Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”? Does it matter? What is the best time to sleep, according to science?
We all need to get enough sleep to feel good, maintain physical and mental health and well-being, and function at our best daily. While the occasional late night with not enough sleep is no problem for most of us, a generally consistent sleep schedule is important. It’s not just about getting enough sleep, either. Interestingly, there is an optimal time during which to sleep.
Depending on one’s age and individual needs, the National Sleep Foundation (USA) states that adults need seven to nine hours of good quality sleep per night to remain healthy and alert. School-age children require between nine and eleven hours, while older adults may need only seven to eight.
It may seem that when you get those hours of slumber it doesn’t matter so much – but there’s scientific evidence to support the importance of sleeping during specific hours.
What Does Science Say About the Best Time to Sleep?
So what’s the best time to sleep, according to science? According to scientific research, the times of the day and night when you wake and go to sleep can significantly impact your sleep quality. Exact sleeping times will vary between people, but for the majority, the best quality of sleep is achieved at night, going to sleep between 10 p.m. to midnight and waking around 7 a.m. Many people need to go to sleep earlier; a few natural “night owls”can go to sleep a little later, provided they can consistently sleep a little later in the morning. They, however, are in the minority.
For most people, the need to wake up and start the day is dictated by their work or education schedule or other responsibilities. Most people should base their sleeping time on their required waking time and count back seven to nine hours to determine their ideal bedtime.
For people whose schedule is not as rigid for an early wake-up time, most find it easiest to wake up after the sun has risen. Depending on the season, this is usually between 7 a.m. to 7.45 a.m. – as long as the required hours of sleep have been achieved.
Why does sleeping at night and waking with the sun promote the best quality of sleep?
It all comes down to your circadian rhythms.
What Are Circadian Rhythms?
Fundamental to quality sleep, circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles and part of the body’s internal clock. They are natural physical, mental, and behavioural processes that primarily respond to light and darkness and they affect almost all living things, from humans and animals to plants and even fungi and microbes. Circadian rhythms influence everything from body temperature to hormone release, hunger and satiety, digestion, and sleeping patterns.
The biological clock is a natural timing device reliant on the interaction of protein molecules with cells in the body. Every organ and other body tissue has a biological clock. The brain’s “master clock” of neurons in the hypothalamus coordinates these and keeps them in sync. It receives input directly from the eyes and is strongly influenced by light and darkness.
The network in the brain that manages sleep-wake cycles receives incoming light information from the optic nerve and controls the release of melatonin, which is a hormone that makes one sleepy. When there is less light, more melatonin is created and released.
The human body’s natural sleep-wake circadian rhythm triggers a strong urge to go to sleep (in most people) by midnight.
Natural circadian rhythms can be disrupted, confused, and altered by factors that cause them to go out of sync. These include jet lag, shift work, certain genetic mutations, and light from electronic devices. This can lead to sleep disorders, mood disorders (including depression and seasonal affective disorder), diabetes, obesity, and other health issues.
The Importance of a Consistent Sleep / Wake Schedule
Maintaining a regular bedtime and waking time (which suits your work/life schedule) is important to ensure that you wake feeling refreshed, function at your best, and avoid daytime sleepiness and the need to nap.
A regular sleeping schedule (particularly if it matches the daylight-darkness pattern) is linked with better sleep quality.
People who regularly sleep during the day, or who experience many rapid alterations to their sleep-wake cycle (e.g. shift workers, new parents) can experience both immediate and longer-term health effects.
So whats the best time to sleep according to science? This can be based on schedule rather than specific times. For ongoing optimal performance, health, and mood, sleep experts and scientists recommend a consistent sleep-wake schedule – even on weekends and during holiday periods.
Exposure to light during the waking hours plays a huge role in the regulation of sleep-wake cycles.
Tips for a Healthy Sleep Schedule
- Set an alarm to wake at the same time every day, even on weekends
- Exercise regularly, in the morning or by mid-afternoon
- Avoid alcohol 3 hours before bedtime and drink in moderation
- Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime
- Reduce fluid and food intake in the evening; don’t eat a large meal before bed
- If you nap, do so for only 20-30 minutes and by mid-afternoon at the latest
- Quit smoking and vaping
- Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet
- If you can’t go to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed or read (but not on a backlit device) until you feel sleepy
Why Sleep Quality Matters Too
Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Signs you do not include:
- Waking feeling fatigued or unrefreshed
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty remaining awake and alert
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Issues with memory and learning
- Reduced work or school performance
- Social issues
- Mood issues
- Childhood hyperactivity
Poor quality sleep also leads to a higher risk of work accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and other types of injury. In the longer term, poor quality or inadequate sleep can contribute to the development of diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, heart disease, and even cancer.
Oversleeping is also a potential issue. People who sleep too much on days off, weekends, or generally are vulnerable to insomnia and difficulty falling asleep when they need to at night. For some people, oversleeping can be a symptom of depression, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or other medical conditions.
Snoring may be a contributing factor if you have poor quality sleep. It’s important to take appropriate steps to stop snoring.
Improve Your Sleep – Stop Snoring with SnoreMD
One of the biggest ways to improve the quality of your sleep on an ongoing basis is to implement changes to help yourself stop snoring. Snore-free sleep is deeper, healthier, and more restful. Along with some lifestyle changes (including maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping on your side, exercising regularly, and not smoking), one of the most effective, scientifically-proven remedies to stop snoring is to use SnoreMD.
SnoreMD is a mandibular advancement device that is worn in the mouth while you sleep. It is medically designed and engineered and boasts a unique adjustment feature which allows users to micro adjust for optimal results. Widely recommended by medical professionals, SnoreMD is an Australian made, Class 1 Registered Medical Device used successfully all over the world.
To have a chat with us, call 07 5370 9323.