The circadian rhythm is a set of cycles that happen in our body throughout the day and months. What we call the biological clock is the process that naturally controls these cycles, which includes the regulation of sleep.
If we take into account the circadian rhythm common in most people, then there will be a time to go to sleep that will be better than others. Although reality depends on many factors, there are scientific studies that suggest that going to bed between 10 and 11 at night has benefits.
First the essentials: how many hours should I sleep and why?
The ideal is that we go to bed early at night, to complete the hours recommended at our age and comply with all the phases of sleep. According to the Joint Consensus of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, people ages 18 to 60 need at least 7 hours of sleep daily, while those over 60 require up to 9 hours per day.
And why that amount? It turns out that sleeping less than 7 hours, in adults, is associated with negative health effects, such as weight gain, lower immune capacity, high blood pressure, strokes and diabetes.
In terms of mental health, getting enough sleep increases productivity. At the same time, we will be less likely to have mood disorders.
The best time to go to sleep is around 10 p.m.
The ideal bedtime depends on your preferences, your lifestyle, and your obligations. However, there are some accurate data that were revealed by science. A study published in European Heart Journal – Digital Health found that starting to sleep between 10:00 pm and 10:59 pm is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
In this research, the authors suggest that deregulating the circadian rhythm could be a risk factor, little recognized today, for suffering from heart problems. For example, among study participants, those who worked rotating and night shifts were more likely to suffer strokes.
Along the same lines, a publication in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that falling asleep and waking up later is related to an increased risk of congestive heart failure. But how long later? According to the data collected, it would be after 11:00 p.m.
At the same time, a study published in the journal Sleep found that going to bed around midnight is associated with premature aging of the body. This happens because delaying sleep onset time, even when done only on weekends, causes DNA telomeres to shorten. These sections of genetic information, when reduced, limit the lifespan of cells.
Adapt to the circadian cycle
The scientific proposal of going to sleep at a time no later than 10:59 pm is based on human circadian cycles. They receive a great influence from sunlight.
At the base of the brain we have the structure of neurons that could be considered the biological clock; This is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). When we open our eyes in the morning, photoreceptors in the retina send information to the SCN, warning that it is daytime, so melatonin production is reduced.
In turn, the perception of light increases the production of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, responsible for keeping us alert and energized. On the other hand, at night, when the sun factor is not present, the process is reversed: melatonin increases so that we feel sleepy and, once we are asleep, the concentration of prolactin and growth hormone increases.
Melatonin, therefore, is key in the sleep-wake cycle. In order not to alter it, the ideal thing is to fall asleep around 10 at night and wake up with dawn, between 6 and 7 in the morning.
How to determine the best time to go to sleep in a practical way?
Businesses, unforeseen events and personal agendas influence us to create a sleep routine. We may not be able to meet the ideal guidelines provided by science, but we could get closer to them if we organize.
We must also consider that the time to wake up in the morning is a key factor. If due to our obligations we must be active before 6 am, then we will have to go to bed earlier. The circumstances of a doctor who has night shifts are not the same as those of a primary school teacher.
A simple and effective technique is counting down. Depending on how many hours you need to sleep, based on your age, you can count backwards from the time you have to get up for your obligations.
For example, let’s say you are 30 years old. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that 7 hours is the minimum recommended for you. If you must wake up at 6 a.m., then you have to be in bed before 11 p.m.
Other tips are the following:
- Think of a schedule that you can follow, even on weekends. The greater the regularity over time, the better the response of the biological clock.
- Listen to your body during the day: pay attention to your energy level and alertness throughout the day. If you feel extremely sleepy or fatigued during the day, you may need to adjust your evening schedule by going to bed earlier.
- Experiment with various routines: vary your rest hours between 15 and 30 minutes to analyze when you feel better and which plan gives you the best results.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children ages 1 to 2 should have 11 to 14 hours of rest a day, including naps. In early childhood, lack of sleep has negative effects on learning and emotional regulation.
Preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, should sleep 10 to 13 hours per day. Lack of adequate sleep at this age increases the likelihood of childhood obesity.
At school age, up to 12 years old, the optimal range is 9 to 12 hours. Finally, in adolescence, 8 to 10 hours are enough.
There are factors that cause children to sleep less than recommended. For example, excessive exposure to screens at night. Also, the lack of an adequate routine at home, which prepares the environment for bedtime.
In any case, for schoolchildren and adolescents, the most practical technique for doing calculations is the same as for adults. It is advisable to have a fixed time to wake up in the morning and, from there, count backwards to obtain the ideal time to go to bed.
Sleep is a health issue
Having quality sleep and being able to take advantage of all types of rest will improve your life. To do this you need to organize yourself and plan your schedules, according to your job and your obligations at home.
At the same time, you have to ensure good sleep hygiene, so that the hours in bed are truly restorative. That is, when you sleep you do so without interruptions, going through all the phases of sleep and waking up with the feeling of having rested.
Try to go to sleep before 11 pm and plan your day from 6 am if you are an adult under 60 years old. Getting your body used to waking up early will make your day more productive and, in the long term, you will prevent problems with your heart and your hormones.