Relax, you don’t have to be a board-certified sleep medicine physician to answer any of these questions. There is a simple test you can perform at home with a noisy tray a watch and a spoon. It is called the Sleep Latency Test. Sleep latency is just scientific jargon for “how much time it takes you to fall asleep.” To answer that question all you have to do is grab a spoon, a plate and a watch, then go into your quiet dark bedroom, lay down, close your eyes and chill out.
- How much time does it take you to fall asleep?
- Do you sleep within five minutes of getting into bed?
- Ten minutes?
- Fifteen minutes?
- Do you even know?
- Are you sleep deprived?
Place the plate on the floor, keep the spoon in your hand and hang it over the edge of the bed over the plate. When you fall asleep the spoon would fall from your hand and strike the plate abruptly waking you up. Then you immediately check the clock to see how much time had passed. The amount of time that passed is your “Sleep latency onset”. What could be simpler.
Should you decide to administer your own sleep onset latency test, you should do so in the middle of the afternoon, not the evening. Just lie back on your bed, check the time and shut your eyes. Hang anything noisy in your hand over the side of the bed: say your grandmother’s sterling silver chafing dish. When the noisy object drops on the dish and you wake up, you must immediately check the time.
- In sleep science sleep onset latency is the time it takes to fall asleep. If fifteen to twenty minutes has passed you are considered ok.
- Ten minutes? You are just moderately sleep deprived.
- Five minutes or less you may have severe sleep deprivation. You are not getting enough sleep.
The latency sleep study developed by Nathaniel Kleitman, the father of modern sleep research, has enabled sleep researchers to conclude that the brain keeps an exact accounting of how much sleep it is owed. If you are not getting enough sleep during any given period of time then you are in sleep debt. If you fall asleep quickly you are sleep-deprived. Kleitman was able to determine whether a person is sleep deprived based it on the amount of time it takes them to fall asleep—during the day. It is a far better test than a general, guesstimated self-evaluated level of sleepiness.