Wait, Studies Say THIS is the Best Time to Go to Bed?

We’ve been fascinated by the topic of sleep recently, mainly because most of us agree that we either a.) don’t get enough of it, or b.) can’t seem to do it. For the latter, you can try this editor-approved trick, and for the former, well, that’s a lifestyle decision that may or may not hinge the fact that you decided to start Netflix series at 10 p.m. (again). A few weeks ago, we interviewed a sleep researcher about how much sleep we should really get each night, to which she explained seven to eight is the magic range (you can read more about why here). But does this mean we can go to bed at 2 a.m. each night and wake up at 9 a.m. and feel just as awake as someone who went to bed at 11 p.m. and wakes up at 7 a.m.? Is there an “optimal time” that science has deemed the proper time to hit the hay?

The Studies

We did some digging and came to this conclusion: it depends on genetics—yes, genetics—but in general, the earlier the better. A study published recently in Springer’s Cognitive Therapy and Research Journal found that individuals who described themselves as “evening” people and went to bed later had more negative, intrusive thoughts and rumination than those who went to bed earlier and described themselves as “morning” people. Another study found that Japanese workers who went to bed later showed more depressive symptoms than those who went to bed earlier, while a newer study found that an earlier bedtime may actually ward off mental illness.

The Professional Opinion

In terms of a specific sleep time, sleep expert Shawn Stevenson told Yahoo! that the optimal sleep schedule would be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. because of our body’s natural circadian rhythm and the fact that it mimics the sun’s rising and falling. Dr. Matt Walker, head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees, telling Time.com, “When it comes to bedtime, there’s a window of a several hours—roughly between 8 PM and 12 AM—during which your brain and body have the opportunity to get all the non-REM and REM shuteye they need to function optimally.”

Your own unique “perfect” bedtime within that window depends on genetics—some people are more naturally pre-disposed to be night owls, while others prefer to sleep earlier and wake up early. So, if you don’t tend to get sleepy until 11 p.m., don’t force yourself to go to bed at 9 in the hopes you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed. Most likely, this will backfire and you’ll toss and turn and wake up feeling groggier than if you had just gone to bed when you naturally started feeling sleepy.’

The Sleep Trick

If you’re trying to pinpoint the exact time, the easiest way is to go backwards. Figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning and subtract seven to eight hours, adding about fifteen minutes for your body to fall asleep. Do this for about 10 days and Michael Breus, PhD, a board-certified sleep specialist, tells Yahoo! that you should start naturally waking up a few minutes before your alarm sounds.

What time do you go to bed? Have you tried sticking to a sleep schedule? Tell us below!