I was asleep before my head hit the pillow

November 11th, 2007

Have you heard people say this? It's a pretty popular expression. I find it a bit unlikely (or at the very least unsettling) myself.

The first thing to take into account is that falling asleep generally isn't instantaneous. So depending on the person it takes something like a few minutes to half an hour (or maybe more) to fall asleep from the moment you go to bed. Now, suppose you are exceptionally tired, then perhaps the time is shortened. But instantaneous? That seems unlikely.

Secondly there's a safety concern in play. Depending on the elevation of your fall, and the material the pillow is made from, you could have a concussion. If you were actually standing up at the time and you just literally *fell asleep* then let's hope it was a clean landing.

But the most striking omission here is that people never mention how aggravated they felt by being woken up less than a second after falling asleep! The first period of sleep, much like the last, is not deep sleep, it's not coma material. It's sensitive sleep, and if someone were to wake you up right after you fell asleep you would easily wake up. So a fall would definitely wake you up. How frustrating that must have been for you.

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2 Responses to "I was asleep before my head hit the pillow"

  1. John says:

    It's just a cliché Martin. Like most of them, it was a very powerful image when it was first used, but is no so common that people don't need to think about it, rendering it useless - it just means 'fell asleep quickly because I was tired'.

    George Orwell wrote a very nice essay on the overuse of phrases like this (and other common problems in written English). http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit

  2. numerodix says:

    Thanks for the link to the essay, really enjoyed it!