“What time should I go to bed?” “What’s the best time to go to bed?”. We get asked these questions a lot. Which makes sense, we rarely (unfortunately) get to choose the time we wake up, thanks to work/ school constraints, but we can choose the time we go to bed.
There are a lot of theories about how you need 8 hours of sleep a night or how sleep before midnight counts for double, and so on. We decided to settle it once and for all, and help you find the perfect bedtime.
How does sleep work?
To know the best time to go to bed, we first need to understand some sleep basics.
To each their chronotype
Sleep needs change from one person to the next. Some people wake up easily in the morning, others are more energetic at the end of the day. This is known as a chronotype:
- Night owls or ‘evening’ people. For them, the start of the day can be pretty difficult and they feel more and more on form as the day continues. They are at the most active and productive around the end of the day.
- Early-birds. They have no trouble at all to get out of bed in the morning. Even if it’s very early, they’re up and ready to start the day. But as soon as evening rolls around they start to feel sleepy.
- Full of energy. Morning or evening, some people are productive and energetic.
- Lethargic. Some people are exhausted when they wake up and tired by the start of the evening.
If you want to read more about chronotypes, check out this study from 2015.
These chronotypes are largely influenced by genetic factors. But, external factors can influence chronotypes over time. For example, years and years of working an early morning job can transform habits and turn you into a morning person.
The importance of sleep cycles
Sleep is divided into several sleep cycles which last around 90 minutes each. Without even realising, you go through between 4 and 5 cycles a night. The end of a cycle is marked by a phase of light sleep and it is in these moments that it’s easier to wake up.
Let’s determine your sleep needs
Before knowing the best time go to bed, you need to figure out the flip-side: how much sleep you need. Once you’ve determined your sleep needs, it’s much easier to calculate the time you need to go to bed.
The sleep need vacation method
Vacations are the best time to reimburse your sleep debt, recharge your batteries and calculate how much sleep you need. Here’s how to do it:
Week 1: Recuperation
Lie-ins, and naps: your first week is about recuperating as much as you can.
Week 2: Go with the flow
Now that you’ve reimbursed your sleep debt, forget your watch and time completely. Allow your body to self-regulate to know when to go to sleep and when to wake up. As the days go by, you’ll start to discover how many hours of sleep you need.
If you want to go further in analyzing your sleep, try MySleepProfile, which we made in partnership with the Sleep National Foundation. This questionnaire provides you with an overall assessment of your sleep as well as a few tips on how to improve it, and should help you know the best time to go to bed.
Keep a sleep journal
A sleep journal is a great way to figure out your sleep needs Keep a note of your bedtimes, wake-up times and nap lengths etc. This information will help you figure out your sleep needs and evaluate your fitness level during the day.
Dreem helps you understand your sleep, including how much of it you need (and so answering know what is the best time to go to bed). You sleep is monitored with lab-level precision and then this data is used to help you better understand your sleep and how to improve it, with tailored coaching based on the best of behavioral science. There are also relaxation techniques and other audio features to help you fall asleep.
So… what time should I go to bed?
In summary, if you want to know the best to go to bed, you need to start by determining how much sleep you need. And remember this need changes from one person to the next. Then and only then, you can calculate the time you should go to bed, taking how long it takes you to fall asleep into account.
Bedtime = wake up time – (hours of sleep + falling asleep)
Let’s say that your alarm goes off at 7 am. You know that you need 7.5 hours of sleep (about 5 sleep cycles). It takes you around 19 minutes to fall asleep. So you need to go to bed around 11.15 pm.
Alternatively, you can go off to bed as soon as you start to feel the first signs of tiredness: yawning, a stiff neck, itchy eyes, etc.
It’s important to remember that the length of your sleep is different from sleep quality. A 10-hour long night in bad conditions (temperature, noise etc..) will be less restorative than a shorter night spent in better conditions.
The best thing you can do for restorative sleep is to take care of the quality of your sleep and get into the habit of a regular bedtime.