It’s a commonly-accepted fact that a proper night’s sleep results in higher energy levels, improved focus, and greater productivity. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bare minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night for adults, explaining that a satisfactory amount of consecutive hours spent slumbering can prevent burnout, improve decision-making skills, reduce the likelihood of on-the-job mistakes, and keep your memory sharp and resilient.
Your quantity of sleeping hours undoubtedly contributes to your alertness, workplace success, and overall health, but some researchers take this point farther, suggesting that the timing of your snoozes also makes a difference. In a 2017 article, Time consulted with Dr. Matt Walker from the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California Berkeley, who insisted that “the time of night when you sleep makes a significant difference in terms of the structure and quality of your sleep.” Walker further explained that REM (rapid eye movement) sleep dominates in the later hours of the night and the early hours of the morning, and if you head to bed before midnight, your likelihood of experiencing non-REM sleep, which may prove more restorative than its REM counterpart, increases.
So, what time is best to go to sleep?
Falling asleep before the clock strikes midnight is a good starting point for those in search of more restful slumbers... but if you need more specific guidance on the best time to hit the sheets, Women’s Health has you covered. A recent WH article cites a study by health and wellness brand Forza Supplements, stating that the ideal bedtime for adults is a very specific 10:10 p.m.
Forza Supplements backs their claim with simple math: it typically takes 20 minutes to fall into a deep sleep, and if you fall into slumber during this stretch of the evening, you can count on about 90 minutes of non-REM sleep before midnight. Assuming a wake-up time of 6 a.m., you’re in for a solid seven hours and 50 minutes of rest before your alarm sounds.
What if I don't need that much sleep?
There's some debate over how many hours of sleep are actually needed for the average adult. Many people get six hours of sleep and believe it to be sufficient, knocking back the bedtime proposed above to 11:10 p.m. However, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep — and for good reason. One sleep deprivation study controlled the amount of sleep 48 adults got for two weeks. For the subjects who were allowed to get only six hours of sleep a night for those two weeks, it was found that they functioned just as poorly as subjects who were forced to stay awake for two days straight. And yet, the folks in the six-hour group felt like they were doing OK. So even if you see yourself as an exception to the seven to nine-hour rule, chances are you are still experiencing the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation and just not realizing it.
Why should I get enough sleep?
Sleep has an effect on nearly every facet of your waking life, including productivity, energy, and psychological well-being. If you’re routinely sleeping poorly, your psychological well-being, interactions with family and friends, and even physical health could suffer. Not only will your body feel worse, but sleep problems can also impact your work performance. Sleeping is linked to memory, so you may be less able to complete certain tasks or do them as quickly or as well if you’re sleep-deprived. It also concerns productivity, so you may not work as efficiently when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep over the long term can have more severe consequences on your job performance and lead to burnout.
In short, consistent sleep patterns positively inform everything from your work performance to your physical fitness to your eating habits. So if you’re at all able to do so, it’s worth trying to schedule your lights-out time earlier in the evening, in order to take full advantage of these holistic benefits.