What is the Best Time to Sleep?

The human body is amazing and complicated. Brain and body work when we sleep. The study of sleep from neuroscience (R) described the stage of sleep cycles. It explains human brains work two significant types of sleep known as REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) and NREM (Non-Eye-Movement) sleep. One sleep cycle involves NREM stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 and REM stage. Each cycle spends around 90 to 110 minutes and continues the cycle several times during sleep.

Sleep Cycle

Stages of NREM sleep

NREM sleep involves slow or no eye movement. Brain waves slow down. Breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure begin to slow down. A dream is very rare. During NREM N1 (NREM stage 1) and N2 (NREM stage 2), muscle activity begins to slow down until no muscle activity in N3 (NREM stage 3 and 4). N3 is the deep sleep stage, the most restful and restorative stage of sleep. It is hard to wake up in this stage. A sleeper is relatively still and leading to REM sleep. Learn more about NREM stages here.

What Happens during REM Sleep?

REM sleep involves the rapid movement of the eyes, speeding-up brain wave, fast breathing, and increased heart rate. In addition, there are changes in body temperature, increased blood pressure, and increased oxygen consumption by the brain.

REM sleep phase is the stage that increases brain activity and mostly links to vivid dreaming. The muscles of our legs and arms are temporary inactive during REM sleep. That is a part of the body’s defensive system to prevent the body from acting out the dream. Learn more about REM sleep here.

Is REM Sleep More Important than NREM Sleep?

Some research suggests that deeper sleep, NREM sleep phase, has more importance than the dream-infused REM sleep phase. On the contrary, polyphasic sleep believes that NREM sleep phases are unnecessary and can be shortened or eliminated for a transition to REM sleep, which is a more useful stage. (R)

Dr. Matt Walker explained REM and NREM are both offer important benefits. During REM sleep, the brain is highly active throughout the entire phase, as the brain has more activity in the visual and emotional memory regions of the brain. Dreaming during REM sleep may link to what we see or experience during the day. REM sleep phases restore our brain by exercising important neuron connections, which promotes learning and retains brain memories. 

During NREM sleep or deep sleep phase, our body becomes completely relaxed. Deep sleep is very important and seems to benefits overall health. The body restores and replenishes important body systems by clearing waste from the brain.

When is the Best Time to Sleep?

Each individual may have different circadian rhythms, called the biological clock. Basically, a 24-hour internal clock is running in the background of our brain. We feel alert and sleepy around the same time every day (R). It is also called the sleep/wake cycle. Our circadian rhythms may be interrupted to cope with the external environment, like jet lag, night shift work, or social/family events.  

An average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per day. The question is what the best time to start sleeping is. Well, there are several ideas suggested about good bedtime schedule.

Pattern# 1 – Understand Your Biological Clock Sleep and Follow

The sleep pattern and time to sleep depends on personal preferences and activities. There is no specific solution. The idea is to match sleep times to your physiological rhythms and get the required amount of sleep. This sleep pattern bases on the idea of one sufficient sleep period in a day, no matter of what time you sleep.

For example, if you hardly sleep early than 12.30 a.m., you will wake up around 8 am. to meet at least seven-hour sleep. You follow your body clock, rather than the daylight. It is beneficial when you keep consistent with the same sleep schedule during weekdays and weekends.

Pattern# 2 – Optimal Bedtime Window of Hours

The daily light and dark play a significant role in our circadian rhythms. A window of bedtime should be between 8 pm and 12 am. Our body produces melatonin, sleep hormone, when it getting dawn. The brain reduces melatonin production in the light. That is the reason why we should avoid screen light from TV, laptop, or smartphone before bedtime.

Ideal sleep time
Ideal wake-up time

The researcher Sally Ferguson says, “Light is the strongest signal to our biological clock”. We learned from this research that having bedtime matching the body clock with the external environment can promote health benefits. During the nighttime, our brain enhances the production of melatonin hormone, a powerful antioxidant for overall health.

The ideal bedtime for a normal adult is 10 pm and 6 am. It will change as you age. The bedtime can be flexible between 8 pm and 12 am. When an adult must wake up at 7 am., he/she is recommended to go to bed around 11 pm. It is always the best idea to have roughly the same time during weekdays and weekends.

Pattern# 3 – Recover Sleep Loss during the Days or Weekends

It is a simple mathematics idea to make another sleep time during the day or on weekends for making up sleep loss or sleep deprivation. For example, you sleep five hours at night during weekdays and try to sleep on the weekend for compensation.

This idea may be workable for some people.  However, the studies revealed that being active at night and sleep during the day could be harmful to your health, especially when you have an inconsistent work shift, according to the study by Dr. Eva Schernhammer.

Though longer sleep during weekends can benefit on the recovery of the sleep loss, we truly cannot make up for it hour by hour, according to Dr. Cathy Goldstein. Sleep too much in a day can cause a headache. Similar to sleep deprivation, frequent long sleep can cause health problems such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. A midday sleep may be a better option than a marathon sleep.

Pattern# 4 – Polyphasic Sleep

Most people are monophasic sleepers, which have a sleep schedule in one long period of sleep over 24 hours. Polyphasic sleep is a short sleep pattern during the 24 hours. One popular polyphasic sleep is the Uberman Sleep schedule. It suggests a 20-minute nap every four hours throughout a day. The total of 6 naps in a day equal to 2 sleep hours. The more comfortable schedule is an 8 nap every 3 hours, equals 2.4 sleep hours.

The Uberman 6 naps pattern
Uberman 8 naps pattern
Source: Polyphasicsociety.com

The polyphasic sleep is commonly known as segmented sleep and divided sleep. A number of adults are practicing polyphasic sleep, according to the testimonial in the Polyphasic Society website. It was testified that they do not have a serious health issue.

The theory behind is to gain lots of waking time on the way. By shortening NREM sleep phases and move to the REM phase, so it takes around six hours sleep, with a belief that REM sleep is more useful. The idea is to spend less time in bed and to have many hours for the day.

However, many sleep experts explained that this sleep pattern could cause health consequences. Dr. Alon Avidan says the health issues may include cognitive impairment, memory problems, and a higher risk of accidents.

Ideal Bed Time

Scientific facts and sleep experts tend to agree with Sleep pattern# 2, Optimal Bedtime for Sleep, for overall health purposes.

The best window hour for sleep is between 8 pm to 12 am as to melatonin, the sleep hormone, is suppressed by daylight, and increased production naturally by darkness.  

For an average adult, the seven to nine sleep hours will allow you to have healthy REM and NREM sleep. A REM sleep takes 20 – 25 minutes and is longer during the last hours of sleep. If you go to bed after 12 am you maybe get more REM sleep and less NREM sleep, or the opposite. Both REM and NREM sleep have equal benefits.

The ideal sleep time period is 10 pm and 6 am. In case you must wake up at 5 am., the best time to bed is 9 pm. It is also recommended that you will go to bed when you feel tired. You may shift the time if it hardly sleeps but should no later than 12 am.

It is much more beneficial to have sufficient sleep hours per day and keep the same bedtime routine during weekdays and weekends. Try to maintain a steady circadian rhythm. However, your biological clock will change as you age.

The Bottom Line

Many research and studies revealed that sleep is the time to restore and replenish body systems and improve brain functions. National Sleep Foundation recommended an average adult should have 7-9 sleep hours in a day. That means one-third of a human lifetime spent for sleep. Our body needs time to relax for boosting energy and improving the immune system and metabolism function. Our brain exercises during sleep to promote our memory and learning, which can improve performance, concentration, emotion, and personality. Elderly tend to have shorter sleep period and need naps during the day.

Whenever we go to bed, we should have enough and quality sleep that includes both REM and NREM sleep. A regular routine bedtime is important. It is beneficial to stick to bedtime schedule during weekends and weekdays, if possible, as it benefits overall health.

I hope this article helps you find out your best bedtime routine that benefits your health. You may learn more about Relaxation Techniques for Sleep.

If you have comments or would like to share an experience or have questions, please feel free to write down below. I would like to hear from you.

Priscialla

Treamentofsleepdisorders.com

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6 Comments

Jon · May 13, 2019 at 11:30 pm

I think that a monophasic cycle is the best sleep cycle to do because it promotes more sleep. Are you a monophasic or polyphasic sleeper? I have to admit I have not been able to get good sleep recently due to insomnia, I was sleeping good last year but this year I guess my mind is more active. Any tips?

    Priscilla · May 14, 2019 at 6:12 am

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your review, I agree that monophasic sleep promotes more quantity and quality sleep. I am a monophasic sleep. 

    If you are hardly sleep, I recommend you will look into Relaxation techniques for Sleep;
    Insomnia Effects, and sleep deprivation. I believe it will give you ideas how to deal with insomnia.

    Hope you will find some thoughts. And wish you have better sleep.

    Priscilla

Queen · May 14, 2019 at 11:54 am

Very informative article Priscilla.

I am amazed at how much work this our tiny brain does to get us through sleep each time we lay down our head.

I am someone that suffers from serious sleep deprivation, as a result of my schedules, and sometimes I try to make up for the sleepless hours whenever I get the opportunity by taking long naps, but alas I end up waking with a banging headache rather than being refreshed.

After reading this article, I now understand why I experience such.

I never knew not getting enough sleep or sleeping for too long can cause us health issues let alone lead to serious illness such as diabetes, Obesity, heart disease etc.

I guess knowing all this now, it’s really time to work on my sleeping schedule to make sure I get the amount of sleep required to keep my body healthy.

Cheers…

Cathy · May 14, 2019 at 10:57 pm

I sleep best between 9.30 p.m. to 6 a.m. In recent months, I have tried getting up at 5 a.m. so that I can get more stuff done, but as time progresses, I became more tired and unproductive. Surprisingly, during those times, I didn’t feel sleepy until 12 a.m. so I was averaging at about 5 hours sleep per day and not long later, the sleep deprivation sets in.

At the point of writing this, my sleep cycle has almost returned to a normal state and I make a point now that if I am feeling sleepy, I must wrap things about – all the gadget-related stuff – and hit the sack as soon. Trying to sleep less so that you can do more is counterproductive and it really makes your brain go bonkers. I found out the hard way.

Alblue · May 22, 2019 at 2:03 am

Hi Priscilla, thanks for explaining about sleeping. I usually sleep between 00.00 am – 01.00 am. It just doesn’t feel right when I want to sleep early (unless I am sick), even though I need to wake up around 6.00 am in the morning. Having a midday sleep (or Siesta Time) really helps me to stay fit in the day. I think my best time to sleep is both midday and midnight 🙂

Michel · May 22, 2019 at 2:18 am

This article was most helpful to me.  I didn’t realize that it could harm your health to try to catch up on lost sleep over weekends. 

My problem is that although I fall asleep easily and feel as though I sleep deeply, if I wake up in the night anytime after midnight then I battle to fall asleep again. This is highly frustrating and happens two to three times a week. 

Someone told me it is because I sleep so deeply and then I have had enough sleep but I wonder if this is true as some days I feel so tired. 

I found reading about the sleep patterns really interesting and I will definitely try your advice of trying to go to bed at the same time each night. 

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