According to Sleep Health Foundation, sleep latency, refers to the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. A healthy sleep latency period typically ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. This period refers to the time trying to get to sleep once in bed and does not include pre-sleep bedtime habits such as showering, brushing your teeth, or meditating.
The National Sleep Foundation states that a sleep onset latency of 15 minutes or less is healthy, a sleep latency between 16 and 30 minutes is relatively normal, but a sleep latency of longer than 45 minutes is indicative of poor sleep quality.
Most people will experience it at some point in their lives and for a short time, when they are going through a stressful time. However, when it becomes a frequent occurrence and for over three months, this is when it is chronic.
It can affect your quality of life, as fatigue may affect your daily activities, you may experience irritability and poor mood.
Learning healthy sleep habits can help improve sleep quality. This includes:
Your sleep routine actually starts before you get into bed, so try to start preparing to wind down, for example, starting by switching off from technology. Try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bed.
Relaxing activities such as yoga, reading, meditation, gentle stretches, breathing exercises can be good ways to unwind.
You could try diffusing some essential oils to induce relaxation. Some oils that may be particularly helpful include lavender and frankincense. Aim to make the bedroom a calm, cosy and comfortable environment. It should be quiet and dark, the temperature not too hot and not too cold.
Other things you can try to help you sleep faster include wearing earplugs, taking the clock away from the room and ensuring the room is well ventilated.
As for your phone, ideally you will have it on silent face down or out of the room entirely.
Listening to certain sounds or music may bring on relaxation, for example, some people find playing ambient sounds like the ocean, rainfall, gentle music, soundbath or white noise can be helpful. There are apps to access these as well as on YouTube. Otherwise listening to a guided meditation as you lay in bed is also an option. Closing your eyes and visualising a place you have been that was peaceful,or use one of the app guided imageries.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, rather than staying up and compensating the next day with naps or caffeine. Changing schedules and routines can exacerbate sleep issues.
It’s also important to try not to stay in bed for too long as this can lead to fragmented sleep. 8 ½ hours should be the longest.
Avoid daytime naps and if necessary only keep them to 30 minutes and not close to bedtime.
Limit caffeine to earlier in the day, preferably mornings, and cut out nicotine and alcohol. According to Cleveland Clinic, though alcohol may help you feel drowsy, it can wake people up in more of the restorative stages of sleep and increase risk of nightmares.
Try to avoid a big meal close to bedtime.
Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Cleveland Clinic also states a diet high in sugar, saturated fat and processed carbohydrates can disrupt your sleep.
Get regular exercise, but not vigorous type of exercise in the evening.
Try to deal with anything that is worrying you earlier in the day, rather than at bedtime. You could talk to someone you trust and switching off from the news. Perhaps schedule some time just at the end of your work day to start journaling down any worries or tasks you have and to tell yourself you will leave them for the next day.
Using techniques such as dealing with negative thoughts and reframing unhelpful thoughts may help.
The Sleep Health Foundation says a common trait among many people with trouble falling asleep is difficulty shutting off worries. There are relaxation techniques you can try to help you let go of tension and worries to help prepare you for sleep. These include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation all of which can be accessed via apps or DVDs.
If you cannot sleep, go to another room and do a quiet activity until you feel tired and then try again.
If you are experiencing sleepiness during the day consistently and have tried these methods and they haven’t been effective, it might be worth speaking to your doctor for other methods such as Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). This treatment works on how you think and act and its effect on how you feel.