When Should I Go To Sleep: 3 Simple Steps To Find Out

Do you want to know when to go to bed so that you can wake up feeling rejuvenated and refreshed? Do you ask yourself: when should I go to sleep? Not knowing the answer to this question can have a hugely negative impact on your life. Going to sleep too early or too late can leave you feeling groggy and drowsy the next day. This is bound to impact on your mood and general well being.  Fortunately it is possible to find your optimal go-to-sleep time using three simple steps. This post gives you the steps to follow, and dives a little deeper into the science behind when to go to sleep.

when should I go to sleep

Check out this related post: When Should I Wake Up? The Truth About How Much Sleep You Need

Three simple steps to determining the best time to go to sleep

Step 1: What time do you need to get up in the morning?

Ask yourself: what time do I need to get up tomorrow? By knowing what time you need to get up in the morning you can work backwards using the typical best amount of sleep.

Step 2: Work backwards.

The average adult under typical circumstances needs an average of 7.5 hours sleep per night. This is based on fitting in 5 sleep cycles which last an average of 90 minutes each. Of course this varies form person to person according to various factors including age and lifestyle, however can be used as a guideline. For more information on sleep cycles and how much sleep is ideal for you, read our post: When Should I Wake Up? The Truth About How Much Sleep You Need.

So, as an example, if you know you need to wake up at 7 in the morning, falling asleep at 1130 will give you the best amount of sleep.

Step 3: Fine tuning.

The best time to wake up is in between sleep cycles. This way you wake up feeling refreshed and are more likely to have energy throughout the day. If you have the average sleep cycle duration of 90 minutes, you will hopefully wake up just before your alarm feeling awake and ready to hit your day. However its possible your sleep cycles run a little longer or shorter. For this reason you may need to do some fine tuning.

First use 7.5 hours of sleep for a week and see if you start to wake up a few minutes before your alarm. If after a week you are still being woken my the sound of the alarm, change your go to sleep time to 15 minutes earlier and use that bed time for a week. Hopefully after a few days you will have started to wake up before the alarm. If not, continue to fine tune your bed time by going to sleep 15 minutes earlier until you do.

when should i go to sleep and wake up

Using Science To Answer The Question: When Should I Go To Sleep?

Ever heard the expression "One hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight"? You may have heard this saying before, but how true is it? To understand when the best time to sleep is, you need to first understand what makes up our sleep cycles. Sleep cycles are made up of two different phases, non-REM and REM, which have different characteristics and effects on the body and brain.

REM sleep, or rapid-eye-movement sleep is the light phase of sleep associated with dreaming. On the other hand non-REM sleep is much deeper and known for its rejuvenating and restorative effects. While both these sleep phases make up a sleep cycle, the ratio of the two changes as the night progresses.

In an interview for Time magazine answering what is the best bed time, Dr Matt Walker of the University of California discussed how this change in ratio happens as the night progresses independent of what time you go to bed. This means that the later you go to bed, the more likely you are to sleep lightly due to more REM sleep. This will leave you feeling unrefreshed in the morning. According to Walker, if you go to bed between 8 pm and 12 am you are most likely to receive the optimal balance of non-REM and REM sleep and therefore have the best quality sleep.

Trying to go to sleep when your body wants to be awake is like swimming upstream.​

While going to sleep too late is a bad idea, going to bed too early isn't going to help you much either. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal answering the question: what's the best time to go to bed, Dr Pelayo of the Stanford School of Medicine states that "trying to go to sleep when your body wants to be awake is like swimming upstream".

This is because our genetics and physiology dictate when the best time to go to bed is. Everyone is different and there is no one correct answer to the question: when should I go to sleep. While we can try and optimize our go-to-sleep time to get the most energy filled day, its important to remember that if you are feeling tired, your body is telling you something. 

One of the most important factors when trying to perfect your go-to-sleep time is consistency. To get the best results you should wake up routinely at the same time. This will increase your likelihood of falling asleep at the optimal time and waking up refreshed before your alarm goes off.​

​Found the answer to the question: when should I go to sleep? We would love to hear your opinion. Leave a comment and join the conversation!