What time should I go to bed?
If you’ve ever felt dozy at work – with a good night’s sleep or not – you’re not alone.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 1 in 3 Americans lack sleep on a regular basis. 45% of US adults were also reported to have their daily activities affected by poor or insufficient sleep at least once in a week. Sleep deprivation started to become so prevalent that the CDC called it a public health epidemic relating to the numerous sleeping disorders in the country.
Is There A Perfect Bed Time?
We know from childhood that 7-9 hours is the right amount of sleep we should be getting. Does this mean that it’s ok to sleep at 3am and just wake up 7 hours later? Possibly.
The most suitable bed time for you actually depends on your circadian rhythm – a 24-hour internal clock that tells your brain when to be sleepy and when to be alert. Every person’s circadian rhythm is different and is influenced by a number of factors such as reaction to light exposure, temperature, age, genetics, and even sleep deprivation.
Early to Bed & Early to Rise?
Since our body clocks mainly respond to light exposure, many people are predisposed to waking up in the morning and sleeping at night. This can be mimicked, though, by closing all your blinds or turning all the lights on, for example. So nowadays some people may find it difficult to rely solely on [the absence of] natural lighting to put them to sleep.
It’s in the Genes
Your circadian rhythm also depends on your genetics. It varies whether you’re a lark (morning person), or an owl (night person). Ever try to force yourself to sleep at a certain time but it just won’t work? You might have to hold your genes accountable for that.
Consistency is Still Key
Many studies agree that your rhythm works best when you have regular sleeping habits (i.e., going to bed and waking up at the same time every day). In fact, one Harvard study found that sleep regularity is positively correlated to academic performance. This means that your body can adapt to a sleeping pattern provided you give it time to do that on a regular basis.
So, YES, if you’re a pretty consistent owl, sleeping at 3am and waking up at 11am can work for you.
Quality Sleep VS. Quantity Sleep
What about the time you woke up from a beautiful 8-hour sleep but still felt groggy as ever. Has your body betrayed you?
Maybe. Let’s go a bit into a lesson here.
Sleep is a cycle that goes through 4 stages: three in Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM) Sleep and one Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. A person is expected to go through at least 5-6 cycles per night in 90-minute intervals. Waking up in the middle of these cycles – especially in the deep sleep stage – can lead you to feeling unrefreshed in the morning. This totally defeats the whole purpose of sleep.
In theory, the solution is simple. Just wake up in between cycles. If you’re waking up at 7:00am, go to sleep at 9:45, 11:15, 12:45, 2:15, 3:45, and 5:15. Although the last three time slots aren’t advisable (as you’ll get less than 6 hours of sleep!), you can give quality sleep a shot if there’s no chance of having it in good quantity. Just always keep in mind that getting sufficient hours per night during the deep sleep stage is vital to your body’s restoration (hence the 5-6 cycles).
It’s All You
There’s no clear-cut sleeping time for anyone. It’s all personal. Your own circadian rhythm, the right amount of sleep, and the cycle you wake up in can all have a say in how you’re feeling the next morning. Try playing around with these different factors and see which helps you reach your optimal level.
When you find what works for you, try your best to keep regular sleeping habits for a healthier, more alert, and refreshed you. (READ: 'How to Fall Asleep Quickly')
Here’s to your best night’s sleep yet!