We’ve been fascinated by the topic of sleep recently, mainly because most of us agree that we either don’t get enough of it or 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 on the fact that you decided to start Netflix series at 10 p.m. (again).
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? See below for the answer.
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.1
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.2
But, it may have more to do with consistency rather than the actual hour you fall asleep. Harvard researchers found irregular sleep patterns were associated with poorer performance and productivity—not staying up late or sleeping in. In fact, according to the results, you can go to sleep and wake up at whatever time you like. The only catch is you have to keep a steady schedule.3