When to Wake Up, When to Go to Bed and the Importance of Sleep Schedules

Some people find that they will occasionally wake up an hour or more before their alarm, unable to get back to sleep. This can happen even if you’ve only slept several hours instead of the recommended minimum of seven hours. Sometimes, waking up too early can disrupt your sleep routine and lead to signs of sleep deprivation. This can have negative consequences for your short- and long-term wellness, but there are ways to get a better sleep routine. Learn about sleep routines, insomnia, when to wake up, and go to bed for better sleep.

The Importance of a Sleep Schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least seven hours for adults and up to 12 hours for kids and teens. Getting enough sleep, however, isn’t enough. Your sleep needs to be high quality in addition to the appropriate duration for it to deliver the necessary health benefits. A proper sleep routine and schedule can help. 

What is the circadian rhythm?

The circadian rhythm refers to your body’s internal sleep and wakefulness clock. Driven by neurotransmitters, it helps regulate hormonal activity, body temperature fluctuations and digestion, all of which determine when you should sleep or be awake.  The circadian clock and how it regulates your functions are in response to exposure or lack of exposure to light. It’s most sensitive to light exposure about two hours before your typical bedtime until about one hour after your usual wake-up time. So, by managing your light exposure, you can help your body regulate its functions to optimize your sleep quality. 

What disrupts a sleep schedule?

Schools Start Early

Early school starts can cause adolescents to wake up earlier than they naturally would otherwise. During puberty, adolescents become sleepy later in the evening. However, they may still wake up early and miss valuable hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation in adolescents is linked to substance abuse, poor academic performance and being overweight. 

Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea or hypersomnia can also disturb the circadian rhythm. As adults age, they also become more at risk for insomnia. As a result, they may struggle to fall asleep or may wake up too early. Insomnia and other sleep disorders can have long-term health effects and impact your daily cognitive, physical and emotional function.  

Snoozing and Napping

Napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep routine and cycle. It throws off your body’s regulatory functions, so it becomes less efficient when it’s time for you to sleep at night. Hitting snooze in the morning can have a similar effect. By adjusting or extending your sleep schedule, your body struggles more to go to sleep and stay asleep at the appropriate times. When your sleep isn’t efficient, you’re more likely to feel sleepy during the day and need more naps.

When to Wake Up, When to Go to Bed and Tips for Getting Better Sleep

When to Wake Up

Knowing that a sleep schedule is important, what’s the optimal time to wake up? Your sleep schedule ideally wakes you up with natural light when your circadian rhythm is most sensitive. Try opening your curtains right as you wake up to reduce delayed sleepiness or drowsiness.

When to Go to Bed

You should time your bedtime approximately eight hours from the time that you plan to wake up. That way, you’re training your body to adapt to a sleep schedule that gives you an adequate amount of sleep. Also, just as with waking, try to time going to bed with reduced light exposure. This will help you to fall asleep more easily. 

Don’t Stay in Bed When You Have Insomnia

Staying in bed when you’re awake can cause your body to associate your bed with wakefulness rather than sleep. If it’s still nighttime, leave your room, do something relaxing for about 20 minutes or until you feel sleepy again, and then return to bed. If it’s only an hour or two before your normal waking time, get up and start your day. Don’t go to bed earlier to make up for it, as it’ll reinforce irregular sleep patterns.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Make sure that you’re following all the common sleep hygiene tips, such as avoiding naps, keeping the bedroom only for sleep and sex and having a relaxing evening routine. Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol and try to avoid blue light.
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