Do you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, feel as though you can nap any time of day or have the ability to fall asleep anywhere, including an airplane before it takes off from San Jose International Airport? If so, you may consider yourself to be an excellent sleeper, but the truth is that you may have a sleep disorder.
Causes of Sleepiness
The feeling of sleepiness is caused by the neurochemical adenosine, which accumulates throughout the day as we expend energy and metabolize food. By nighttime when we go to bed, adenosine levels are high enough to make us feel sleepy.
During sleep, the lymphatic system clears the chemical from our brains so that by morning, the amount of adenosine is at its lowest, signaling that it’s time to wake up.
The longer you’re awake, the higher your adenosine levels can rise. This phenomenon is referred to as homeostatic sleep drive, also known as “sleep debt” or “sleep load.”
How Fast Is Too Fast?
The average person takes between five and 15 minutes to fall asleep at night. If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, this indicates a pathological level of sleepiness, which may be caused by inadequate sleep.
Therefore, if you fall asleep very quickly, it may actually be a sign that you’re experiencing sleep deprivation or fragmented sleep.
You May Have a Sleep Disorder
Many people are unaware that they have a sleep disorder because they feel as though they’re getting enough sleep at night – at least seven hours. However, it’s often the case that sleep disorders cause poor sleep quality.
Below are some common sleep disorders that cause sleep fragmentation:
- Sleep apnea. This condition is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, causing your body to rouse you so you can resume breathing.
- Restless leg syndrome. This sleep disorder causes uncontrollable leg movements that can disrupt your sleep.
- This condition causes abrupt transitions between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Evaluating Excessive Sleepiness
There are several strategies a sleep expert may use to evaluate sleepiness or diagnose a sleep disorder:
- Epworth sleepiness scale
- Multiple sleep latency test (MLST)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
For more information about common sleep disorders or to schedule an evaluation, call Camino Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic today.