What Exactly is the Best Time to Sleep and Wake Up?

What Exactly is the Best Time to Sleep and Wake Up?

A lot of people wonder about what the best time to sleep and wake up is (biologically speaking) because we want to follow a routine that works with our body rather than against it. Everyone wants to fall asleep faster and wake up early, yet refreshed. Yes, it’s possible! And no, it isn’t just a pipe dream because I accomplish it [almost] daily. Obviously I, like everyone else, occasionally have nights where I can’t shut off my thoughts and experience grogginess and sluggishness all throughout the next day due to lack of sleep.

However, 99% of the time, I fall asleep quickly and awaken fully rested – and I am convinced it all comes down to finding that sweet spot for my bedtime and wake up time. Hands down, the best sleeping time is from 10PM to 4AM, but I always sleep well past 4AM. The most important thing, regardless of what time I wake up is that I am asleep by 10PM.

Getting up at 4, 5, or 6AM is rather irrelevant to me most of the time. If I have to get up at 4AM, it wouldn’t bother me too much energy-wise, but I do try to get up at the same time every day (5:30am currently) for consistency. I am a definite early riser, but I’m not gonna lie – I still like my comfy bed and have to push myself to get up.

In a recent blog post, I discuss why the best sleeping time is from 10pm to 4am. and in this other post, I offer up my best tips for how to sleep at 10pm.

what is the best time to sleep

Why 10PM is the Best Bedtime

The body naturally starts to wind down starting at sunset. You can thank your pineal gland for this. Basically, what happens is this: your pineal gland detects the sun (or gradual lack of sun at sunset) through the optic nerve in your eyes. Around sunset, your pineal gland starts to pump out a hormone called melatonin, which you have probably heard of before.

Melatonin is your body’s natural way of prepping you for sleep. About 1 to 2 hours post sunset, you will notice you are starting to feel drowsy, and this is your body’s cue to prepare for sleep.

Some people try to trick the body by taking melatonin as a supplement, but the jury is still out as to how well this works long term or if it’s even healthy. That’s a topic for your doctor or health practitioner, so I’m going to steer clear of it here. I will say this though: my personal opinion is that taking a melatonin supplement is not a good idea.

Anyway, the drowsy feeling peaks around 10PM, assuming you aren’t doing anything to inhibit the production of melatonin such as watching TV or using a mobile device – so that is why 10pm is the best bedtime.

Technology-driven activities shine unnatural blue light in your face and confuse your pineal gland, causing it to slow down the melatonin production, delaying your bedtime, depriving you of sleep, and causing you mayhem the next day. This is why a lot of people swear they’re not sleepy come 10pm, but they would be if they weren’t messing with their melatonin production and circadian rhythm.

If you ditch TV and mobile devices at 8 or 9pm, you can take advantage of this window of opportunity and easily fall into a peaceful slumber around 10PM.

I realize everyone on the Internet says to put mobile devices away 1 to 2 hours prior to bedtime and reading about it all the time gets old, but it really is true.

If people would just listen and put away the devices (and move the TV out of the bedroom), this wouldn’t have to be repeated so many times and fewer people would be complaining about insomnia and sleep deprivation to boot. Just saying… </rant> 🙂

smart phones interfere with bedtime

What if You’re Really Not Sleepy by 10PM?

My advice here is to get away from the harsh, artificial lighting in your house during sunset and take a walk around the moonlit block. Even just 10 minutes will help, but longer is great, too.

Also, try turning off all the overhead lights around the house and use gentle, soothing lamps, dimmed lights, or strings of lights (think Christmas lights) instead. Red lights or special circadian lighting promotes sleep the best. This circadian rhythm bulb is affordable and effective (and it’s the one I use throughout my home).

Candlelight and fireplaces are excellent natural light sources, too – just don’t forget to extinguish the flames before heading off to bed.

What if You’re Still Not Sleepy by 10PM?

If all that doesn’t work, be patient with yourself and gradually get yourself down to a 10pm bedtime. It might take a couple months of hard work. Anything worth doing requires hard work and perfecting your sleep health is no exception.

What I mean by gradually getting down to a 10pm bedtime is this: Every week, go to bed 15 minutes earlier and continue to wake up at your same early time in the morning. Continue shifting the bedtime weekly until you reach 10pm. By waiting a week to shift the bedtime another 15 minutes earlier gives your body a chance to get used to getting sleepy earlier.

Now, what about your wake-up time?…

what is the best time to wake up

Is 4AM the Best Time to Wake Up?

Not necessarily. Even assuming that most people have an ideal bedtime of 10PM, everyone’s overall need for length of sleep is different. I’d say 4AM is the absolute earliest anyone would want to wake up. I’d also say most people need more than 6 hours of sleep per night, so 5, 5:30 or 6AM would be more realistic for the majority.

On the other hand, some people think they don’t need more than 6 hours, but they are usually wrong and are making excuses for bad habits or a demanding job. There are a very small minority who actually do not need more than 6 hours of sleep, but they are a very rare type indeed.

The reality of life is that the older you get, the earlier you typically wake up unless you have a huge sleep deficit. This (awakening earlier, that is) is happening to me before my very eyes. I personally get up at 5:30AM and I’m 33 years old at the time of writing this blog post.

If you’re a teenager or young person in your 20s, it’s likely you are going to need 8 or 9 hours of sleep (especially teens, who sometimes need up to 10 hours even) so your ideal wake up time is more like 6, 7 or even 8AM. Sleep while you can, youngsters… 🙂

So… What is the best time to wake up?

After you’ve determined the number of hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning, then you’ll be able to determine the best time to wake up. In addition to different sleep needs, we all also have different responsibilities in the morning, which can drastically affect wake-up times. This is why I can’t provide you with a specific time. You will have to customize this time based your own needs and situation.

For me, my best wake-up time is 5:30am because I go to bed about 9:30pm and usually take 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep. After much experimentation, I have determined that I need 7.5 hours of sleep per night to be at my best the next day.

If you’re wondering how I came up with all this for myself, I did blog about it. In this post about how to sleep less and have more energy, I went into detail about how I pinpointed my nightly 7.5 hours and I share how long it took me to come to that conclusion. It’s not an exact science, but it’s not arbitrary either. Give it a try if you aren’t sure where to start with determining your best time to sleep and wake up…

Hit me up in the comments if you have questions!

I'm the owner of WhyGetUpEarly.com and an enthusiastic early riser. Let's discuss why that is... and maybe I can make you a believer in magical mornings as well!

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