Experts reveal when you should go to sleep
With summer in full swing, there’s nothing more enjoyable than making the most of the hot weather and light evenings. So, now is the best time to sort your sleep routine out and ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye to prepare you for the activities you want to participate in during the day.
We talk to sleep coach Rosie Osmun from Eachnight.com about when you should go to bed to ensure you wake up feeling rested and ready for the day, and how to get a better night’s sleep.
How much sleep do I need each night?
The amount of sleep you need each night depends on several factors including your age, genetics, and lifestyle. By monitoring these things, you will be able to figure out what works best for you so that you get enough sleep to feel properly rested.
The amount of sleep you need can vary depending on your age, and usually you will require fewer hours of sleep as you get older. These are the recommended number of hours of sleep required by age:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours a day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 a day
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours a day
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours a day
- School children (6-13): 9-11 hours a day
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours a day
- Adults (18-64): 7-9 hours a day
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours a day
Use this as a guide to work out how much sleep you need each night and then adjust it in alignment with your genetics and lifestyle.
For example, if you are an adult and find that the recommended number of hours (around seven) is not enough because you have an active job role or busy lifestyle, you might find that you benefit more from resting a little longer each night.
This being said, it is best not to sleep for too much longer than the recommended number of hours as oversleeping can make you feel groggy.
You may find that even when you get the recommended amount of sleep each night, you still wake up feeling pretty exhausted. Some of that comes down to our genes — studies show that the PER1 and CRY1 genes as well as parts of our hypothalamus contribute to our sleep habits and needs. These genes mean that some of us are more likely to be night owls and others find it easier to get up early in the morning.
Your genetics also impact your circadian rhythm which is your internal body clock. This body clock is an innate mechanism that regulates your sleep cycle and determines when you naturally fall asleep and wake up. Whilst your circadian rhythm is something you are born with, it can be disrupted by external factors such as light exposure. To help you get a better night’s sleep and fall asleep at the best time for your body, it is good to be aware of your natural sleep-wake cycle and make adjustments to your routine to help avoid negatively impacting your circadian rhythm.
Most of us have to be up by a certain time each day whether that is for school or work, but it is important to factor in the type of activities you get up to during your day to decide when you need to go to sleep. If you have an active lifestyle where you spend a lot of time on your feet, you’re more likely to feel tired than if you’ve had a laid-back day at home.
If you often find yourself tired at the end of the day, seven hours of sleep will usually suffice. However, if you’re constantly finding that you are exhausted each day, it’s likely you need to go to bed earlier to compensate for the daily activities that use up a lot of energy.
What is the best time to go to bed?
The simplest way to decide on what time you need to go to sleep is to work out the number of hours you need to sleep based on the factors above, and then work your way backwards from the time you need to wake up in the morning. So, say you need to be awake at 6 a.m. and you’re aiming for the recommended seven hours sleep, your bedtime should be 11 p.m. at the latest.
It is also worth considering your sleep cycle when you are trying to work out when to go to sleep. When we are asleep, we go through four stages of sleep — three stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) and one stage of REM sleep. It takes around 90 minutes to complete the four stages and a typical night’s sleep of between seven and nine hours has approximately four or five sleep cycles.
To avoid grogginess in the morning it is best to wake up when you are in a non-REM stage which is early on in the sleep cycle, so calculate the amount of sleep you need and work in 90-minute multiples. This way you can set your alarm to wake you up at an optimal time when you have not yet reached REM sleep.
How can I fall asleep quicker?
Despite having a reasonable bedtime in mind, you may find yourself having a hard time actually falling asleep which can be counterproductive. Thankfully, there are several ways you can wind down for bedtime and fall asleep at the best time for you:
- Mattress and pillows: choose the right mattress for your sleeping style and make sure that your mattress and pillows properly support your body. This will help ensure you won’t get woken up by an uncomfortable bed that causes aches and pains.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime: it is no secret that caffeine is a stimulant that disrupts sleep. You don’t need to forgo your daily tea, coffee or fizzy drinks altogether, but try not to consume them within the six hours before you go to bed.
- Limit the use of electronic devices: as previously mentioned, your circadian rhythm can be disrupted by artificial light, particularly the blue light emitted from phones and TVs. Try to refrain from using electronics within the three hours before you attempt to get some shut-eye.
- Follow a routine: waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day will train your body to relax when it is bedtime, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Set your room to the right temperature: optimal room temperature for sleeping is between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius to help regulate your body temperature during the night. If you find that you are regularly overheating while you sleep, try using a fan to avoid waking up due to hot sweats.