The Nature of Sleepiness
To understand the complexity of a sleeping disorder, one has to learn how the human body is affected by sleepiness. This “sleepy” feeling occurs when the chemical adenosine accumulates in the brain. Adenosine increases when the body uses more energy during waking hours. Thus, the longer one is awake, the sleepier they will feel.
When the body is asleep, the chemical adenosine is cleared from the brain with the help of the lymphatic system. With adenosine at its lowest, the body feels refreshed and awake. During these waking hours, adenosine begins its steady increase. This phenomenon is known as homeostatic sleep drive. Known as sleep debt or sleep load, homeostatic sleep drive refers the body’s way of balancing wakefulness and sleep.
This homeostatic sleep drive is the reason that a person will “crash” after staying up for over 24 hours. This is the same reason someone will fall asleep faster than usual when they’ve stayed up past their regular bedtime. However, if one’s adenosine levels are always high, it’s likely that there is something else going on.
Falling Asleep Too Quickly
One can’t always tell whether or not they are falling asleep faster than they should. The rate at which one falls asleep is dependent on a variety of factors. One of which is the fact that it is nearly impossible to remember every waking moment prior to falling asleep.
In order to determine how quickly an individual falls asleep, one has to perform an electroencephalogram to measure the electrical activity within the brain. Through this process, brain waves are are measured to determine the exact moment that the body falls asleep. The average person should be able to fall asleep within a five to 15 minute time period. An individual that consistently falls asleep in under five minutes is likely experiencing higher levels of adenosine.
The Causes of Excessive Sleepiness
Sleep deprivation is regarded as one of the most common causes of sleepiness. Individuals that consistently fall asleep faster than the average person likely have accumulated too much adenosine during their waking hours.
These individuals should call into question the quality and duration of the sleep they are getting. As sleep is essential to living a healthy life, it’s important for anyone that falls asleep unusually quickly to determine if a sleeping disorder is affecting the body’s ability to sleep well.