't] be too worried about falling asleep too quickly, assuming it’s in the right environment," Chris Brantner, sleep expert and founder of SleepZoo, tells Bustle. "The real concern is if you’re falling asleep quickly in inappropriate places and at inappropriate times."
This might include passing out super early in the evening, well before your usual bedtime. Or drifting off when you need to be awake, such as when you're at work or while watching a movie. If you find that you can't keep your eyes open, think about how much sleep you're getting each night.
"Are you getting the
recommended seven to nine hours? If not, start there," Brantner says. If you make an effort to practice good sleep hygiene and get enough sleep each night, but still feel like you're crashing, it may be time to look into other possible causes for your fatigue. Read on for a list of reasons why you may fall asleep so easily, according to experts.
It's fine if you occasionally go to bed early, as a way of catching a few extra hours of sleep. But if you
retreat to your bedroom earlier and earlier each day, take note.
"Many people may not realize that the constant fatigue that is dragging them to bed at 7 p.m. is actually a symptom of depression,"
Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC, a therapist specializing in sleep issues, tells Bustle. "When you fall asleep early and sleep late and still feel exhausted it’s important to rule [it out]."
Not only can depression cause fatigue, but it can also make you less interested in
your usual activities, which might be another reason why you call it a day so early. If you think depression may be causing your fatigue, reach out to a loved one or professional for help.
If you fall asleep easily, consider how chronic sleep deprivation might be playing a role. "Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep," Amy Korn-Reavis, MBA, RRT, RPSGT, CCSH, of
Emory Sleep Solutions, tells Bustle. "However many people sleep less. This leads to sleep deprivation which can cause you to feel fatigued throughout the [day]."
Chronic sleep deprivation can set in when you aren't getting enough sleep — possibly because you're overworked or choose to stay up late — but it can also stem from sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, that affect the quality of sleep you
If you feel exhausted all the time, let a doctor know.
If you're chronically sleep deprived, "this might be caused by a sleep disorder such as
sleep apnea, which can lead to a number of short nighttime awakenings," Martin Reed, certified clinical sleep health expert and founder of Insomnia Coach, tells Bustle. And as mentioned above, that can result in a poor night's sleep and ongoing fatigue.
Sleep apnea is something that should be diagnosed by a sleep specialist. But you can keep an eye out for other symptoms on your own, such as
waking up with a dry throat, loud snoring, choking or gasping in your sleep, and feeling lethargic during the day. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that can cause unpleasant sensations in the legs, making it difficult to fall asleep. Over time it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which may explain why you feel sleepy or need naps during the day.
"Restless sleep makes it harder to reach the
stage of deep sleep," Dr. Roy Raymann, vice president of Sleep Science and Scientific Affairs at SleepScoreLabs, tells Bustle. "As a consequence, you don’t get the same amount of restorative sleep as you should without the movements related to RLS."
This is another issue you'll want to point out to a doctor, so they can recommend the proper course of treatment.
Advance Sleep Phase Disorder
"Individuals who fall asleep early on a regular basis may be struggling with
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder," Houghton says. "Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder is a circadian rhythm disorder where people fall asleep around 7 to 8 p.m. and wake up between 1 and 5 a.m."
Not only does it cause you to fall asleep easily early in the day, but it can disrupt your entire schedule, leaving you tired.
"Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder often impacts people’s social lives and even work because they can’t force themselves to stay awake," Houghton says. But it is something you can treat with the help of a specialist.
While this may not seem related to sleep, it's important to consider how
a toxic relationship might be encouraging you to go to bed early. Because in this situation, sleep can actually serve as a defense mechanism.
"When trouble is brewing, it’s common for one partner to retreat to their bed early to avoid conflict," Houghton says. "It’s really important to explore whether sleep changes are
indicative of relationship trouble."
If you're unhappy in your relationship, or are stuck in one that feels toxic,
see a therapist ASAP so they can help you figure out what to do next.
"People with untreated narcolepsy suffer from daytime sleepiness and are prone to fall asleep suddenly," Terry Cralle, RN, clinical sleep educator and sleep consultant for
Saatva, tells Bustle. So if you fall asleep at strange times or in odd places, it may be worth looking into this as a possible cause — with the help of a sleep specialist.
"Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the brain's inability to control its sleep/wakefulness cycle," Cralle says. Other symptoms include daytime sleepiness that interferes with your usual activities, feelings of muscle weakness, and
It's also worth it to consider adrenal fatigue — a condition that
affects your adrenal glands — as a possible cause of your fatigue, as well as your strong desire to take naps throughout the day.
"[Adrenal fatigue] can leave you feeling anxious followed by nodding off," sleep expert
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, tells Bustle. It's a condition that can develop as a result of unrelenting stress, as well as lack of sleep and emotional trauma, among other things.
A few healthy lifestyle changes — such as getting more sleep, exercising, going to therapy, and meditating — can help you
feel more balanced, and prevent your adrenal glands from becoming overtaxed.
When you have an
underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, unexplained sleepiness won't be far behind.
Other symptoms include aches, cold intolerance, and constipation, Dr. Teitelbaum says. So if these symptoms sound familiar, you may want to ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels with a blood test.
It's completely fine to go to bed early on occasion, to take naps, or to feel sleepy during the day. But if it's an
ongoing issue, you may want to look into possible underlying conditions that lead to fatigue.
If you nod off at work, go to bed extra early, or feel exhausted during the day, let a doctor know so they can set you on the track to feeling better — and more rested — once again.