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How do I sleep and when should I wake up?

Here, two experts reveal their ideas on how people can get the best night’s sleep.

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If you could choose the best time to go to bed and get up, when would it be? It’s a question on everyone’s mind because the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the recent prolonged heatwave have seriously disrupted our sleep schedules and made getting a good night’s sleep seem like a pipe dream.

In order to get back on track with your sleep routine, you must first ensure that you are going to bed and waking up at appropriate times in order to accumulate sufficient amounts of sleep. There is no universally correct answer to the question of how many hours of sleep an average adult needs, but the National Sleep Foundation’s latest recommendations suggest that adults aged 18–64 get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Dr. Greg Potter, a specialist in sleep whose doctoral dissertation focused on melatonin and circadian rhythms, explains that while some people may function well on as little as six hours of sleep per night, others may require as much as ten.

So, everyone has different sleep requirements, but using these numbers, you can easily determine the ideal times to go to bed and get up. Here’s what two doctors who specialize in sleep medicine recommend, whether your goal is to go to sleep right now or to create a sustainable pattern of sleeping at the same time each night.

When should you go to bed and when should you get up?

Whenever you can, sleep when it’s best.

Given that most adults require somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, determining when you should turn in is as simple as picking a time to rise in the morning and counting backwards nine hours. If you need to rise at 7 am, you shouldn’t start getting ready for bed any later than midnight.

It’s important to tune in to your internal clock when trying to establish a regular sleeping and waking schedule. Because of the heat, many of us have had trouble sleeping this summer, and as a result, we’ve been feeling tired earlier in the evening. Dr. Potter, chief science officer at Resilient Nutrition, advises that we accept our new early bedtime rather than fight against it. In general, he advises that people try to time their sleep opportunities with the times that their bodies naturally require rest. You shouldn’t make yourself go to bed if you aren’t tired, and you shouldn’t engage in activities that will keep you up long after you naturally feel the need to sleep.

When you should get up if you want to maximize your day

Seven to nine hours after going to sleep is optimal for waking up in the morning. If you went to bed at 11 p.m., the optimal time to rise would be between 6 and 8 a.m. (latest). By doing so, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting the required amount of sleep each night.

If you want to improve your sleep, it is best to stick to a consistent wake-up time throughout the week. Those who regularly woke themselves up at a scheduled time had more consistent sleep patterns and higher quality sleep than those who did not. This was the finding of a study conducted by the University of Hiroshima.

Does it make a difference if I get into bed before Midnight?

For your health’s sake, it may be best to get to sleep before midnight. The risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke is lower in people who go to bed between 10 and 11 o’clock, according to Sammy Margo, a chartered physiotherapist who specializes in sleep medicine.

Over the course of six years, researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Exeter looked at 88,000 people aged 43 to 74 and found that slightly more than 3000 of them developed heart and circulatory disease. Using responses to a number of lifestyle questions and data from a wrist accelerometer, they found that people whose bedtimes regularly extended past midnight were more likely to experience the phenomenon. People who went to bed between 10 and 10:59 had the lowest rates of these events.

Findings like these are promising, but they pale in comparison to the health benefits associated with simply getting enough sleep, whenever that may be for you. “The most important thing is that you get the correct amount of sleep,” confirms Margo, the sleep expert for Dreams, the UK’s leading specialist bed retailer.

And Dr. Potter concurs. “The worst possible outcome is inadequate sleep, which has deleterious effects on virtually every aspect of human biology. A lack of sleep, even for a short period of time, has negative effects on cognitive abilities such as mood, attention span, memory, and the ability to learn, and it also increases impulsivity. Accidents in the workplace and on the road are both more likely when sleep deprivation is a factor. While sleep disorders like insomnia (which causes chronic sleep deprivation) raise the risk of multiple illnesses.

Jichi Medical University School of Medicine found that people who struggle to get enough sleep were more likely to be overweight, diabetic, or suffer from cardiovascular disease than those who slept soundly on a regular basis.

In the same way that different people have varying responses to sleep deprivation, different people have varying sleep requirements. Some people are more resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation than others, Dr. Potter says.

Explain why some people have greater sleep requirements than others.

Margo explains that some people require more sleep than others because they lead more energetic lives. You may require closer to eight hours of sleep if you engage in strenuous physical activity, rely on caffeine to get through the day, experience fatigue during the workday, perform manual labor, are under a great deal of stress, or have a sleep disorder.

Dr. Potter notes that there are three additional factors that may cause one person’s optimal sleep and wake times to differ from another’s: