Do you get enough sleep and feel rested when you wake? Throughout our lives our sleep cycles evolve and change. When free of a strict schedule, we listen to our bodies exceptionally well. We eat, rest, and sleep according to the ebb and flow of the day. We naturally follow our internal clock.
However, as more and more of us now spend a large amount of time indoors, our bodies natural sleep and waking signals are easily disrupted. We work odd hours and spend our days and nights illuminated by artificial lighting and device screens.
We often need to wake up before our bodies are ready. We’ll cover some ways to combat this, but first – what is the best time to wake up?
According to sleep scientist Paul Kelly and author of the book, Body Clocks: The biology of time for sleep, education and work,
The best time to wake up according to age is:
- 9:30 am in our twenties
- 8:00 am in our thirties
- 7:30 am in our forties
- 7:00 am in our sixties
- 6:30 am in our seventies
Kelly believes that billions of us across the globe are sleep deprived. While the main focus of his research and studies are aimed at informing work and school policies regarding morning start times – we can all learn some valuable lessons from him about the importance of sleep.
If like me you’re interested in learning more about how much sleep we should be getting on a regular basis, best time to go to bed, and other useful and interesting facts – keep reading. Let’s dig in and learn more one about one of my favorite pass times, sleep.
Normal Bedtime for Adults?
According to an article by Homes.com which includes data collected from both the CDC and Jawbone’s wearable sleep monitoring devices, the average bedtime for adults in cities across the US is around 11:30 pm.
While this bedtime is the average, is it the optimal time? Kelly and other researchers talk a lot about our body’s circadian rhythm and typically use it as the guiding factor for gauging the optimal time for various activities, not just sleep.
So what is the circadian rhythm? It is often described as our bodies internal clock which runs on a cycle of approximately 24 hours and is governed by temperature, sunlight, darkness and our age. It regulates and influences when we go to sleep, wake up, release hormones, and perform various other bodily functions.
When it comes to our bodies function of sleeping, the two main hormones involved are cortisol and melatonin – both are regulated by our circadian rhythm.
In the morning, our bodies release of cortisol is signaled by exposure to light. Light prompts our brain to raise our body temperature and release the hormone. Cortisol gives us energy and helps us wake up in the morning. Throughout the day our cortisol levels slowly decrease.
At nighttime, our bodies release of melatonin is signaled by the absence of light. Exposure to darkness prompts our brain to lower our body temperature and release the hormone. The release of melatonin makes us less alert and prepares our body for sleep. Our melatonin level stays elevated throughout the night until exposed to light in the morning.
As you can see, our bodies ability to fall asleep, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up is highly affected by our environment – level of light and temperature are very important.
Additionally, the level of melatonin in our bodies decreases as we age, which in turn makes us wake up earlier and earlier as we get older. This typically begins to happen in our thirties, which is when we see the wake times by age listed above start to get earlier.
So, What is the Best Time to Go to Sleep?
According to experts, there is no one optimal bedtime that works for everybody. Everyone’s physiology and circadian rhythm is a little bit different, it’s unique to you. The amount of sleep best for you may be completely different than that required for someone else.
What we do know is that the average amount of sleep needed for adults is 7 to 9 hours per night. We also know that there is an optimal window for falling asleep which sleep experts say is between 8 pm and 12 am.
However, what if your schedule doesn’t allow you to wake up at the optimal wake time by age listed above? The recommendation is that you count backwards 7 to 9 hours from the time you’re required to wake up and experiment with various bedtimes to see what works best for you.
For example, you may start by selecting a bedtime that provides 7 hours of sleep per night and see how you feel throughout the day on that amount of sleep. If you find yourself feeling groggy they suggest adjusting the time to 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Why only a 20 minute adjustment? Experimenting with slight variations helps you better understand your personal internal clock and find the bedtime that is optimal for you.
You may find that you feel completely well rested on 7 hours of sleep or you may need a full 9 hours to wake up feeling refreshed.
How Much Sleep Do You Need by Age?
According to the National Sleep Foundation*, the recommended amount of sleep based on age range is as follows:
|Age Category||Age Range||Ideal Daily Sleep Range|
|Newborns||0 – 3 months||14 – 17 hours|
|Infants||4 – 11 months||12 – 15 hours|
|Toddlers||1 – 2 years||11 – 14 hours|
|Preschoolers||3 – 5 years||10 – 13 hours|
|School Age Children||6 – 13 years||9 – 11 hours|
|Teenagers||14 – 17 years||8 – 10 hours|
|Young Adults||18 – 25 years||7 – 9 hours|
|Adults||26 – 64 years||7 – 9 hours|
|Older Adults||65+ years||7 – 8 hours|
*Ranges are based on the revised recommendations released by the foundation on February 2, 2015.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
Overly busy schedules and life circumstances can sometimes make it difficult to go to bed at our desired time or wake up at a time that’s optimal. But getting enough sleep is still important.
Beyond just being and feeling overly tired, I was surprised to learn that not getting enough sleep can actually cause many health issues.
According to the CDC, repeated sleep deficit puts you at increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other serious health issues.
The quality of sleep you get is just as important as the quantity. They suggest being aware of the following symptoms which can all be signs of a sleep disorder:
- feeling tired on a regular basis
- needing stimulants such as caffeine to make it through the day
- inability to sleep well
- waking up not feeling refreshed
- falling asleep or getting drowsy while driving or watching TV
You should consult with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis.
Can You Get Too Much Sleep?
What about too much sleep? Is it even a thing? Surprisingly, it is. Just as too little sleep can have serious health side effects, the same goes for getting too much sleep.
Although the amount of sleep that we need throughout our lifetime will vary, experts still agree that 9 hours is about the maximum amount of sleep recommended for adults.
Studies have shown that exceeding the recommended 9 hours on a regular basis can increase the risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease – just to name a few.
Similar to the CDC’s recommendation for too little sleep, if you consistently find that you are sleeping more than 9 hours on a regular basis consult your doctor. This will allow them to determine if your oversleeping is related to an underlying health issue.
How to Wake Up Feeling Energized?
Now that we’ve covered all the technical and medical aspects of sleeping, let’s talk about things you can do to make sleep more enjoyable. While setting aside enough time to sleep is the number one determining factor, there are many additional things you can do to get a better nights rest.
Dark and Cool
Make sure your bedroom is extra dark, quiet, and cool. The absence of light and the cool temperatures will assist your body’s release of melatonin and help you sleep more soundly.
Create a Bedtime Routine
The routine may include designated device free time before bed, a soothing cup of tea, lowered lighting, or soft soothing music. It’s up to you. Experiment to see what works best.
Use the power of scent. Essential oils like lavender and ylang ylang are wonderful before bed relaxers.
Cut Out Stimulants Prior to Bed
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants (including heavy meals) right before bedtime.
Say no to the snooze button. Also, place your alarm across the room so you’re required to physically get out of bed to turn it off.
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Our bodies love routine. The more we stick to one the easier it is to wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
Lastly, give yourself an hour or so before bed where you don’t drink any liquids. This will make it less likely that you will need to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.
I hope you found this article interesting and learned some useful information about sleep that you didn’t know before. I hope it has inspired you to get the most out of whatever time you have in your schedule devoted to sleep.
Often times we take sleeping for granted, but as you can see there are lots of things you can do to improve your sleep quality and make sure you’re getting enough.