There is so much advice out there about best sleeping practices, and a lot of the tips are helpful for those who struggle with sleep schedules. However, I don’t see many sites diving into why the best sleeping time is from 10pm to 4am. I want to discuss why this timeframe is the body’s favorite for catching some quality zzz’s, as well as how you should alter the 10 to 4 schedule to make it your ideal.
Want the quick answer? 10pm to 4am mimics most closely what nature intended.
First of all, let me say that you do not necessarily have to get up at 4am if you are going to bed at 10pm because 6 hours of sleep is not quite enough for most people. I highly advise you to be getting your standard 8-ish hours of sleep every night.
I am of the belief that the hours of 10pm to 4am are hours you should be asleep. Whether you go to bed at 8pm (to get up at 4am) or sleep until 6am (and go to bed at 10pm) in order to fit in your 8 hours is up to you, but never stretch your bedtime past 10pm. In my world, the hours of 10pm to 4am have a strict lights off, eyes closed rule. I’ll explain why.
Why You Should Always Be Asleep by 10pm
A beautiful window of opportunity opens every night around 10:00 pm. What is this opportunity, you ask? It’s the time where you can obtain the deepest, best quality of sleep. If you miss the window, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
Your sleep cycles during this time are more focused on deep, restorative cycles. This window of opportunity lasts until about 2:00 am – at which your sleep cycles start to become more heavily focused on lighter REM sleep where you tend to have dreams coupled with a tendency to wake up more easily.
To maximize the amount of deep sleep you get and feel more rested regardless of when you wake up, you should make sure you are either already asleep or are getting into bed no later than 10pm. Take advantage of these longer deep sleep cycles earlier in the night between 10pm and 2am!
I understand some people are night owls or have to work at night. If you are in one of those situations, consider making a change as soon as you possibly can. If you are waiting until 2am or later to go to sleep in the first place, you’re completely missing out on the perks of a 10-to-4 lifestyle, causing your body to be out of sync with its natural sleep-wake cycles that mimic the sunset and sunrise.
Don’t Interfere with Your Melatonin Production
10pm is around the time when we have had enough time to get dinner and evening activities done. Also, enough time has passed since the sun has set and our bodies have had enough of a chance to start producing melatonin. This light-sensitive sleep-inducing hormone is what helps lull us to sleep at night, as long as we don’t interfere and slow down its production.
The most common ways people interfere with melatonin production is by keeping bright overhead lights on past sunset or using electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, or TVs right before or even during bedtime. Shining lights on your face signals to your pineal gland that it is still daytime, so it will slow down or even shut down the production of melatonin, preventing you from getting sleepy at the proper time. This can delay your bedtime by hours. Not good!
No Bright Lights or Electronic Devices after 9pm
If you aim to go to sleep by 10pm and get all that wonderful deep sleep you so desperately need, mobile device and TV use after 9pm is going to make that goal downright impossible. Set an alarm at or before 9pm to remind you to power down or put your devices in Airplane Mode. It’s also a great idea to dim your lights or use candles starting shortly after sunset to get yourself in the mood for early slumber.
Do this for a week and you’ll have your body trained to fall asleep and wake up at the right time on its own! Did you know your body has its own internal alarm clock?
The Case for Waking Up at 4am
Why on earth would anyone choose to wake up at 4am by their own accord? Well, they’re likely not crazy as one might suspect. They’re hyper-efficient and passionate for life, most likely. Waking up at 4am is definitely not for everyone.
As I mentioned in the “Why You Should Always Be Asleep By 10pm” section, your longest, deepest sleep cycles take place between 10pm to 2am. With that fact in mind, the reason many people wake up at 4am is quite logical.
They choose 4am instead of, say, 4:30 or 5am, for a couple reasons:
Anything past 2am is going to be a lighter, lower quality of sleep. However, getting up at 2am is ridiculous because you need much more than 4 hours of sleep per night… so they opt for 4am.
Also, the average sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, so the 6 hours this gets them allows for 4 full sleep cycles at 4am instead of waking them up in the middle of a sleep cycle at the 4.5-hour point at 4:30am, causing grogginess.
It’s always best to wake up after a sleep cycle is complete, while in the REM portion of the cycle, regardless of how much sleep you got. Even if you got 8 hours of sleep, if you wake up in the middle of your sleep cycle, you’re going to feel like you didn’t sleep at all.
Waking up at the wrong time has happened to me many times, so I can testify about how terrible it is. Now I just use my sunrise alarm clock that you can check out on Amazon here. Mid-sleep cycle grogginess never happens to me anymore. That alarm clock is worth every penny – no joke. I found that the cheaper ones kept malfunctioning, then someone gave me the Philips one for my birthday and I am in love with it. Might as well get the good one to begin with…
6 Hours of Sleep?!? Say What?!?
There are many people who thrive on 6 hours per night, and so the 10pm to 4am schedule works for them, as it still gets them maximum deep sleep – the same amount of deep sleep that your typical 8-hour 8pm-4am or 10pm-6am sleeper would get. Some people are just different from the majority.
The bottom line is that scientifically speaking, waking up at 4am is not as bad or crazy as it may seem – if done smartly.
Don’t Push Your Luck – Get Enough Sleep!
Do the 10pm to 4am schedule at your own discretion. Don’t do it just to impress people, because sleep deprivation doesn’t impress anyone. You are welcome to try out a 10pm to 4am sleep schedule, but chances are, you are of the majority who needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
There’s no shame in being relentless about getting your 8-ish hours every night. In fact, I admire people who are like that more than I admire people who sacrifice their health and well-being to chase a few extra dollars.
I personally need 7.5 hours to feel completely rested. To give you an idea of what works for me: I get comfy in my bed at 9:30pm and usually fall asleep somewhere around 10pm, and I get up at 5:30am.
I don’t see myself ever waking up at 4am unless something drastic changes as I get older. Then again, I never saw myself getting up early until about a year ago, so you never know… Early for the old night owl version of me used to be 10am, believe it or not. What a slacker I was! 🙂
A 4am Riser’s Dirty Little Secret
The 4am enthusiasts do indeed get up super early, but guess what? They have a secret weapon to get them through the day and feel energized into the afternoon and evening.
Many people who are members of the 4am Club also take naps after lunch! Albeit, they are usually brief 30-minute refreshers, but still… A fact is a fact. I’ve interviewed enough 4am‘ers to know the truth.
Many of them work furiously through the morning when they’re most alert in order to get everything done, then they go home in the early afternoon to take a nap and wind down for the day. It’s just a different schedule than most people traditionally have, that’s all.
Should Everyone Take a Nap?
Heck yeah! If you can manage to do so, why not take a nap, too? There’s nothing wrong with taking a short nap that is no longer than 30 minutes, regardless of the time you wake up.
In fact, a nap can make you more productive for the second half of your day. Just be sure to do it early enough that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep at night. If you time the nap at the midway point between when you woke up and when you go to bed, you’ll find a power nap to be quite effective!
10pm to 4am?!? Huh?!? Get a life!
Sometimes “getting a life” is precisely the reason people embrace the practice of sleeping from 10pm to 4am. It’s still dark outside at 4 in the morning, but that’s the beauty of it. There is so much peace, wonder, delight, and magic that take place in the early morning hours from 4am until 7am or so when most people start waking up. Some people want to make the most of those quiet hours by being awake and close to nature. I completely understand the mindset.
In fact, I’m even starting to sort of convince myself to wake up at 4am. The only thing that makes me hesitate is that I can’t really go to bed at 8pm due to responsibilities and chores at home, so it will have to remain a pipe dream for me until further notice.
Another reason I’m not too keen on waking up at 4am during this season of my life is because I’m not one of the lucky ones who get to take a nap during my lunch break. If I were going to get up at 4am, I’d want the option of snoozing for half an hour come mid-day. The reality is that I always get interrupted by coworkers with questions, but that’s a part of my job. Maybe someday I’ll be able to put up a hammock and sleep through a lunch break!
To be perfectly honest, getting up at 4am is very unrealistic for (arguably) most people. Don’t feel like a slacker if you can’t or don’t want to do it. 4am doesn’t fit some peoples’ lifestyle just like early rising, in general, can’t be done by certain people. Assess your own situation carefully and compassionately.
If you can swing it, though, good on you!
Definitely, the best sleeping time is from 10pm to 4am. Just remember to add to it if you need to; you will likely need to. You can add to it by going to bed at 8 or 9pm, or sleeping until 5 or 6am. Experiment with this sleep schedule and see if it suits you. If it doesn’t suit you, add another hour or two to the beginning or end of your slumber. Be flexible and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep each and every night!
Being asleep during the hours of 10pm to 4am gives you exposure to the deepest sleep possible during the time nature intended. We were designed to sleep when it’s dark and rise with the sun for a reason.
Getting up at 4am precedes the sun by a little bit, but some people thrive in the peace and stillness of the 4am hour, making for a productive day with minimal stress. Give it a try! You might get hooked on early rising like I am!