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Temporary, acute and chronic are the usual categories professionals apply to insomnia. Although treatment options are relatively standard, causes are extremely variable. They range from diet, to stress levels to bad sleep hygiene. People are less familiar with the term sleep onset insomnia or sleep onset latency.

What is Sleep Onset Latency?

Sleep onset latency is a condition that sufferers experience at the time of going to sleep. They have difficulty in falling asleep. It may take many hours before they experience sleep onset. Patients may or may not experience this sleep issue in combination with other types of insomnia. These may include the inability to remain asleep for the remainder of the night. Additionally, some may wake several times during the course of the night. However, pure Sleep Onset Latency is a condition wherein there is a delay in sleep onset time.

Acute Sleep Onset Latency

As with other forms of sleeplessness, the condition can be temporary, acute or chronic. Side effects that a sufferer may display, vary. Effects depend on the intensity and duration of the condition. Symptoms of an acute problem are light. Nevertheless, tiredness and other signs of lack of sleep will be present. However, these disappear soon after reassuming healthy sleep routines.

Chronic Sleep Onset Latency

In the case of chronic situations, symptoms can be mentally and emotionally crippling. Prolonged Sleep Onset Latency can cause damage to the brain. Therefore, patterns that govern the ability to sleep, can change. Signs include mood swings, irritability and concentration issues. Feeling drained, depressed and anxious on a daily basis is the norm.

does sleep onset latency keep you awake at night?

For how long have you had Sleep Onset Latency?

Furthermore, the duration of sleep onset latency additionally affects the quality of your current slumbers. Medical experts have done a fair quantity of research on onset latency. Studies show specific variations between sufferers and distinct differences are evident. Adult-onset types experience less peaceful sleep. On the other hand, childhood onset types have longer onset latency and they sleep less.

Childhood-onset insomniacs demonstrated an extreme duration of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. However, they lacked the eyelid flutterings common to that part of the sleep cycle. Researchers could not find obvious differences in disposition. Nevertheless, in childhood-onset types, soft neurological issues were obvious. These indicate a decrease in neurological function. However, they are not observable in any specific area of the brain.

Sleep Onset Latency can feel like a never-ending cycle of sleep deprivation for both children and adults. Knowing the cause of your issue is the first step of your treatment plan.

Step 1.


On the surface, triggers of sleep onset insomnia are similar to those that spark other types of insomnia. Stress is a common factor in general cases of insomnia. Indulging in caffeine or sugar addictions prior to going to bed is another factor. In addition, a disinclination to exercise regularly is often the case with sufferers of Sleep Onset Latency. Those at greater risk, are people that are prone to anxiety. Moreover, the fear of not being able to sleep increases anxiety levels.

The relevance of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleas to the cause of Sleep Onset Latency

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) rests within the hypothalamus and governs the circadian rhythm of the body. The nucleus consists of twenty thousand nerve cells. Proper functioning depends largely on light and dark.

You are meant to be in light during the daytime and in darkness at night. The SCN functions best when exposed to these natural patterns of day and night. Nuclei receive signals directly via the optic nerve from the eyes. Consequently, light therapy does have an effect on those that have a problem with sleep onset. Exposure to computers and other technology after dark will affect the SCN.

Furthermore, trauma to the hypothalamus can cause damage to the nucleus. With damage to the hypothalamus, all natural body rhythms lose their main supervisor. These injuries can therefore adversely affect the patterns of numerous processes relating to sleep induction. Hormone secretion and release is one of these. Your hormones dictate sleep onset and duration. Any disruption to their natural cycles can impact your sleeping patterns.

Sleep Onset Latency can rapidly become a cause of great concern, nonetheless, there are ways to change the situation.


For the most part, the treatments for sleep onset insomnia are similar to other sleep disorders.

Firstly, understand the basic causes of Sleep Onset Latency as per the outline above. In addition, read below for the physiology of your condition as regards temperature.

Secondly, build the foundation that supports healthy sleep patterns according to the guidelines further down. Incorporate all the main points into your life.

Thirdly, be diligent in implementation of your foundation, and patient with your results. Chronic sufferers of onset latency cannot expect to transform their sleep onset time overnight.

Step 2. Understanding basic physiology

Skin temperature

An interesting correlation is the link between body temperature and falling asleep. The same applies to the ability to remain asleep. Body temperature fluctuates during the twenty-four hour day and depends on the natural patterns of light and dark. Skin temperature increases just before falling asleep. Additionally, the skin remains warm during sleep. One method, therefore, is to ensure you dress and cover your body so that your skin will warm up and remain warm.

Foot temperature

Secondly, the same study found that warm feet were key to an effective solution for Sleep Onset Latency in particular. Treatment includes warming your feet and keeping them warm. Utilizing bedsocks that have a heating mechanism is one way of accomplishing this. Use them as you get into bed as an effective method to speed up sleep onset.

Moreover, a research team did further studies on elderly people to compare results. Elderly subjects who had no sleep issues fell asleep more quickly after a warm footbath prior to bedtime. At bedtime they wore light socks. However, results were different with elderly patients who had chronic Sleep Onset Latency.

In elderly subjects with sleep onset latency, the treatments during the experiment did not make a difference. Elderly people with chronic Sleep Onset Latency do not have the ability to respond as healthy sleepers do. Their neurology has changed as a consequence of enduring many years of Sleep Onset Latency. Apparently, the neurological connections between falling asleep and an increase in foot temperature has been lost.

Step 3. How to diminish sleep onset
Healthy sleep hygiene

battle sleep onset insomnia with healthy bedtime habits

Sleep hygiene refers to the many components that make up the sleep environment. Pre-bedtime habits are also part of sleep hygiene. Address all components in order to facilitate a gradual decrease in sleep onset time.


Firstly, your body clock responds to how active you are. Activities should ideally slow down as dusk approaches and stop by the time it is dark. This approach would also benefit melatonin production which is essential for deep sleep.

Light and dark

Be sure to get into the sun every day. At least twenty minutes of natural sunlight in the morning is essential for efficient melatonin production at night. Furthermore, sleeping in a darkened room to support the body in its need for melatonin is vital. Therefore, banishing the use of computers and cellphones at dusk is crucial. Their light triggers the secretion of hormones that keep you awake. Keep your bedroom technology-free after dusk.


Every process the body carries out requires water. These processes include the production of melatonin, so sip clean water all day long. To avoid disrupting sleep, do not drink for two hours before bedtime. If you have hydrated well during the day, you will not be thirsty at night. In this case, a few sips prior to sleep is sufficient to quench any minor thirst.


Most importantly, avoid caffeine, sugar and salt generally. These are all stimulants and aggravate the body, prohibiting sleep. Eat a light, oil-free meal at night for a peaceful digestive system. Ensure your meal consists mainly of whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes. Eat well to sleep well!

Air quality

The quality of the air you breathe while trying to get to sleep, can either hinder or facilitate sleep onset. Therefore, ensure the air in the room is neither too dry nor too moist. You can use a humidifier or dehumidifier if necessary. You will find that doing slow, deep breathing until you fall asleep facilitates earlier sleep onset.

Mattresses and mattress covers

Make sure your mattress is clean and comfortable. Clean mattresses protect you from disruptive allergic reactions. Bamboo mattresses have the extra benefit of being thermogenic, antibacterial and dust mite resistant. Thermogenic mattresses are those that keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. These promote deeper sleep.

In addition, healthy bedding materials and pillowcases made from natural fabrics will support deep rest. These include organic cotton, hemp or bamboo. Use a breathable mattress cover that is also waterproof. A good mattress cover will ensure your mattress remains clean from skin flakes, sweat and spills.


Pyjamas play an important role. When you feel comfortable in your skin, falling asleep is easier. Breathable pyjamas that clothing manufacturers make from natural fabrics are ideal.

Bedtime routine

Your body loves routine. Furthermore, your mind forms a connection between regular activities at specific times of day or night. The body clock thrive on routines that work hand in hand with the natural patterns of day and night. For the best results, plan your pre-sleep routine and stick to it.

Stress levels

is stress the cause of your sleep onset latency?

Stress hampers the ability to fall asleep, so find a way to manage your stress. Get your partner to rub your feet for ten minutes just before sleep. Attend yoga, meditation classes or do deep breathing in your garden every morning.

Acquire a notebook for the sole purpose of resolving any personal issues. Express your feelings, yet keep a positive outlook. To clear your mind, use the notebook for five minutes during your afternoon tea break. Additionally, stretch gently before you get into bed to release tension from the day. When you feel mentaly and physically relaxed you fall asleep more easily.

Slow down

Support your body’s circadian rhythym so that you can fall asleep more easily. Change your routine to sleep better and increase the quality of your life. Daytime is the time to be active, whereas dusk is a time for slowing down. Furthermore, doing as little as possible at night is imperative.

Body temperature

Warm your feet just before sleep by adding a pair or thick or thin socks depending on the weather. Moreover, ensure your body remains cosily warm all night. In hot weather, use a fan to reduce room temperature. Thereafter, cover yourself with a bamboo sheet so that your skin temperature is optimal for promoting sleep onset.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Attend cognitive behavioural therapy sessions for improvements in your sleep patterns. Seeing someone who is objective and skilled, may make all the difference.

Sleep Onset Latency in children and additional treatments

Researchers conducted a study on a group of eighty-four children with chronic sleep onset latency. They used melatonin and light therapy separately as treatment. Results on the use of Melatonin showed that there was a good improvement. When doctors applied light therapy, there was also a decrease in latency.

However, the results were not as good as they were with melatonin. Furthermore, the subjects experienced a problem with the use of melatonin. Children showed an increase in wakefulness during the night.


Sufferers of Sleep Onset Latency needn’t continue to have problems falling alseep. Longterm change is what is important.

Firstly, simplify the transformation by making a list of all the aspects that you need to change.

Secondly, ensure you continue implementing the required changes. Do not try to alter everything at once. Making one new change every week is a great way to approach your situation. Some changes may require two to three weeks to adjust to. Thereafter, add the next alteration on your list. Approach your condition from every angle by applying all the above guidelines. Good sleep hygiene is important if you wish to enjoy the pleasures of healthy sleep patterns.

Finally, persist and be patient. Your body needs time to reset.