Ideally, it would be perfect if we could all get an early night every day and wake up fresh and breezy the next morning after a night of good quality sleep. But, we all know life gets in the way, and things often prevent this from being possible.
Commitments such as our jobs, kids, sleep disorders, diet, mental well-being, and even small things like having a power nap are all things that can get in the way and stop us from having a good quality night’s sleep.
When it comes to the best hours to go to sleep and wake up according to science, there are two main things you should always consider to begin with:
- How much sleep are you getting per night?
- Are you consistent when you go to bed and get up?
In this guide, I will try my best to help you find the best sleep schedule to suit your lifestyle to improve your general sleep quality.
What Are The Best Sleeping Hours?
So, as I said previously, in an ideal world, everyone would go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up nice and early the next day. This tends to work because it means that your body regulates itself to the timing of the sun, i.e., sleeping while it’s dark, awake while it’s daylight.
Of course, if you have a job where you work late into the night or start very early in the morning, these times aren’t possible and need to be adjusted accordingly. That’s where our Circadian Rhythm kicks in.
What is The Circadian Rhythm?
The Circadian Rhythm is an expression that relates to the brain’s natural pattern of waking up and going to sleep. Think of it kind of like an internal clock.
Generally speaking, most people tend to be at their most tired point mid-afternoon and during the very early morning hours. Although, it makes a massive difference to how tired you get during the day if you ensure you get a significant amount of sleep regularly.
The Circadian Rhythm tends to sync up with your schedule, so if, for instance, you’re a nurse who works night shifts, your brain will eventually adjust to the split-sleeping pattern.
You can use it to your advantage by changing your sleep schedule. If you want to start going to bed earlier and waking up earlier but find you’re struggling to get to sleep, keep trying, and once your body gets into a rhythm, you will soon find it much easier to achieve a good night’s sleep.
This can also work oppositely, and your sleep pattern can be thrown out of balance if you break your routine by doing things like changing your shifts at work or sleeping during the day.
High-Quality Sleep Standards
1. Sleep Continuity
This means the ability to remain asleep throughout the night. If you don’t have sleep continuity, you will likely feel less rejuvenated the morning after.
2. Sleep Timing
This is regarding your Circadian Rhythm, as discussed previously. It’s our bodies clocks getting used to how many hours we tend to sleep during one day and making sure that we feel tired and alert at the times of day we need to.
3. Sleep Onset Latency
Sleep Onset Latency means how easy you find it is to fall asleep at night and how long it takes you.
4. Alertness During The Day
You can usually judge whether you’re getting the correct amount of sleep going on and how alert you feel during the hours that you’re awake. If you’re feeling over-tired when you’re awake, you’re not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.
5. Sleep Satisfaction
This is usually measured simply by how refreshed you feel when you first wake up, and for the rest of your day, if you wake up feeling unrested, you may have over or under-slept.
6. Sleep Efficiency
This determines how much time you spend trying to get to sleep compared to how much time you spend sleeping.
What Time Should You Go To Sleep?
There is one obvious answer here, which is to calculate the exact time depending on what time you need to wake up in the morning. The amount of sleep you need also depends on your age, which I will go into more detail about further down.
For most adults, however, the recommended time you should be sleeping is around 7 hours. Therefore, if you know you need to be awake at 6:00 am, you should be in bed and ready to sleep around 11:00 pm.
Ideally, whatever sleep schedule you find suits you the best is the one you should stick to on a daily basis, even on weekends; if you get too much sleep at the weekend or end up pulling an all-nighter, this can have a knock-on effect on your tiredness for the rest of the week.
How Much Sleep Should We Be Getting?
The recommended daily amount of sleep most adults should be aiming for on a daily basis is around 7 hours, but if you’re younger or older, this amount can vary. Below is the recommended amount of sleep that experts say you should be getting depending on your age.
- 0-3 months old: 14-17 hours
- 4-12 months old: 12-16 hours
- 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- 9-12 years: 9-12 hours
- 13-18 years: 8-10 hours
- 18-60 years – 7 hours
- 61-74: 7-9 hours
- 65 years plus: 7-8 hours
Why is The Right Amount of Sleep Important?
The amount of sleep we get each night is valuable for many reasons. It’s a function that is part of human survival and keeps us alive and healthy, like drinking, eating, and breathing.
The hours of sleep children get is also essential as it contributes to their growth, which is why children need almost double the amount of sleep that adults need.
If you don’t receive the correct amount of sleep, eventually, you will start to notice some adverse effects, such as decreased mental health, anxiety, heart disease, strokes, and increased blood pressure. It can also impact your general safety, especially if operating vehicles or machinery.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
You may think that not getting much sleep will lead to you just being a bit more tired than usual, but experiencing tiredness during the day is only the beginning.
If you aren’t getting the correct amount of sleep daily, it can lead to some long-term health problems. Below is a list of symptoms that you might notice from lack of sleep.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Low immune system
- Short-term memory loss
A couple of more serious consequences include things like heart diseases and diabetes. It’s imperative that you visit your doctor if you’re concerned about any health issues.
Too Much Sleep
We are all aware that not getting enough sleep can have long and short-term side effects, and we have known about this for a long time, but what about getting too much sleep? Research that has taken place recently shows us that oversleeping can be just as damaging to your health as not getting enough sleep.
If you need 8, 9, or more hours of sleep per night, this is a notable sign that you are getting too much sleep. This can lead to problems and side effects, such as an increased chance of depression, irritability, and heart trouble.
There is a chance, of course, that your need to sleep more than average is down to a hidden health issue such as anxiety, sleep apnea, Parkinson’s disease, thyroid problems, asthma, and obesity.
What Can Affect Your Sleeping Hours?
Many factors could be causing you to sleep too much or not sleep enough. Here is a list of contributing factors to poor sleep quality and tips on avoiding them.
Research has proven that your diet can impact your sleeping pattern. For example, people who consume a lot of saturated fats and sugar tend to have a lesser quality night’s sleep than those who eat plenty of fiber and protein.
2. Sleeping Environment
You should always ensure that wherever you sleep is a comfortable environment. The room should be dark and the temperature just right (not too hot and not too cold). Avoid having the television on in your bedroom or looking at your devices for at least an hour before you sleep.
3. Sleep Disorders
Conditions such as Insomnia and Narcolepsy can mean that you may have difficulty falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep for the necessary amount of time. This can lead to real disruption in your sleeping rhythm.
4. Mental Health
Disorders such as depression and anxiety can have a massive impact on your sleep and, similar to people living with Insomnia, can lead to struggles falling asleep and staying asleep.
Falling asleep when stressed can mean your mind is too agitated to fall asleep, even if you feel overly tired. This can lead to you taking a long time to fall asleep, leading to a shortened night’s sleep. Try to clear your mind of all worries before getting in bed, and practice how to meditate in bed.
6. Caffeine And Alcohol
It’s always advised to stay away from both of these beverages late at night or even late in the day, as they can both massively affect your ability to get to sleep and cause you to wake up multiple times through the night.
I am sure most reading this have all experienced sleeping in the same room as a chronic snorer at some point in their lives, and it can be highly frustrating. But, not only does it affect the person sharing a space but also the person snoring; ongoing snoring has been linked to sleep apnea.
8. Irregular Sleep Pattern
If you go to bed early all week and then stay up all night at the weekend, this can affect your sleeping schedule in the long term. Trying to get to sleep at a similar time each night will improve your sleep quality significantly.
Some medications can increase your need to go to the bathroom at night, which can mean you end up with a night of broken sleep. Then, on the contrary, medications such as sleeping tablets from the chemist or doctor can end up with being more drowsy during the daytime.
10. Health Problems
One more thing that can affect your night’s rest is any form of illness, pain, or allergies; all of these things can make you uncomfortable, restless, and unable to fall off to sleep quickly or stay asleep for the whole night making for a non-restorative sleep. This can worsen your illness due to lack of rest, which can be a vicious cycle.
Handy tip: Try to ensure that you research the most comfortable position for a solid night’s sleep, depending on which area is bothering you. For instance, if you’re sleeping with allergies, you should sleep with your head elevated.
Determining Sleep Quality
To help you work out if you’re getting the correct amount of sleep at home, you can do a few things. Here’s a list of what you should do if you think you may be suffering from lack of or too much sleep.
- Count how many times you wake during the night, and work out how long you were awake.
- Think about how long it takes you to get to sleep. Ideally, it should not take you much longer than 30 minutes to nod off once you’re in bed.
- Make sure you always wake up as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning. Snoozing your alarm and drifting back to sleep can lead to grogginess and drowsiness. It can also lead to sleep inertia, which means you will feel more irritated than usual.
- Keep a sleep diary. Write down what you can remember about your night’s sleep as soon as you wake up in the morning, and take notes about what you did during the daytime, do this for a few weeks and see if you can see a pattern emerging.
- Try not to nap during the day. This can lead to you having difficulties getting back to sleep later on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it a good idea to sleep during the day?
Ideally not; if you’re struggling to sleep through the night especially, then napping during the day can have a negative effect on your sleeping pattern in the evening.
What are the recommended hours of sleep for an adult?
The average adult should get around 7 hours of sleep per night.
How long should it take to fall asleep at night?
It should take approximately 20-30 minutes for you to fall asleep, but this can vary.
A Brief Overview of The Best Hours to Sleep
As I have discussed, one of the best things that you can do to improve your sleep quality is to make sure that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Although this may not be something that works for everybody, it is what should be aimed for wherever possible.
Ensure that once you are asleep, the quality of sleep you get is enough. So avoid doing things late at night that may prevent or disrupt your slumber, like looking at your phone or computer screens, exercising late at night, or caffeine.
Lastly, if you feel like you are struggling, or suffering from any of the symptoms I’ve discussed above, then always make sure you speak to a professional. There are many tests they can do now to discover the cause of all kinds of sleeping disorders. These are especially beneficial to those living with Insomnia or Narcolepsy.
I hope this guide has helped you to understand the importance of sleep quality, what the best hours of sleep are, and that if you’re struggling with sleep for any reason, some of these suggestions will help you improve your nightly routine.