February 6, 2022

When Is the Best Time To Go to Sleep?

Research suggests that we should be snoozing by 10 p.m.

woman on clock Best sleep time

As the sun sets each day and it gets dark outside, you should ideally be winding down to go to sleep. But bingeing that TV show or scrolling through social media keeps you up past midnight instead of hitting the hay at a decent hour.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A recent study suggests that going to sleep at 10 p.m. is the optimal time. But is there any truth to that?

We ask sleep disorders expert Colleen Lance, MD, who discusses if timing matters and offers tips for getting better sleep.

Does timing matter?

The study, which was conducted in the United Kingdom, used data from 88,000 adults to determine that 10 p.m. is the ideal hour to go to bed.

Not so fast, says Dr. Lance.

“There’s not a magic number that someone has to adhere to,” she says. “It has to do with what your personal need is and everyone has a different need.”

So, while 10 p.m. may be ideal for some, it won’t work well for others. Instead of focusing on the digits on your alarm clock, Dr. Lance says consistency should be your goal.

That means going to sleep at the same time every night (even if it’s 10 p.m.) and waking up at the same time every morning. Even eating dinner at the same time every day can help you fall asleep. All that consistency helps us function better.

Advertisement

Why? It has to do with our circadian rhythm, an internal clock that’s inside of your body that regulates sleep.

“As the sun goes down, your brain perceives through the lack of light that it’s time to go to sleep,” explains Dr. Lance. “And it triggers a secretion of melatonin. It’s that tiny little burst of melatonin that triggers other neurochemicals to start the process to get you ready to go to sleep in a few hours.”

We also have these internal clocks for our hormones, immune system and digestion.

“If another schedule is off track, you get your body’s clocks all misaligned,” says Dr. Lance. “For instance, if you wait till 10 p.m. to eat dinner, then who knows when you’re going to go to sleep because your circadian rhythm is off.”

And having an inconsistent sleep cycle can lead to an increased risk for obesity and diabetes.

How many hours of sleep should you get?

It’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. But Dr. Lance suggests finding the total amount of sleep that works for you. So, 7-1/2 hours might work for you while your partner may need 9 hours.

“If you’re somewhere within that range, and you feel good during the day, that’s the most important factor,” she says.

Advertisement

In an ideal night, one would cycle through the various stages of sleep five to six times. Each cycle contains four individual stages: three that form non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and one rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

“REM sleep is when your brain catches up on its rest,” says Dr. Lance. “If you don’t get enough REM sleep, you may start having problems with memory, mood and concentration.”

Sleep tips

If you’re having trouble going to sleep at the same time every night, Dr. Lance offers up the following advice.

  • Aim to eat dinner at the same time every night. Picking a time and then trying to stick with it can help reset your sleep-wake cycle. And avoid eating any snacks two hours before bed.
  • Take a small dose of melatonin. Use instant-release supplements as opposed to one that’s extended release, which dissolves slowly. “It’s just a little pow — just what your brain is supposed to be doing as the sun goes down to help reset that clock,” she says.
  • Use a sleep diary. Dr. Lance says keeping track of your sleep can help you and your doctor determine patterns and if you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Eliminate naps. This doesn’t mean naps are bad, but if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, then this might be the culprit. “When you first wake up in the morning, your drive to fall asleep should be at its absolute lowest and it slowly climbs throughout the day,” Dr. Lance explains. “It should be at its absolute highest in the evening. However, if you take a nap at any point, then it completely obliterates your drive to go back to sleep and you’re starting over from ground zero.”
  • Minimize alcohol or caffeine in the evening. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t help you fall asleep. It may at first, but then it’ll disrupt your sleep later in the night.

In the end, trying to have a little consistency in your bedtime routine can help you get some quality sleep. So switch off your phone, stop the late-night snacks and focus on having a schedule when it comes to sleep. It’s critical to maintaining your health.

Think of it this way, advises Dr. Lance: Your kids have a set bedtime and routine. As adults, we tend to forget the benefits of a reliable regimen, but we put those routines in place for a reason.

“We all know what happens when you let your kids run wild and stay up however late they want,” says Dr. Lance. “It’s hell the next day.”

Related Articles

person sitting on bed stretching
January 22, 2024
How To Become a Morning Person

Break up with your snooze button by shifting your bedtime and establishing a consistent nighttime routine

Mug of Coffee with Mushrooms
March 6, 2023
Mushroom Coffee: Is It Healthier Than Your Average Cup of Joe?

Mushroom coffee is expensive and has fewer health benefits than eating whole mushrooms

Person holding wrist with psoriatic arthritis.
February 28, 2023
Ways To Prevent Psoriatic Arthritis Flare-Ups

Focus on sleep, limit alcohol and reduce your stress and anxiety to help lessen symptoms

Sleepless child scared of the dark.
November 7, 2022
Is Your Child Afraid of the Dark?

Listen to your child to help them identify their fear and name it, but don’t reinforce it

Child sleeping on a cloud clutching a teddy bear.
August 15, 2022
Melatonin for My Child: What Parents Should Know

While the supplement is safe, it’s best to talk to your child’s pediatrician first

Someone holds a cluster of cherries in the palms of their hands.
November 17, 2021
Can Cherries Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep?

A good source of melatonin, tart cherries may help you catch some ZZZs

A person procrastinates falling asleep by watching a TV show on their laptop while laying in bed.
November 16, 2021
Is Sleep Procrastination Keeping You up at Night?

Find out how to break this popular pandemic habit

Man wearing a fitness watch on his wrist while sleeping in bed.
October 9, 2018
3 Reasons to Track Sleep on Your Smart Watch or Fitness Tracker

How data from your device can help you

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery

Ad