As children, we climb into our beds and go to sleep according to the bedtime that our parents determine. However, as we grow older, we no longer sleep as long as we did when we were younger. So, the big question is: when is the best time to go to sleep? How many hours of sleep are enough to be well-rested?
Sleep is extremely crucial to our health. In fact, it is a period of time when our body functions rest in preparation for the next day. While we sleep, our bodies work to restore both our physical and mental functions. Sleep is capable of strengthening the immune system and hastening the time it takes for physical wounds to heal. In addition, we organize our memory and new information while we sleep. “Sleep” experts define sleep as a cycle made up of 90-minute transitions from non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The non-REM sleep would be considered deep sleep when our body works to restore itself, whereas the REM sleep would be a phase we associate with dreams.
The shift from non-REM to REM sleep is independent of people’s bedtimes; therefore, when our bedtimes are delayed, our sleep will most likely be in the REM sleep phase. Ultimately, later bedtimes will result in less deep and restorative sleep, making us feel drowsy and exhausted the next day. This does not only have a bad effect on our work performance the next day but can result in health problems, such as obesity, decreased brain power, and early death. A well-rested sleep, in contrast, may positively affect the work we do during the day.
Therefore, experts recommend a bedtime ranging from 8 p.m. to midnight when we are able to replenish ourselves with all the non-REM sleep we need. They continue by adding that sleep is personal to each person because it is one’s genetic makeup that decides which bedtime works best.
Dr. Allison Siebern, the associate director of the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Stanford University, asserts, “For people who are night owls [,] “morning larks” [, and] the vast majority of sleepers who fall somewhere in between – the best bedtime is the hour of the evening when they feel most sleepy.” This summer, when we have plenty of time to invest in our health, we should experiment with different bedtimes and find out the best bedtime that works for us.