What Time To Go To Sleep (& Wake Up), According To A Neuroscientist
When it comes to sleep, people tend to have a lot of questions. How much of it do we really need? How can we actually tell if we're getting enough? And, of course—is there an ideal bedtime?
While we're all different (and so are our sleep cycles), neuroscientist and author of Biohack Your Brain Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., does have a specific sleep window that she recommends to most people. Here's what the brain expert had to say about ideal bedtime and wake-up times when we chatted with her about all things sleep.
A neuroscientist's ideal bedtime.
According to Willeumier, one integral aspect of good sleep hygiene is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
And typically when working her clients, she notes, "I recommend they sleep between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., if possible," adding that our brains do very well when they're on a routine.
So, why 10 to 6?
The logic behind this bedtime has everything to do with our hormones.
Nine p.m. is when the body typically begins to produce melatonin1, Willeumier tells mbg, a metabolite of serotonin. When melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the evening, it signals to the rest of your body that it's almost time for sleep. Melatonin also helps regulate our circadian rhythm—the internal clock that controls our sleep-wake cycle.
Once it kicks in at around 9 p.m., that's ideally when you'd start the process of getting ready for bed. For most people, an hour will be enough time to power down your electronics, roll through your nightly hygiene routine, and do something relaxing like read or meditate before the clock strikes 10.
As for the 6 a.m. wake-up, that window allows for eight hours of sleep. Now, not everyone needs exactly eight hours a night, but somewhere between 7.5 and 9 hours is usually enough for an adult to feel sufficiently rested when they wake up in the morning. (Note that if you're sick, menstruating, or doing a lot of rigorous exercises, you may need some more.)
If your work schedule or family life doesn't allow for sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., it's not the end of the world. The more important thing is that you do your best to stay consistent. The more our body gets used to a sleep-wake schedule, the easier it will be to fall asleep at night and wake up refreshed in the morning.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.