Going to bed is a funny thing, isn't it? As children, our parents practically wrestled us to go to sleep come bedtime. But as adults, it seems that no matter how hard we try, we just can't get enough sleep.
If you're constantly feeling tired, groggy, or find it difficult to concentrate, then maybe you need to adjust your sleep schedule. However, depending on your job, family life, and other scheduling factors, you may not have the luxury to wake up or go to sleep whenever you like.
If you ever asked yourself the question, "When should I go to bed?" keep reading. Below, I explain how many hours of sleep you should get, how your circadian rhythms play into a good night's rest, and why adhering to a set bedtime may be one of the healthiest things you can do as an adult. In addition, I dive into the negative consequences of not getting enough sleep.
Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. If you struggle from chronic fatigue, tiredness, or insomnia, please speak to your doctor.
What Are the Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep?
Far too often, our go-go-go society praises "powering through" the workday, pulling all-nighters before exams, or surviving off coffee and B vitamins due to sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, being sleep deprived does nothing for our health and productivity. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that low sleep quality (or a complete lack of sleep) can wreak havoc on cognitive function, memory, and quality of life.
In fact, not getting enough sleep is a downright public health hazard.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. In addition, not getting enough sleep doesn't just harm your health — it could harm those around you. The CDC reports that driving while sleepy (commonly known as "drowsy driving") causes over 83,000 car accidents per year. Unfortunately, 886 of those came with a fatal ending.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
For your health and the health of others, you have to get a good night's sleep. Which raises the question — just how much does the average person need?
Short answer: It depends.
Longer answer: The amount of sleep you need varies throughout your life. As described by the CDC, a toddler will need 11-12 hours of sleep per night, which decreases to 10-13 hours, 9-12 hours, and 8-10 hours throughout preschool, elementary school, and teen years, respectively.
As an adult (from ages 18-60) you're advised to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. From ages 61-64, this raises to 7-9 hours, before falling back to 7-8 hours after age 65.
However, this is a very blanketed statement, applying to the global population. There are a number of factors that influence your individual sleep needs. If you follow a rigorous workout schedule, work a hectic job, are a caregiver for another person, take certain medications, or are experiencing a stressful life event, you may need more sleep than the average person.
What Is Circadian Rhythm and How Does It Impact My Sleep?
Think of your circadian rhythm as your own internal clock, humming along for every 24-hour period that you're alive.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, your circadian rhythm is influenced by a number of factors — like the sun — and connects to a "master clock" in your brain (specifically, your hypothalamus). Your circadian rhythm takes cues from different environmental factors, like daylight, social activity, exercise, and temperature, to sense what time of day it is.
In regards to sleep patterns, your circadian rhythm helps tell your body, "It's time to go to bed," at nighttime, and "Hey! Time to wake up!" in the morning. But acting as your own internal alarm clock isn't the only thing your circadian rhythm can do — it knows when (and how) to digest meals, spend energy, or even be productive throughout your workday.
Why Should I Care About My Circadian Rhythm?
It’s in your best interest to work with your circadian rhythm, rather than against it (although that can be more difficult for some than others). Not following your circadian rhythms has serious negative consequences on your physical and mental health. Not only can it cause sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia, but it can increase your risk of degenerative diseases, like dementia.
To work with your circadian rhythm, the best thing you can do for yourself is set a regular bedtime. (See? I told you it wasn't just for kids). Try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day, keeping your sleep schedule as consistent as possible. In addition, for all you night owls, try to match your sleep and wake times with the sun — going to bed when the sun goes down, and waking when it comes back up.
In addition, there are a few daily habits and routines that can improve your sleep health. Exercising daily (I may be able to help with that), avoiding caffeine (at least too much or too late in the day), seeking out sun exposure, and limiting electronics before bed can help you sleep better. To do this, try following a fitness program, don't scroll through emails before winding down, and try switching to decaf in your morning brew.
So, What Time Should I Go To Bed?
To calculate when you should go to bed, first think about what time you need to wake up in the morning. Then, count backwards according to the number of hours you need.
As an active adult, you need about 7 hours of consistent sleep. So, if you want to wake up at 6 a.m., you should go to bed by 10-11 p.m. If you need to wake up at 7 a.m., try going to bed around midnight.
You should always tweak your sleep times, based on how you respond to your sleep schedule. If you get seven hours of rest but still feel sleepiness throughout the day, try to get eight hours instead. If you're getting eight or even nine hours of sleep a night but still feel groggy, try adjusting the time you go to bed.
The Best Time To Go To Bed Is Unique To You and Your Lifestyle
An adult should get about 7 hours of sleep a night on average. However, you may need more or less sleep depending on your lifestyle.
Good sleep is heavily dependent on your sleep habits. To form proper sleep habits, reduce caffeine, ditch the electronics before bedtime, and follow a regular sleep schedule. Setting a consistent bedtime as an adult is one of the best things you can do for your sleep health.
Lastly, keeping a regular exercise routine can help you enter a deep sleep. Build Bullet-Proof Health focuses on the four pillars of fitness — strength, cardio, nutrition, and recovery — offering you a well-rounded approach to wellness.
I designed the Build Bullet-Proof Health program to help people eat, train, and rest better. As an added benefit, it just may help you get a better night's sleep.
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